Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Digital Audiobook narrated by Anna Massey
Published by Little, Brown on August 1st 1938
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Gothic, Mystery, Romance
Length: 449 pages or 14 hours, 45 minutes
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
I am honestly still just reeling from that unexpected ending. This book was NOTHING like I thought it was going to be and it far exceeded my expectations. I should also note – I did listen to the unabridged version. Definitely listen to the unabridged version! There are so many hints and clues. After reading the blurb, I really expected Rebecca to be a sort of sweeping, sappy romance. For a lot of the book, the reader is led to believe this is true. But then everything shifted and it was a murder mystery and there was plotting and so help me I loved it.
Daphne de Maurier’s writing is just right. There are a few flowery passages that were so relatable that I found myself reminiscent of L.M. Montgomery. For the most part, though, the writing is well balanced and the tone is perfect. She shifts effortlessly from romance to ghost story to thriller that I only noticed the shift in her voice retrospectively. There’s enough description to bring Manderly to life, but not so much that the reader is left skimming passages of architectural descriptions.
I’ve been wracking my brain, but I don’t think our narrator was ever named? Rebecca is named for the previous Mrs. de Winter, and Rebecca’s presence is so heavy on our narrator’s life that she seems to squash the individuality right out of her. Rebecca, the deceased first wife whom everyone loved and who was so perfect. I found it do be a clever literary device – the narrator’s self-esteem was so low that even her name carried no confidence. It didn’t matter because she didn’t matter because she was not Rebecca.
This is one of those books that strongly screams for discussion. Of the details, not the style and formatting. I want to know if anyone else was as much taken off guard by the ending as I was. And I want to know if anyone was as concerned as me with the narrator’s reaction to Maxim’s secret. For me, only the very best books strike that sort of need for conversation in my soul. It’s an impossibility of putting the book to bed, because I’m still thinking about it. This is a book I would have liked to have read in school… but I’m also that strange person who looks back fondly on a lot of academically required reading.
Rebecca would never have come on my radar if it wasn’t for Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s book club. It is moments like these when I deeply appreciate when book clubs inspire me to add books outside of my comfort zone. Rebecca was a novel I couldn’t stop listening to, and am already eager to re-read. I recommend it with all my heart to anyone interested in gothic books, romance, morality stories, murder most foul… it’s just really good and I loved it.
What was the last book that caught you off guard? I really enjoy it when a book isn’t what I expected… in a good way! Make some suggestions to me in the comments!