Well, I’ve officially found my favorite book of the year! This also just might have earned a place on my all-time favorites list, too–it’s just that good.
Loosely based on Jane Eyre, Rebecca is the story of an unnamed young woman who, while working as a companion to an older woman in Monte Carlo, meets the handsome and mysterious Maxim deWinter, a recent widower. After a whirlwind romance, he marries her and brings her to Manderlay, his estate home, where she soon finds that Rebecca (his deceased wife) is still very much alive in spirit and still manages to influence the household from the grave.
I’m a sucker for these types of twisted romances, and given my love of Jane Eyre (I’ve read it probably 5-6 times), I knew there was no way I wouldn’t love this book, too. Like Jane Eyre, there are some themes and character actions that warrant some skepticism from a modern, feminist point of view (the Twilight-esque justifying of borderline abusive behavior as romantic and manly, for example) but this can be explained away by the times (this was written in the 1930s) and the narrator’s naïveté about the world and didn’t really ruin my enjoyment of the book. It’s exciting and shocking and so much fun to read–I wasn’t expecting to be so engrossed in it, but I had a really hard time putting it down.
duMaurier is a brilliant writer and really excels at creating a gothic, spooky atmosphere without going overboard. I didn’t realize this until Wikipedia-ing her, but she also wrote The Birds (the short story the movie was based on) and just based on the movie, that makes a lot of sense–her works are truly creepy. I was always guessing about what was going to happen next, and this book never ceased to surprise me. It’s kind of a mystery, and in some ways a bit of a ghost story, and it makes a lot of sense that Hitchcock would have chosen to adapt this into film (I haven’t seen the movie, but now I really want to) as it’s extremely Hitchcock-ian.
The one thing I didn’t really like about the book (and this kind of goes back to my minor complaint above) is that the narrator is pretty weak and pathetic at times. I get why her character needed to be that way, because a stronger-willed person wouldn’t put themselves in or stay in the situation she’s in, but she annoyed me a little bit at times. Despite that, I ultimately felt bad for her and that sort of overcame my irritation.
This is a perfect book to read on a rainy day, wrapped up in blankets with a hot mug of tea. I can definitely see this book becoming one of my most-read–I’m going to buy myself a copy–and has definitely earned its place next to my worn-out copy of Jane Eyre on my bookshelf. Go read it! Now!