So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten… her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant–the sinister Mrs. Danvers–still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca… for the secrets of Manderley.”
I’ve been absent from posting for about a week being on vacation with the family in sunny Florida. With my ereader loaded and ready to go, I still made sure to bring a paperback. This classic, gothic romance has been on my shelf and on my mind for quite some time and while it might not be on the list for typical “beach reads”, it was fantastic! Especially on those overcast and misty days.
Rebecca (first published in 1938) is known for it’s atmospheric, eerie and suspenseful descriptions with great plot development and twists and turns galore. Being labeled a romance is subjective. Yes there are elements of a relationship and romance but this is not the type of book where the characters are swooning over one another or engaging in dramatic attempts at love. Maxim is drawn to the “second Mrs. de Winter” for reasons later revealed and this unnamed, young, naïve woman half his age is attracted to Maxim as more as a father figure than the love of her life. He is the better of the two options she has. Marry him and go to Manderley or continue to be a traveling companion to the old and stodgy Mrs. Van Hopper. So what is the connection? Boredom? Hope? Companionship? Frank, the close friend to Maxim nicely sums it up, I believe:
“We none of us want to bring back the past, Maxim least of all. And it’s up to you, you know, to lead us away from it. Not to take us back there again.”
And that brings me to the characters. There was not one main character that I liked in this story. Maxim was arrogant, petulant toward others and treated “the wife” like a child in a condescending fashion. It really irked me something awful. “The wife” was so naïve and had such negative inner self dialogue that I wanted to shake her. And Mrs. Danvers? Evil, plain evil. The secondary characters like Frank and Bee were a pleasure to “befriend” in the pages and nicely balanced the diversity of all the characters. But I didn’t need to like the characters in order to LOVE this story. Rebecca was plot driven and boy it sank it’s teeth into me and did not let go. I can’t believe I waited this long to read this timeless classic and makes me reevaluate all of the classics I have put off in order to get my hands on the latest and greatest ARC. (I can’t wait to finally see the movie my mother has been trying to get me to watch all these years! Had to read it first, you know.)
As the book begins, “the wife” looks back to that time when she first arrived at Manderley and all the turmoil her and Maxim went through as she became Rebecca’s “replacement”. She has become older and wiser and can recall that time as being a growing experience for her, now focusing on the positive things in her life as opposed to everything that could go wrong. This quote was one of my favorites:
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind. Of course we have our moments of depression; but there are other moments too, when time, unmeasured by the clock, runs on into eternity and, catching his smile, I know we are together, we march in unison, no clash of thought or opinion makes a barrier between us.”
*”Conquering the Classics” is a new page here on The Daily Dosage and I hope to enjoy and experience more classics as the days go by. Check out the page and send me a comment if I have missed one that you think I MUST READ. :)