by Daphne du Maurier
Published May 1938
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
I cannot count the number of times I have come across that quote and I knew nothing about and never bothered to find out anything about it. What a shame. I have been telling myself to start reading classics but I never make it past one book every year. Most of the classical books I have read, I read when I was in high school but I have added many of them on my TBR pile. To Kill a Mocking Bird was the last book I read from the classics section and it was delightful to read it again after many years. My understanding of it was much better and that is what made me start looking at the classics section with so many oldies but goldies. Cliché?
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
Rebecca was sadly missing from my list and I came across it by accident. It fell from the sky and hit me square on my head. Lie. I saw it on bookstagram and decided to check it out and boy am I glad I did. I wish I could remember that random person’s Instagram page so that I could thank them for blessing me with this book. I started it late at night and I simply could not put it down. I had a lot to do and I kept on struggling with my inner responsible self to set it down and finish what I needed to do first. Rebecca could wait.
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”
The narrative is very wordy but so beautifully written I found myself fantasizing about the ability to express myself the way Daphne du Maurier did in this book. Some of the descriptions were so well done in the way she was presenting something but using combination of words that you simply could not imagine anyone using for that particular scene. The urge to find out what happened or who was this Rebecca and why was she loved so much was so strong that it kept me turning the pages faster than I should have. I wish I read it slower so that I could enjoy it a lot more.
“Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”
This gothic fiction gave me a Jane Eyre vibe. I haven’t read the book because I chose to watch the movie instead. Pitiful. I was never a fun of gothic romances but Rebecca might have just changed my mind about it. Jane Eyre has been added on my TBR list since I read the first few chapters of Rebecca. What was I thinking watching the movie before reading the book? But I will correct that error soon enough. I’m happy I did not know there was a Rebecca movie before reading the book because I might have picked the easy route out.
“Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.”
“Do you mean you want a secretary or something?”
“No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”
Manderley is introduce as this cold place when the narrator is approaching the estate at the beginning. That feeling of coldness is brought out by the descriptive words the narrator uses to describe the place from the walls to the surrounding vegetation. The presence of Manderley in the book makes it feel as if it’s one of the characters brought out by the author. You cannot separate it from everyone else as it is just as important as Rebecca was throughout the book.
“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”
The narrator’s name is not given to us as we only know her as Mrs. de Winters after her marriage to Maxim de Winter who twice her age. They meet in Monte Carlo where he is trying to get away from everything back home in Manderley and she is there working as a companion. He falls for her innocence and he takes her as a bride. But once they are back in Manderley, the ghost of the first Mrs. de Winter seems to be haunting every space and her new husband does not seem to be over her. She feels weak and unloved which is not made any easy by Mrs. Danvers who never fails to remind her that Rebecca was far much better than she is in every capacity.
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
Rebecca is never revealed. No pictures of her are in the house and the memory comes from everything people tell the new Mrs. de Winter about her predecessor. The little trinkets she finds with the bold R engraved on them that are a constant reminder that she existed in the same capacity she is now but despite all that she still wants to make it work out with her husband. The themes of marriage, death, gender roles,sex, class and justice are prominent in this book. The men and women settling into the roles meant for them even when their hearts are not there. The whole issue of homosexuality is also evident throughout the book.
“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire.”
I highly recommend this book to anyone with two eyes. I can see where the inspiration from Devious Maids season two came from. I wish I knew it when I was watching it.