Somewhere, recently, I read something that convinced me that Rebecca
was definitely a GoodRead
. For some reason, I vaguely remember that we made fun of Daphne du Maurier when we were kids in the 1950s. Mostly, of course, it was my older brother, who went on to get a degree in English from Princeton, and my older sister, who was a History major at Goucher, the 8th of the "Seven Sisters". Anyway, I read someone recently who insisted Rebecca
was actually good literature, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to find out. Well, I finally waded through it and I'm still not sure. It was ok, but kinda long and weird.
So we begin with an unnamed young woman having a dream of the Manderly estate as it must now look, after some years of abandonment. The young woman wakes up and we go on to find that the young woman seems to be a companion of a man who has had a great shock. Things are ok for them, so long as they stick to mundane things like cricket scores or the status of the Crimea. Any allusions to a past must never be mentioned.
Then we go back in time to see how things got to such a state. The young woman, who is English, is the companion to an elderly, rich, American snob, Mrs. van Hopper, who is "wintering" at Monte Carlo. One day at lunch, a haggard middle aged man sits at the table next to them. Mrs. van Hopper recognizes him as being Maximilian de Winter, who is trying to get over the drowning death of his wife. Mrs. van Hopper contrives to get to know de Winter, and of course, the young woman becomes vaguely acquainted as well. She's very shy and is also basically shoved into the background by the old lady.
But, Mrs. van Hopper gets sick and has to spend a few weeks recovering in bed. The young woman goes down to lunch as normal and de Winter strikes up a conversation. Next thing you know, they're driving around the countryside and having quite a time of it. About the time Mrs. van Hopper recovers, she decides she must immediately depart for New York, and the young woman is to go with her, of course. With only an hour or two before departure, de Winter learns of the departure and convinces the young woman to stay behind and marry him instead.
So, they have a glorious honeymoon for a few weeks in Italy. Then it's back to de Winter's estate, Manderly. Well, things aren't so great there. The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers is clearly disinclined to give the young woman any consideration except the most icy formalities. It turns out she was devoted to Rebecca, the former Mrs. de Winter, the former lady of the estate. As time goes on, the narrator learns that Rebecca was considered the most beautiful and accomplished creature ever born, something like that. How can she ever match up? It doesn't help that Maxim de Winter is often distant and has never made an avowal of love to her. So we have this creepy gothic novel thingie, sort of like what would have claimed the hearts of the silly girls, Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe, in Northanger Abby
, had they been around a century plus later.
So, we've lots of eerie goings on, a local half wit, difficult, but oh-so-proper, servants, dark passages, musty rooms, musty cottages on the beach, and so forth. I'm not sure this is my kind of stuff, but it wasn't too bad. Personally, I would have preferred it to have been much shorter. It got to be a long slog.