Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Posted 28 October, 2009 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 45 Comments

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Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Published: 1938 Pages: 386
Genre: Literary Fiction/Classic
Rating: 4.5/5

Can you believe that a year ago I’d never heard of Rebecca OR Daphne du Maurier? The book began to creep up on the blogosphere and to be honest I thought it was a cheesy romance novel. It wasn’t until my friend Laura read the book that I became really interested, and I quickly added it to my shelf collections. I was so thrilled when Amanda from The Zen Leaf asked me if I’d be interested in doing a buddy review with her this month.

Summary:
Rebeccabegins when the young narrator (we’ll call her Narry) meets a wealthy widow, Maxim de Winter, and an unlikely friendship and courtship ensues. After a few weeks of spending much time together, Narry accepts Maxim’s proposal of marriage and they have a quiet ceremony before moving to Manderley. At Manderley, Narry soon realizes that Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, who has drowned in a tragic boating accident, continues to haunt the house and the lives of those left behind. Rebecca doesn’t haunt in the traditional sense of the word (no ghosts or anything like that), but the magnificence of her character continually overshadows the meek and innocent Narry. Throughout the novel, Narry is in constant battle with Rebecca’s legacy and must fight in order to maintain her rightful place as mistress of the great Manderley.

Buddy Review:
Amanda and I conversed back and forth about our thoughts on Rebecca. We split our conversation in half, so you can read the first half over at The Zen Leaf (I recommend going now and coming back as our conversation will make more sense that way). We tried to avoid spoilers wherever possible–you can tell below where I start to get a little cryptic and squeamish in trying not to give anything away! I’ll start with the last sentence of my part of the conversation just for transition’s sake.

Trish: What did you think about the characters in the book? Any that you’ll be remembering for a time to come?

Amanda: I agree that Mrs. Danvers is probably one of the most creepy characters I’ve ever read! Two scenes with her in specific really made me shudder in horror. I think you’re right, all the characters were fantastically drawn, but I think Mrs. Danvers and even Rebecca, despite being dead, were the best. It begs to be compared to modern horror books, which don’t seem to realize that creepy can be achieved without a lot of blood and guts. du Maurier left so much to the imagination, and used so many psychological tricks on her characters to make them nightmarish, though realistically so. It was just perfect.

Okay – so I have to ask, because I’ve harped on this in recent reviews – what did you think about the crime aspect of the novel? I don’t want to reveal spoilers, so all I’m going to say is that a crime takes place at one point, and the characters are trying to escape justice, and they feel the crime was justified. Do you believe it was justified, and that they were justified trying to escape punishment? I have to admit, even though normally I would automatically answer NO, I really empathized with these characters and wanted them to go free.

Trish: Well, let me put it this way–when I read your paragraph I immediately thought “crime? what crime?!” Does that basically answer your question. Yes, of course a crime was committed and it was a horrible crime. Can it really be justified? I think you start stepping into some pretty soggy ethical ground when you begin debating whether or not the crime should be committed. Look at us dodging these spoilers–if I hadn’t already read the book I’d want to now!

You’ve asked a really great question, Amanda, and I don’t think I have the answer. The moral side of me wants to think that there could have been other actions taken before the crime was committed to have prevented the whole mess that occurs in the second half of the book. In the end, though, I just don’t think it would have been quite the same if the characters had all been carted off in handcuffs at the end of the book. Throughout the book Maxim exclaims that Rebecca has won–as if the two were in constant battle during their lives together. In the end, do you think Rebecca did in fact win or have the others gained the upperhand?

Amanda: I think in the end, neither really gains the upperhand. In one way, sure, they got away with the crime – but do they ever really go free? They’ve lost so much, they have such heavy hearts, and with that abrupt end (Agh!!!), you never really know if they recover. The little hints at the beginning of the book say almost nothing. I suppose, in conclusion, I really thought this book was masterfully pieced together. It’s ethically grey, it’s romantic and tragic both, and there is no clear conclusion. Not to mention the incredible atmosphere we talked about above. I can’t wait to read more by du Maurier! How about you? Any final thoughts?

Trish: I think you sum the book and your feelings up really well. I was a little concerned going into the book that there would be a lot of heavy imagery and that the story would be a little dull (those first two chapters were a beating!), but in a word this book was exciting. At any given point du Maurier only allows you to have just one little piece of the puzzle so that things slowly begin to come together, but she withholds a lot from the narrative in order for readers to make up their own minds with what happens. And like you said, this book really is a psychological thriller. I love that there are still questions left at the end–Rebecca really is a haunting book. I’ll definitely be reading more du Maurier in the future and am glad to have discovered her.

Don’t forget to check out the “beginning” of our conversation over at Amanda’s. And if you’ve never been over there–shame on you. You’ll love both her and her blog. :)

Have you read Rebecca? What did you find creepiest about this book? Do you think psychological thrillers are more frightening than the blood and gore type of thrillers or do those scare the wits out of you, too?

45 Responses to “Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier”

  1. I read Rebecca last week, so it is very fresh in my memory. I didn’t love it as much as others and one reason for that may be that I didn’t care whether the character was found guilty of the crime. I really felt as though I should have done, but I wasn’t very connected with him/her (see I can avoid spoilers too!)

  2. Great reviews you two! I read this back in high school and loved it. Although I had seen the movie a few times before I read the book. I’ve seen the movie again since then (sheesh, I sound like Hitchcock zelot don’t I) so it’s hard to seperate the book from the movie. I’m going to have to read it again. That and Jamaica Inn. Thanks!

  3. One of my favorite books! Mrs Danvers is quite a villain. She uses psychological warfare to manipulate Narry.

    I hope you read more of DuMaurier. She is so good at this kind of writing.

  4. I love this book and I’m so glad you and Amanda enjoyed it too. I haven’t read it in a while, but I just love the atmosphere. I hate blood and gore, it doesn’t scare me it’s just disgusting, so I prefer psychological creepiness myself.

  5. I’m so happy that so many have discovered du Maurier this year! This is one of my favorite novels. I really enjoyed the joint review. And yes, I much prefer the creepy Gothic type of scariness as opposed to the blood and gore. I like the subtleness of books like Rebecca in regards to horror.

  6. I reviewed this yesterday and I have to agree that the two characters that stood out were Mrs Danvers and Rebecca. Rebecca was the most enigmatic character and she wasn’t even alive. As for Mrs Danvers, I actually felt pity for her at the end. She was they way she was because of her deep feelings for Rebecca. She had known her all life and been such confidante to Rebecca, that she struggled with her death occurring without her knowledge.
    I will admit to believing this was a cheesy romance too before my friend insisted that I read it.

  7. How funny, I’m reading this right now. I can’t comment on it much since I’m not finished but I, too, thought that it was a cheesy romance. I’m glad that I was set straight. I’m reading it along with a friend.

  8. I really enjoyed the dual review. I first read Rebecca when I was in high school — my mom and I watched a Masterpiece adaptation (sadly unavailable on DVD), so of course I had to read the book. I remember I wanted to write a paper on it for an English class but the teacher said it wasn’t considered a classic! Maybe there isn’t any literary criticism. But I’m sorry he didn’t recommend Jane Eyre as an alternative, since there are definite parallels. That would be fun to analyze.

  9. Good reviews! I read this book back when I studied in London and found it fascinating – which I had someone to share it with at the time!

  10. I think that creepy without the blood and guts is actually far more scary, and my imagination sometimes runs away with me and scares me more than gory detail ever would. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

  11. Trish and Amanda, I really loved this joint review :) Promise you’ll do it again! I agree with you both that what happens is ambiguous and ethically grey, and to me that only adds to the book’s appeal!

  12. Great, worthy review of one of my favorite books. Well done, ladies.

    I really enjoy the buddy system for the review. Excellent idea!

    I think Mrs. Danvers is the creepiest character in the book – – her motives are unclear at first and when you do realize what’s going on, her level of devotion and obsession is disturbing, to say the least.

    I also thought it was supremely creepy (but very, very effective) to have Rebecca be such a lively presence in the book. She is such a well-drawn character that I could picture her and even hear her voice throughout the book.

  13. LOL! Cheesy romance. Actually, I thought the same thing before I ever read it. Perhaps it had to do with the book packaging. Not sure. Anyway, I read it and loved it and then gave it to Goodwill or something. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? I had to buy another copy ;o)

  14. I love reading buddy reviews! :D
    I’ve heard a lot of great reviews about this book but I just haven’t got around to reading it! Now I need to move this book up my TBR pile!!

    I definitely think psychological thrillers are more frightening than those blood and gore type of thrillers! I think Shirley Jackson’s books belong to this category and I love her books! I need more recommendations on this kind of book as I couldn’t get enough of them! :P

  15. I enjoyed your tandem review. I hope it was as much fun to write as it was to read.

    I’m not shy about blood and guts in a crime story, but the psychological aspects are much creepier and much more disturbing. I think it’s because I can never really identify with the blood and guts aspects by sometimes the psychological stuff can hit very close to home. Much too close at times. Not so much with Rebecca but with other books.

    And some graduate student out there somewhere must have done a fantastic paper on the parrallels with Jane Eyre. Maybe you and Amanda could do another buddy review…..

  16. Haha, before I realized you guys did this together I saw that you each reviewed Rebecca today and thought that was weird that it was the same day and time!

    I sort of skimmed a little because I’m actually reading it right now (well haven’t picked it up in a little bit cuz trying to get other books done) but I’m going to come back when I’m done and see everything you guys said!

  17. Nice buddy review!

    I used to say that this was one of my favorite books, but I haven’t read it since high school and remember very very little of it- not even the ending!

    It might be time to bring it out.

  18. *Amanda – Thank you!! We’ll have to do another one again.

    *Jackie – I didn’t really care for said character either, but I still continued to anticipate what was going to happen at the end.

    *Andrea – LOL–yes, I guess we were pretty cryptic in terms of the crime. Hope you’ll read it!

    *Amanda – I haven’t seen the movie yet, but now I feel like I need to. I keep hearing about how creepy Mrs. Danvers is in the film.

    *Chris – I have Frenchman’s Creek on my shelf, so I’ll probably read that next. Yes, Mrs. Danvers is indeed an interesting character! I actually wish we got to see a little more of her.

    *Meghan – Psychological creepiness is more up my alley than blood and gore, too. du Maurier sure paints a great atmosphere, huh?

    *Bookshelf Monstrosity – I love how the book was so subtle but still managed to be a page turner! You don’t find books like that often.

    *Damned Conjuror – Go read it! Even though the first two chapters were tough to get into, it’s pretty quick reading after that.

    *Vivienne – I have my suspicions about Mrs. Danvers and what exactly she knew in the book…I think she had eyes in the back of that white skull face of hers. :) But amazing how “alive” Rebecca was without actually being alive!

    *Dana – It’s the perfect time to read this book, huh? I hope you enjoy it as much as Amanda and I did!

    *Kerri – Oh, this is a *great* classic to start with! Hope you’ll try it.

    *Karenlibrarian – The Jane Eyre parallels don’t really stick out to me but the more I think about it the more I see them. There’s your literary criticism right there!! :D

  19. *Amused – It’s always more fun to read books with other people, huh? I hope to see more readalongs in the blogosphere in the future!

    *Bermuda – You should definitely read this book! I haven’t read any of her others but I keep hearing good things about them.

    *Jeanne – I think that’s why I had that “what crime?” reaction to Amanda’s question. I almost emailed her just to make sure I knew what she was referring to because I was racking my brain trying to think of something more “criminal.” I think guilt is a big factor. And I think the character felt trapped.

    *Alyce – I hope you can read this one soon! It is very subtly creepy, but still really good.

    *Charley – Yes! You should read this one. :) And it’s fun for the Halloween season although good anytime, I think.

    *Nymeth – Amanda and I actually talked about how we love books that are a little more ambiguous–ones that aren’t presented to us with a big “happy ever ending” bow on top. We should all do a big buddy review love fest!

    *Lori – LOL! Yes, Mrs. Danvers has a few screws loose, I think. :) I’m still stunned at how much she loved Rebecca. And I agree that Rebecca was as real as any of the other characters.

    *Terri – I think it is the trade paperback version that had me thinking this was a cheesy romance novel. Plus the name. :) I’m glad you were able to find a keepsake copy!

    *Melody – I can’t believe you haven’t read this book yet! :P I think you’d really like it. I really need to read more Shirley Jackson.

    *CB – Yes, we did have fun. :) Amanda asks some great questions. I think the psychological factor is pretty subtle in this book, but I agree that psychological stuff is way more creepy than blood and guts.

    *Jenny – I think a lot of bloggers have read Rebecca this month because I keep seeing it pop up on the blogosphere. I hope you’re enjoying the book as much as we did! Can’t wait to hear what you think.

    *Lisa – Should I spoil the ending for you?? :) My friend Laura doesn’t remember the ending either, but I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it any time soon.

  20. I read Rebecca a few years ago. Great book. I still think I liked the book, My Cousin Rachel just a tad better. And Jamaica Inn was also really good. du Maurier is defintely the Queen of the Gothic Novel!!!

    Glad you enjoyed it. Mrs. Danvers was just a nut case, wasn’t she??

  21. This is one of my favorite novels of all time! I first read it when I was 14 as my best friend Stephanie recommended it to me. My English teacher, Mrs. Smith, saw me reading it and we became book friends after that! She had our class read the short story “The Birds” by Du Maurier. I’ve read it a few times since then and have loved it every time.

    I did not like the Masterpiece Theatre version of the book (it grossed me out with the super young narrator and really old Maxim), but the 1941 Hitchcock movie is excellent. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it!

    The creepiest part of the novel for me was definitely Mrs. Danvers. She is one of the best villians in literature. The entire feel of the novel from the narrator’s point of view is fantastic and eery, I think du Maurier is really able to get under your skin and surprise you.

    Great review! I have an award for you. http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2009/10/fabulous-blog-awards.html

  22. I’m not sure I thought of it as a “psychological thriller” at all when I read it years ago! I was just saying on Amanda’s page that I should reread it. Maybe it didn’t jump out at me because I don’t think I like psychological thrillers! Thanks for the glowing review because I know I should reread it now!!

  23. I thought the same thing about it being a romance novel up until about 5 years ago. Some friends straightened me out! :) I don’t have the book, but it’s on my iPod. I’m not so sure if I’ll give it a go any time soon, but it sure is great to know that you loved it. A 4.5/5 is fabulous! I like the format in which you and Amanda used to review it.

  24. I love this book. Have you seen the movie? I always liked the movie, but once I read the book, the movie made so much more sense.

    Love the buddy review!

  25. Despite the fact that you have about a thousand comments on here, I am still going to tell you that I LOVED this book :)

  26. Trish! Amanda! You have just made me want to chuck everything I’m supposed to be doing for the next 12 or so hours, lock myself in a room, and just read this straight through!!!!! Seriously, I’ve wanted to read this for a while, and I even own it…but now, after this review, I am in a state of physical craving!

  27. I just discovered du Maurier myself and LOVE her. Rebecca was particularly good, especially because I was, like you, expecting a romance or something.

  28. *Stephanie – Well I haven’t even heard of My Cousin Rachel! I’ll definitely be checking that one out. And yes, Mrs. Danvers! Enough said. :)

    *Alice Teh – I wish I had known about Sandy’s readalong back when you guys decided to read it! Glad you enjoyed it, too.

    *Laura’s Reviews – I love that this book brought you and your teacher together! I always loved discussing books with my students but sadly most of them didn’t read for fun. :( I haven’t seen the Hitchcock movie but it’s definitely on my list!!

    *Rebecca Reid – I’d say that this is a pretty mild and subtle psychological thriller. I’m sure Hitchcock made it a little more obvious in his movie but I haven’t seen it.

    *Joy – This would be a great one to listen to! It’s a little dull at the beginning but once the story really begins it’s hard to stop! I hope you like it.

    *Care – Thanks for coming by!!

    *Jennifer – Thank you. :)

    *Dar – Now I can’t wait to dive into the copy of Frenchman’s Creek that you sent me! :) I hope you like this one.

    *Lisa – I haven’t seen the movie yet but it seems that everyone really likes it! Hitchcock is hit or miss for me but I’ll have to try it.

    *Wendy – Isn’t it funny how there are all these great books that we don’t ever hear about until someone starts reviewing them? Glad you loved it, too.

    *Corinne – I’m always happy to hear from you! :) And I’m glad that you loved this book too–wasn’t it great?

    *Debi – Yes yes yes! Read this book! :)

    *BlackSheep – LOL–I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this was a romance novel! Have you read any of du Maurier’s others?

  29. I just read Rebecca for a research paper on dreams and I really wish I would have read it last because I enjoyed it so much and it would have been much easier to read a book that I actually liked than some of the other horrible books I read last. Rebecca is such an amazing novel, and it has inspired me to read more of Daphne du Maurier whom I didn’t even know existed until I started researching! The suspense was fantastic and the romance in the novel has so much nail-biting tension! I’m glad to know someone was as enthralled by the book as I!

  30. Great post! Rebecca is one of my all-time favorites. Have you read the YA remake of this book? It is New Girl by Paige Harbison. Of course the original is way better but I think the remake is great too :)