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This one is for Jim53

The Green Dragon

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Apr 8, 2013, 3:01am Top

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Discuss please.

Apr 8, 2013, 7:50am Top

Is it just for Jim or can we all play? ;o)

I not only enjoyed this book but the movie (the original Hitchcock version) is just awesome, too. MMMM, Olivier as Max de Winter...

Apr 8, 2013, 9:13am Top

It's for all of us, but in his reading thread he was looking for a place to discuss Rebecca. I really should have put the title of the book in the title of the thread though. Wisdom comes to me, but often it is too late. :/

It's been awhile since I've read the book, and I've never seen the movie, but I think I've always visualized Max de Winter in Olivier form because of stills I've seen.

I first read this book when I was a teen, after we had gone through my grandmother's things. I found it in the bottom of one of her cupboards as a paperback which had photos from the movie in it. The cover was torn off. This was in the '70s. My grandmother died when I was about 7, but we didn't go through things because my grandfather was still living. I don't remember there being any other books in her house, but maybe someone else took them. All I ever remember seeing her read was her Bible, the newspaper and magazines, but maybe she read novels at night when I wasn't around. I never really thought about it before.

Anyway, from the hot pink cover and the image, I didn't expect much of the story. I was never much of a romance reader, but it had me at the very first paragraph, possibly the first sentence. It was one of those books I fell into and didn't come up for air until I was finished. Haunting, an atmosphere of suspense and intrigue. I had never read anything like it before.

On re-reads, I've been annoyed with the narrator of the story whose name we never know, but I discover new touches, such as the fact that we never know her name, only Rebecca's.

Apr 8, 2013, 9:18am Top

I really enjoyed the last third of Rebecca. The pace picked up and we had less of the narrator's hand-wringing. But I wonder about her acceptance of Maxim's shooting of Rebecca. Yes, as he described her, she was an awful person, and she might have been goading him to kill her. But is he still an unblemished good guy after doing so? The narrator doesn't seem to question that she wants to be with him, etc., even after knowing what he did. Are we supposed to accept him as deserving her?

Is the burning of Manderley perhaps an atonement for his sin? Who do we think torched the place--Mrs Danvers? Jack? Frank?

And what is DdM up to with the nameless narrator? What are we to deduce about her from the fact that we see her only as Mrs. DeWinter? Is that the only identity that she recognizes?

Is there any doubt about the physician's reported diagnosis? Could Frank have persuaded him that it was necessary to provide a reason why she would be suicidal?

What other thoughts and questions do you have about the book?

Apr 8, 2013, 9:32am Top

Forgot to start my post with: Thanks, MrsLee, for starting this thread! I hadn't had time yet to look for an older discussion.

Apr 8, 2013, 9:44am Top

I don't think there was ever a dedicated thread for Rebecca.

Edited: Apr 8, 2013, 10:11am Top

I loved the movie but the book not so much. Couldn't stand Rebecca herself. Too much the whimpy poor little thing with no backbone.

Apr 8, 2013, 10:41am Top

um, I think you mean the 2nd Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca had spine to spare!

Apr 8, 2013, 11:18am Top

#8 by Bookmarque> oh yes, of course. the nameless spineless critter.

Apr 8, 2013, 11:49am Top

I'm not as hard on the narrator now that I'm older. She was a very young woman of no or little social standing. She did not have the background to prepare her for being the woman of that house. When she tried to, she was undermined by Mrs. Danvers in subtle and not-so-subtle ways every way she turned. I blame Maxim more than her. He brought her home and left her alone there. He was present physically, but not spiritually or emotionally. I remember how fragile I was at that age in my new husband's affection (he is 10 years older than I), and I can identify with her. Anyone who hasn't been raised to have confidence, and many women of that time were not raised so, struggles with their self-esteem. In fact, many women I know who have been raised with love still struggle with their self-esteem. If we didn't have our support systems of friends and family around us, were thrown into a completely different social system, with a man who was suddenly morose and distant after he had been charming and devoted, might we not flounder as well?

I am harder on Maxim, and yet, I cannot despise him. I credit the author with that. When you try to tell someone about this story, not keeping spoilers at bay, it sounds horrid, yet the way DdM wrote it, it isn't. Which makes me feel that she did a masterful job. Unlike most fiction, there isn't a cut and dried resolution and a happy ending. We are left with a broken and wounded man and a woman who has grown in spirit immensely. She has taken the situation as it is and decided to make the best of it. Why do we let Maxim off the hook? Because he really never will be off the hook. He will have to live with what he did forever and realizes that he can't get away from it. Sure, they can and do roam and try to forget, but he never will. She has simply decided to love him as is, with all of his past.

As to why the narrator remains nameless, I think it is simply a device to make Rebecca the "presence" she is throughout the story. She haunts the narrative with her over-powering spirit until her story is put to rest, and even then, because Maxim isn't revealed as the murderer, and justice isn't served (at least in Mrs. Danvers eyes), Rebecca has the last word by the burning of Manderly. His home will never be his own, it will always be hers.

Apr 8, 2013, 1:08pm Top

>10 MrsLee:: I love this analysis of the narrator and the book as a whole, MrsLee. It's very insightful and makes me want to go back to the book for a reread.

Apr 8, 2013, 8:23pm Top

I read the book for the first time last year. I spent the first half of the book wanting to shake the narrator silly. The second half of the book really took off and I found I couldn't put it down.

This is one of those books I wish I'd read 10 years ago to see how different my perspective has changed. I think it's a book that will have different impact depending on your stage of life.

Apr 9, 2013, 7:29am Top

I am currently reading Rebecca for the first time and am enjoying it.

As commented upon by some of the above posters here and in other threads, the narrator does need a good shaking every now and again. I also think that Mr. de Winter is rather insensitive and arrogant.

I was reading chapter 6 on a ferry from Cherbourg on my way home from holidaying in France and was particularly struck by du Maurier's portrayal of packing up when leaving a hotel, and her idea that we will never return to a place as the same person we were when we left that place. It was also coincidental that Mrs Van Hopper was heading to Cherbourg on her own journey.

I can see why so many people love this novel.

Apr 10, 2013, 8:34am Top

I had forgotten one of my reactions to Rebecca, and for some reason it came back to me in the car this morning. It struck me as a poor man's Jane Eyre. Mrs. D is of course a more hostile opponent than Bertha, but I reacted to her in a somewhat similar way, which was to see her not only as a person but as an internal impediment that the heroine had to overcome in order to settle in properly with her Byronic gentleman. I think this occurred to me when I read the scene where Mrs D is suggesting to the narrator that she leap to her death out the window; it seemed a bit odd for her to say as a person, but quite fitting if viewed simply as a temptation that poor pitiful young No. 2 was experiencing.

Edited: Apr 10, 2013, 9:11am Top

LOL, yes I can see the similarities. Except Jane was brilliant and somewhat aggressive, and courted by Rochester for those very reasons. The second Mrs. de Winter was a wet rag by comparison, but also courted for that very reason.

Apr 14, 2013, 8:06am Top

Okay, I know I'm terribly late to the party here, but I have to pick up on something that MrsLee alluded to but which isn't being properly addressed. Everyone keeps dumping on the second Mrs. De Winter who is, I think we can all agree, young, naive, inexperienced on just about every level, and poorly prepared for the role in which she suddenly finds herself. But what the @#$% is wrong with all those OTHER people in the story who could have said something to her but none of whom DID? I'm talking about Bea, Frank, and certainly Maxim.

While I fully agree with MrsLee that duMaurier leads us to sympathize with Maxim, she's able to do that by only telling the story very skillfully through the second Mrs. De Winter's voice and hence a somewhat skewed lens. The second Mrs DeWinter is in love with her spouse and won't say anything bad about Maxim's behavior. But really (and this is my 1970's feminism popping out) what happens in the tale is more to be laid at Maxim's feet than hers. This is a man who is obsessed with his house and position. Whenever he's asked to explain himself, he always puts forward how he couldn't bear to be pilloried by gossip or pitied by those who suspect that Rebecca might not be all public perception might lead us to believe. Maxim doesn't appear to have learned a d*** thing from his first marriage other than reinforcing his own stiff-upper-lip tendencies. Those are certainly in keeping with the attitudes of the time, but in this time and with my attitudes some seventy or eighty years later, Maxim ought to be taken out and flogged! He doesn't show much awareness of his bride's nervousness or need for something to do. And he certainly doesn't show any kindness to her after the debacle of the costume ball. I can't forgive the man. Yes, we might all want to smack the idiot second wife at times, but why isn't anyone desiring to take Maxim out behind the woodshed?

And Bea, his sister? She is a little more aware but never sits the new bride down and shares her suspicions of Max's previous unhappiness in his marriage or her suspicions of how Rebecca played with other men (including her own spouse). These people (Max, Bea, Frank, etc.) all had information that they might have shared with the little twit who is floundering about in the halls of Manderley, up against the likes of the malign Mrs. Danvers. Granted that it might have been an awkward and uncomfortable conversation and not one that one might have politely held back in the '30's without knowing the person intimately, but that just sends me back to Max. The dog, Jasper, is the only soul on the estate who is ever nice to the second wife!

Actually the real testament to duMaurier's writing here is that I can still work up a head of steam about this. On the other hand, I find in a scrap piece of paper inside my copy of Rebecca that I must have seen something in the author's writing, because I have a cryptic scribble about balancing the unseen character against the unnamed character.

Apr 14, 2013, 11:22am Top

#16 Jill, I think you will see from my post, #13, that while I am only part way through reading my opinion on Mr. De Winter is leaning in the direction of your views as expressed above.

Apr 14, 2013, 1:42pm Top

Jill, I do agree. Time has dulled my outrage, but honestly, Maxim struck me by the end of the book as a very ineffectual man. He should never have given Rebecca the power she held over him. I never did get that, and perhaps it is my Americanism and my 70s heritage showing, but why should her outrages have been a case for blackmail against HIM? Why not just expose and dispose of her? Then move on and keep his estate. Have I forgotten something in the story? Did he sign a prenuptial agreement or something?

Apr 14, 2013, 3:47pm Top

I read the book pretty nearly half a century ago, and not much stands out to me now in terms of characterizations. The overwhelming association with Rebecca in my memory is with a pervasive, inescapable feeling of menace. That's where I see the art of the story: in mood and ever-growing menace. If everyone behaved sensibly and well, after all, there'd be no story.

Apr 14, 2013, 7:15pm Top

First of all, pgmcc, you did indeed make the same point in your post and I must simply have skimmed past it too quickly. (I do have a tendency that way when reading online.) I saw your statement about the narrator and missed what you said about her spouse.

MrsLee, I think we're supposed to understand that, in 1938, Maxim is too high minded in his devotion to his heritage to allow an ugly scandal like divorce and/or drugs besmirch the family. It's not a direct thing, but in the back of my mind, I kind of classified Rebecca's behavior with that of Dian de Momerie's in the fountain scene in Murder Must Advertise. I sort of assumed that she was simply not adequately occupied in the life at Manderley and thus was pushing against all of her life's general constraints. Maxim does credit Rebecca with bringing Manderley back to life in a way that neither he nor his father were capable of achieving, but he says that she was careless in her indiscretions as the time of the marriage wears on.

Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers are quite a team; I've always wondered how they managed to match themselves up. Conversely, you had Maxim, Frank, and Bea all banding together to keep up a good front. The second wife is at a distinct disadvantage, caught between those two opposing sides. (Even if it is mostly in her mind.) She does say that, once she learned Maxim had never loved Rebecca, that she herself no longer feared the hovering sense of Rebecca in all the rooms. At the same time, she's not horrified to learn that the man she is married to has killed his first wife. Maxim gets a free pass, except for the self-imposed exile the wife describes in the opening chapter. And maybe that's where I agree with you, MrsLee, that it seems a little odd that, even with the scandal muted, Maxim and whats-her-name still feel that they must leave and never return (or else have no reason to return) to the burned-out ruin of the estate left behind.

Apr 16, 2013, 4:21am Top

Last evening I was reading the chapter about the broken ornament and I got so infuriated with Maxim and the second Mrs De Winter that I decided to give up on the book. I even put the book back on the shelf without a bookmark to indicate my place.

Half an hour later I came back and started reading the book again.

Mrs De Winter's fawning on Maxim and his total arrogance, insensitivity and patronising treatment of his wife are starting to grate on me and I'm finding them a bit tedious. I hope things improve soon or I might not finish Rebecca which would be a shame.

Apr 16, 2013, 10:29am Top

Hang in there, you're in for a twist, although I can't quite remember how much farther you have to go.

Apr 16, 2013, 11:12am Top

#22 MrsLee

I'm seeing hints of a twist (i.e. that Rebecca wasn't the wonderful person the second Mrs De Winter believes her to be - I have been avoiding parts of the posts above when it looks like a spoiler coming, not that I would be too upset if I read one) and I am almost halfway through the book and starting to get the feeling that I'm about to get into a fast slalem to the end. Maxim has just headed off to London for a couple of days and Mr. De Winter has been enjoying her freedom.

When I stopped reading last night she and the dog had just entered the cottage on the beach and it appears there is someone in the back room. Spooooooky! :-)

Edited: Apr 21, 2013, 5:41pm Top

I've just finished reading the part about the fancy dress ball. I knew Mrs Danvers was setting her up as soon as she made the suggestion. This was probably from a distant memory from having seen the film years ago, however, even if I hadn't seen the film I think I would have suspected a set up from the very beginning. Had I not twigged it then I would have twigged it from all the build up. I found the anticipation of the ball overpowering. It is probably because I felt I knew what was going to happen and was so embarrassed for the poor girl that I just wanted it all to be over without any fuss.

By the way, I still think Maxim is an arrogant, insensitive prig. Poor Frank seems to be the only likeable character in the book. Sorry, that is being unfair to Clarice and Bea.

Apr 21, 2013, 5:44pm Top

I posted my thoughts on the book in my own reading log: http://www.librarything.com/topic/147474#4055596

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