Well, I guess I can no longer say I hate the classics.
Our nameless protagonist is a 21 year old lady’s companion without many prospects for her future. However that abruptly changes when she receives a marriage proposal from Maxim de Winter, a wealthy and high status widower of only a year. Suddenly she is swept away to the idyllic Manderley without any idea of what running a household entails. Between constant social blunders and the looming presence of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, the new Mrs. de Winter must fight for her place at Maxim’s side.
Full disclosure: this will be a gushy review.There is something absolutely beautiful, captivating, enthralling about this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I got one copy from the library and one on my computer to have it with me at all times. And as soon as I finished, I scoured E-bay for a good five hours to find a first edition copy (which will have to wait to buy until I win the lottery, or you guys make me famous. Either one works). To say I was a bit obsessed was an understatement.
And what was absolutely jarring was the realization that my obsession mirrored the protagonist’s. Throughout the novel she can only think about one thing: Rebecca. How much Max loved her, Frank loved her, the staff loved her. What she looked like and what her mannerisms were. She ate, slept, and breathed thoughts of Rebecca. And in a way, that obsession was infectious. Rebecca was all I could think about as well. There was something so very alive about her character. We all meet at least one Rebecca in our lives.
The mystery of the protagonist is both infuriating and artful. Her lack of a name other than “Mrs. de Winter” only serves to emphasize her plainness and role as an imposter in Rebecca’s place: her only identity is the one she feels she stole. She is almost insufferably dull, as well as painfully shy. On the one hand I sympathized with her feelings of inadequacy, but on the other I wanted to jump through the page and scream at her to stand up for herself. It was a truly maddening mix of emotions.
Then there is the art of the writing itself. De Maurier doesn’t just show you Manderley, she takes you there and brings you its very heart. Although there were no true ghosts or paranormal entities, it sure felt like there were. A kind of dark, sinister mystery is woven into every word of Rebecca, giving it a completely horrific feel without any actual jump scares. Mrs. Danvers, the wicked caretaker of the house, had me nearly shaking at some points in the novel.
My only complaint was predictability. I had three theories early on in the book, and was disappointed to find that one of them was correct (and the least interesting, in my opinion). However, there was still a little plot twist I didn’t see coming that kind of made up for it. Either way, the journey as a whole was amazing, and one I am likely to visit in my dreams, much as our protagonist begins her story.
Finally, I feel it would be remiss if I didn’t address some of the problematic aspects of the book. There is some archaic terminology used for disabled people, as well as a rude depictions of them. There is also an instance of brown face and possible racial slur used. As Warner Brother comments, while these are representative of the time this book was written in, and wrong at any time, to pretend they never took place would be ignoring the fact that they happened.
Intended audience: Adult
Content warnings: *SPOILERS AHEAD* murder, incest, drowning, animal abuse, mentions of suicide