Thursday, 22 September 2016

RIP XI Book II: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I always think really fondly of Rebecca for a couple of reasons. The first line- "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"- is very beautiful and also made a big deal of in Bag of Bones which is one of my favourite Stephen Kings, so I think of it as a very lyrical and beautiful book, more thoughts on which later. The other reason is THIS Mitchell and Webb sketch:

Because Frances and I basically wet ourselves when we saw it, and because David Mitchell is the absolute and ultimate Mrs Danvers. He just is.

This was, I believe, my third reading of Rebecca, and served to show me that I basically didn't remember anything about the plot beyond about the halfway point of the book, and that *whispers* it maybe isn't as well written as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong- I still enjoyed reading it, and that lyricism and beauty is still definitely present in the book (sooooo many gorgeous nature descriptions) it's just mainly there in the first half. Reading it this time, I noticed just how oddly paced it is- the first half is very slow and winding and takes a while to get anywhere, while the second half is all drama and speed and getting to a conclusion as quickly as possible. If you know the story, you'll know that this is fitting to what actually happens, but the effect this had on me was that I felt like I was almost reading two different books, where it seems impossible that the first half leads to the second, and where the styles of both are almost completely different.

Speaking of the story- I had forgotten quite a lot about the second half of the book, maybe because all of the character development and lush descriptions of the first half seem wildly superior to the cheap thrills of the second (for me, anyway, you might be into reading for the cheap thrills and that is fine with me). I remembered its basic point, but there were journeys and characters and plot twists that I remembered nothing about, just a vague feeling of unease about what was to come. It seems strange to me, then, that even though I think of Rebecca as a thriller, and even read it for RIP basically because of its thriller status, it's those parts of the book that mean the least to me.

For me, the book is all about the second Mrs De Winter. She's from such anonymous upbringing that she doesn't even get a first name, but nonetheless she's the character we see everything through, and that's important because, viewed through any other character's eyes, she would seem like such a drip. Even from the inside of her own head, she is an incredibly frustrating character at times, so passive and quiet that you want to shake her and have her TAKE COMMAND FOR ONCE FFS,  but then she'll come up with something like this:
"I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone... How lovely it was to be alone again. No, I did not mean that. It was disloyal, wicked, it was not what I meant. Maxim was my life and my world."
These are the second Mrs De Winter's thoughts after her husband goes away and leaves her with Manderley herself for a couple of days, and it's the perfect tension between being thrilled that you're alone because you can fully be yourself, and being concerned that such thoughts constitute a kind of disloyalty to other people. I can relate, but maybe not as much as I used to. Reading Rebecca this time, I grew increasingly frustrated with Mrs De Winter's passivity and shyness, whereas I'm sure that the time before, I was pretty much like 'yep girl, I feel ya.' Just another way that we change and the books we read change with us, because I can't really relate to that kind of passivity anymore (translation: I now have kind of a big mouth).

I don't regret rereading Rebecca and I will probably do it again at some point because damn, Daphne knows how to get you to turn pages. I will probably always prefer the parts that are less thriller-y, more beautiful, and I'm comfortable with that, but you might have a completely different reading experience than me, that's kind of how reading works. Either way, I fully recommend it as a read, and even though it won't scare the pants off you, I think you'll have a good time reading it and really what more can you ask for? Exactly.


  1. I have never seen the Rebecca skit before but it's so fucking perfect I may never be able to watch the film again without seeing David Mitchell's face every time Danvers appears. THANK YOU LAURA. But really, thank you, it's amazing. :)

    1. SO FUCKING PERFECT. I still can't deal with it and it's been YEARS since I saw it.