I dedicated October to read spooky books, even though I am a scaredy cat and usually prefer not to read stories that will make me hard to sleep at night XD
Because I’m not a fan of ghost and gory stories, I focused more on the gothic genre. Spooky houses, vague thrills, suspense and -sometimes- murders – those are my stuff!! I will try to review some of the best ones, and this is my first entry, and one of the best books I’ve read in October: Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.
Writer: Daphne du Maurier
Publisher: Avon (2002, mass market paperback)
Bought at: BookDepository (IDR 135k)
Genre: Gothic, Suspense, Romance, Mystery
I’ve heard a lot about this book, it’s all over the best of classics lists. But I was never really interested in reading it, not until Netflix decided to make a movie based on the book. As a firm believer that the book will always be better, I’ve decided to read it before watching the movie.
One of my favorite things from gothic books is the atmospheric setting – especially the magnificent old houses that usually become a separate character by its own. And Rebecca didn’t disappoint me, because Manderley is wonderful, and probably one of the strongest and most memorable settings I’ve ever read in a book.
The story began with an anonymous girl from a poor family who worked as a companion of a rich lady and accompanied her to Monte Carlo for a vacation. The girl (whose name was not revealed at all in the book) met with a mysterious handsome gentleman, Mr. Maxim de Winter, and quickly fell for him. Because this was in 1920s, things were moving rather fast, and the girl (without any hints or preparations), suddenly became the next Mrs. de Winter.
But what happened with the previous Mrs. de Winter? Rebecca was her name, and she was all over the book without really being there in person. She was dead about a year ago, drown in the sea near Manderley. But her personality was too strong to just diminish with her body. And that’s where the story became more and more interesting.
The young Mrs. de Winter, inexperienced that she was, came to Manderley, Maxim’s family heirloom, a grand house near the sea, with so many rooms and the garden like paradise. But of course, she wasn’t prepared at all. Especially when she met with Mrs. Danvers – a Rebecca loyalist, full of hatred and jealousy that her former lady was replaced by this so called urchin girl, with no proper background and education and especially lack of ladylike attitude.
And this is where things were getting juicy – with the devilish Mrs. Danvers who always had suspicious tricks for Mrs. de Winter, and Manderley itself, with Rebecca’s footprints everywhere (from her writing in the desk to her immaculate bedroom) – felt very threatening for the young mistress. Moreover, she was inexperienced and very insecure too, and I think one of the best parts about the book was the way Daphne du Maurier portrayed the insecurities perfectly, therefore making us voluntarily became her allies. You can’t help but sympathize with her.
The ending itself was quite dramatic, but somehow fit excellently with the vibe of the story.
So do I think Netflix did justice to Rebecca? Hmm.. I honestly can’t 100% agree with it. For me, the experience of being inside the head of Mrs. de Winter, her helpless love of Maxim, and her neverending fear of Rebecca, was what made the book feel superior. Nothing can compare to that feeling, and the movie certainly can’t make me feel that way.
Moreover, the movie changed Mrs. de Winter’s character into someone who was becoming braver and more independent, something that was not in the book at all and inadvertently changed the whole tone of the movie. But – the castings are great, I love Lily James and Armie Hammer, and the setting is wonderful, especially Manderley.
If you haven’t read the book though, I would suggest you to read it first before watching the movie, because the sensation is different 🙂
I recommend Rebecca if you like:
- suspenseful romance
- 1920 gothic vibes
- atmospheric setting (especially old houses!)
- strong, detailed characterizations
- British snobs
- dark, gloomy man (and mysterious ex!)
- twisted ending