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GROUP READ: Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA

2013 Category Challenge

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May 6, 2013, 10:39pm Top

Welcome one and all to the May group read of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca. Originally published in 1938, this one is regarded as a modern classic. While the group read is scheduled for the month of May, late comers are always welcome to join in.

I am looking forward to reading this one but before we begin, one simple rule:

If your comment about the book may be a spoiler for others, please clearly indicate in you post the spoiler sections, using something like this: **SPOILER ALERT** or something equally noticeable so others can skip past if they choose to.

That is for the rules. Happy reading everyone!

May 6, 2013, 11:07pm Top

I'm ready to start in a few weeks, I have a few other books that are ahead.

May 7, 2013, 12:00am Top

I've just got a paperback mystery to finish, and R is next. Might not even wait to finish the other one first.

Rebecca will be a re-read for me. In fact, I think this will be the 3rd time I've read it. It is one of the few books I've owned for a long time.

Is anyone reading it for the first time?

May 7, 2013, 12:03am Top

Me, first time and never seen the movie either.

Edited: May 7, 2013, 11:30am Top

I think I probably read it in high school, but that is a looooong time ago.

Picked it up at the library today.

May 7, 2013, 2:02am Top

My first time read, and another with not the faintest idea what's going to happen.
I'm at chapter 7 and so far she seems to be very young and naive and bound to get into trouble.

May 7, 2013, 2:40am Top

I'll be reading Rebecca for the first time, looking forward to my copy arriving - it's somewhere in transit right now. I've read two of du Maurier's other books and really enjoyed them both so I have high hopes.

May 7, 2013, 9:41am Top

This will be my first time reading Rebecca, or reading anything by du Maurier for that matter. Looking forward to it! I will be starting it next week.

Edited: May 7, 2013, 4:53pm Top

Not a first time for me, but I'd love to read this again. However, I parted with my copy long ago -- and our library finally discarded its torn and tattered copy, which was beyond repair. Someone else grabbed it before I could get it. (I would have gladly taken it, loose pages and all.) Let me see what I can rustle up from elsewhere.

ETA I've got hold of it on audio. I think it might be a good way to read it this second time around.

May 7, 2013, 8:40pm Top

Rebecca will be a reread for me. I think it will be my 3rd time too. However, I'm going to have to borrow a copy from the library because I think my copy may have ended up in a box that I dropped at the Friends of the Library sale when I moved back to Tennessee 14 years ago.

May 7, 2013, 8:55pm Top

I've read Rebecca several times, but not for quite a few years now. I'm also a fan of the film, but the book is better.

There's actually a musical version of Rebecca that is struggling to get to Broadway. The producers were the victims of fraud and have had a tough time raising the needed funds, but still hope to get the showoff the ground. I'm not certain how I feel about Rebecca as a musical....

May 7, 2013, 11:38pm Top

The idea of Rebecca as a musical is something I will think about when I finish reading the book. That seems to be a bit of a stretch, without having read the book, but these types of mental exercises intrigue me!

May 7, 2013, 11:50pm Top

I read Rebecca a few years ago and thought it was new to me. But half-way through I realized I read it when I was around 14 or 15, and suddenly remembered my friend Lori pushing it into my hands and telling me I just had to read it. (It would have been around the same time she got me to read Gone With the Wind).

Don't have time to read along with you all, but I remember enough that I can stay for the chat.

What do you think of comparisons between Rebecca and Jane Eyre?

May 8, 2013, 12:09am Top

I haven't read Jane Eyre yet so while I won't be able to join in right away on any comparison discussion, your suggestion makes me want to move Jane Eyre up on my reading pile while Rebecca is still fresh in my mind.

If anyone else has read Jane Eyre, any discussion around comparisons between the two books will be welcome here!

May 8, 2013, 7:53pm Top

Two years ago there was a group read of Jane Eyre and it took me almost a year to finish it. I have never read Rebecca so comparisons between the two books will probably be made. Now that somebody has mentioned it. :-)

May 9, 2013, 1:43am Top

Jane Eyre is yet another of the books you should have read that I haven't. It's on the list, but the list is rather long...

May 9, 2013, 1:05pm Top

I am not planning to join this group read, but I just have to put my two cents in: If you haven't read Jane Eyre but are planning to do so, do NOT read any introductions/cover blurbs/reviews! They will spoil a really awesome plot twist!

That said, enjoy Rebecca! I read it several years ago and liked it a lot, but sadly I don't have time to squeeze in a re-read this year.

May 9, 2013, 2:02pm Top

Yes Rebecca is one of my favorites and I was planning on do a re-read with the group but being in the middle of a very sudden move I will not have time to be engrossed in any book right now. But I will be hanging out for everyones throughts.

Edited: May 14, 2013, 9:30am Top

I just finished Chapter 13. Funny, I remember absolutely loving this book first time I read it. But I'm not much enjoying the re-read at all. Maybe it's the fact that it's audio, or maybe my age now, or just the fact that it's a re-read and I have some recall of what's coming. But the POV character, the second Mrs. de Winter, I'm finding quite annoying. Maybe she seems more whiny, with all her introspection and insecurity, listened to on audio -- or I can identify with her struggles less now than when I was an insecure young woman myself.

May 14, 2013, 9:58am Top

I'm absolutely loving my re-read, Terri. I'm re-reading in paper since the audio was not available. I wasn't sure if it would be available before the end of the month or not. I should finish it today. I'm working on another project right now, but I will finish it today.

Edited: May 14, 2013, 11:46am Top

I'm glad you're enjoying it, Lori. I suspect the audio is to blame -- I'm finding the narrator's voice somewhat annoying for some reason I can't put my finger on. I would have rather had it in paper, but I parted with my copy years ago, and the library copy (in dreadful condition) was recently withdrawn (on my day off) and I didn't manage to snare it from the book sale table before it disappeared.

(I did managed to buy several other duMarier books that were withdrawn!)

May 14, 2013, 12:12pm Top

I'm not exactly thrilled with the condition our library book was in. Many of the pages are "nasty." It makes you want to dig out your gloves to handle it.

May 14, 2013, 3:12pm Top

I'm nearly half way through. Yes, the new Mrs de Winter (do we know her first name?) comes across as whiny and insecure, but given the circumstances of her marriage and her background - well, I think I would have reacted much the same way at her age. Now, however, I just want to shake her and demand that she simply TALK TO HER HUSBAND! Still, depending on how this re-read goes, I may be adding Rebecca to my list of desert-island books.

May 14, 2013, 3:15pm Top

I think I would have reacted much the same way at her age. Now, however, I just want to shake her and demand that she simply TALK TO HER HUSBAND!

Exactly! :)

May 18, 2013, 4:34pm Top

I did not enjoy this. The one I want to shake is the husband. Why doesn't he do anything to support her, when he knows she hasn't had the training needed to handle the whole situation? Even just making sure she has the proper clothes would have helped, and Mrs. Danvers should have been gotten rid of before the second Mrs. de Winter was brought 'home'.

May 19, 2013, 1:55am Top

I'm only 50 pages in but I'm enjoying Rebecca. I love du Maurier's evocative writing and that first chapter, so full of love and longing for a place that evidently caused a lot of pain just dragged me in. Can't wait to dive back in later tonight.

May 19, 2013, 4:36pm Top

I've started!

May 20, 2013, 3:08pm Top

I've finished, and enjoyed it as much as I did on the previous reads. Of course, it is BECAUSE the husband and wife are not speaking openly with each other that so much tension and suspense is generated. They are annoying on a personal level, but that is what makes the book so wonderful.

**SPOILER** I remembered the book as having an entire extra chapter at the end, where Mrs de Winter narrowly escapes the burning house and/or where Mr de Winter was found to be guilty, forcing them to leave England to avoid the legal consequences and supporting the book's opening where they are obviously away from "home". Isn't it funny the tricks our minds play? I don't remember seeing the movie based on the book, but is it possible that THAT is the ending I'm recalling? **END SPOILER**

As I said, I loved the book as much as before. I've started a new collection called "Desert Island Books" and this is the first book I put in there.

Edited: May 21, 2013, 8:21pm Top

>28 sjmccreary: The copy I got from my library has an appendix with excerpts from "The Rebecca Notebook" where du Maurier wrote the first drafts of Rebecca. One of the excepts is along the lines of what you remember, so you may have previously read a version with the same excerpts.

I'm just under halfway through and loving it so far. Although, I had to look up a plot summary on Wikipedia. I've found that for some reason I can't enjoy suspenseful fiction anymore without knowing where the plot is going in advance.

May 21, 2013, 10:04pm Top

#29 I wondered if I had read another edition of the book before, but this is one I've owned for a very long time, so I didn't think so. Obviously, it came from somewhere, so you are probably right.

May 22, 2013, 10:28am Top

I finally got around to picking this book up last night. I am at chapter 7 - page 68 of the copy I am reading - and rather surprised at what a quick read this is proving to be. I am finding the POV of the second Mrs. de Winter interesting but I am not far enough into the story to have any opinions on the characters except for Mrs. Van Hopper..... what an annoying and observant woman she is!

May 22, 2013, 11:25am Top

I think one of the reasons I'm enjoying the book is because I identify with the narrator. I don't really want to shake her or Maxim (although I'd like to fire Mrs. Danvers and use my influence to ensure that she never got a decent position ever again). I'm very shy and would not be at home in the type of society in which the de Winters moved. I also hate forced socializing like they always seem to do in books where you have to go visits ladies because they visited you and then they visit you because you visited them and so on. I'd just tell my butler that I am never "at home." Anyhow, if I were in the narrator's position, I think I'd feel just like she does, and I wouldn't tell my husband because I wouldn't want to bother him and because I'd just want to try to muddle through on my own and hope that I'd eventually figure it out.

Edited: May 23, 2013, 11:06pm Top

Me again. I just finished watching the Alfred Hitchcock movie of Rebecca. Not bad--very true to the book, except for one major change that was required by the production codes (see spoiler section below). The problem is that all the parts of the narrative that take place in the narrator's head are left out. I guess the screenwriters couldn't figure out how to translate that much internal monologue into spoken words. On the other hand, how would one write/film a character who very much lives inside her own head?


Rebecca's death is an accident in the movie, because the production codes required that any character who murdered his/her spouse be punished for it as part of the plot. Since the plot as written by du Maurier required that Maxim get away with it, there wasn't really any choice except to alter the original plot.

May 24, 2013, 1:10am Top

Re: your spoiler . . . really? That isn't still a thing, is it? Was this a US law?

May 24, 2013, 1:56am Top

The copy I've just finished had a discussion section at the back that talked about this. While the book was a commercial success, the critical response wasn't wholehearted, and part of the reason being the dubious morals of the book. It didn't say anything about a law, but apparently is was just socially very unacceptable to have a felon get away with it that it wouldn't have seen release. Hitchcock changed it to get the film made.

I've finished this now and I can say I never saw that comming. How did I not read this until now? I also read the discussion at the end and felt I must be an idiot, because I didn't pick up on that at all.

Edited: May 24, 2013, 8:37am Top

>34 Nickelini: No, it's not still a thing, fortunately. (Personally, I'm appalled at some of the stuff that gets put in modern movies, but I find censorship even more appalling. Plus, nobody says I have to watch movies with content I find offensive.) It wasn't a law, exactly, but all movies had to be reviewed by a censor before release, and if the censor found that a movie violated the code, the "bad" parts had to be changed, or the movie couldn't be released.

For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code

>35 Helenliz: I found the book more true to life because of the "dubious morals," because the "bad guy" doesn't always get caught and because people's private lives don't always resemble their public lives. Not that any and all actions are always justifiable, but sometimes people really have no idea what someone is going through.

May 24, 2013, 9:28am Top

MAYBE WE BRING BACK SOME OF THE "special care exercised in the manner in which the following subjects" AND " good taste may be emphasized"

Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
Rape or attempted rape;
The use of drugs;

May 24, 2013, 11:29am Top

#37 I don't disagree with you. I suppose (hope) that is implied in the current rating system - where these elements would automatically give a film a higher rating. I don't know how diligent or consistent the raters are - or even what their criteria are. I do know that, in practice, it doesn't make much difference. Even G-rated movies contain mild swearing. PG movies are likely to have much more, plus sexual innuendos. While graphic depictions of the kinds of things you listed would almost certainly be rated R, that does not stop kids from watching those movies. They can't get into theaters, true, but with DVD rentals and on-line streaming, they can watch at home. I refused to allow my kids to watch R-rated movies until they were 15, and then only with one of us present. We were one of the few families in our area that was so strict.

The movie makers will only censor themselves voluntarily if doing so results in greater profits. I don't think it does. The only real alternative, then, is enforced censorship. I don't think any of us really want that.

May 24, 2013, 11:35am Top

In the recent film Hitchcock there are several bits about Hitchcock working around the Production Code while making Psycho, even though that was an era in which the Code had been somewhat relaxed. Aside from issues of violence and nudity, they had problems with Hitchcock showing a toilet and, horror of horrors, flushing it!

May 24, 2013, 11:51am Top

35 & 36 - Of course! I don't know why I didn't remember that. Thanks for the reminder. And that's why we went from getting films like Beach Blanket Bingo to Midnight Cowboy.

May 24, 2013, 12:12pm Top

Aside from issues of violence and nudity, they had problems with Hitchcock showing a toilet and, horror of horrors, flushing it!

Now, that just cracks me up!

On the reading front, I reached the 'reveal' part late last night and should be finished the book later today. It is my first du Maurier read and I have to say that the first part of the book was a bit humdrum for me. I was expecting the story to jump right into the gothic atmosphere so the initial build and annoyance I felt for our narrator - yes, she did annoy me, even after I reminded myself of her age and lack of worldliness - which had me questioning why this is considered such a great modern classic. Now I am very curious to see how it all plays out!

May 24, 2013, 2:02pm Top

>38 sjmccreary: I read an article recently quoting John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, who noted that in 2012, PG-rated movies earned almost as much as R-rated movies, even though three times more R-rated movies were released. It seems that people have voted with their pocketbooks, but the movie-makers aren't listening.

May 24, 2013, 5:21pm Top

I read that same thing. However, I think it was also mentioned that the R rated movies have a high attendance of men in that 18-25 year old bracket that movie makers love. That's why they keep making those movies - because those guys spend money going to see lots of those movies.

May 24, 2013, 6:51pm Top

>43 benitastrnad: That makes sense, I guess, although it seems senseless to me to base so much off of one relatively small demographic. But what do I know about marketing?

Also something to consider is that there's lots of reasons for a movie to earn an R-rating. Is a movie striving for historical accuracy pertaining to an event that was violent or otherwise harrowing (Schindler's List, The Passion of the Christ, most war movies) or is it just crudeness for the sake of crudeness (for some reason Hot Tub Time Machine and Bridesmaids come to mind, although I never saw more than the TV ads, so maybe they weren't as crass as they looked)?

Edited: May 24, 2013, 8:34pm Top

I'm not advocating censorship, I just think that somehow those movies back in the bygone days were still great without the violence that we see nowadays.

May 25, 2013, 12:19am Top

I finished Rebecca this evening. Brilliant story telling but I still need to digest this one.

Edited: May 25, 2013, 3:17am Top

>25 MarthaJeanne:

Although I agree with you that the husband was the problem, my understanding of the story is that although the book appears to be about the new Mrs. de Winter, it is driven almost entirely by the emotional failings of the husband. That he would have "fallen in with" and tolerated the first Mrs. de Winter for as long as he did--I believe that anyone with savvy would have realized that something was wrong there--and then begin another relationship with no self-scrutiny about what his own failings could have been (that is, his interpersonal coldness and self-preoccupation)--is really the big issue in the novel. **END SPOILER ALERT**

I saw the film; didn't read the book yet, but I loved the story and look forward to reading it.

Edited: May 26, 2013, 3:40am Top

I also wondered why Maxin didn't offer his wife more support in settling in to her new role, but other than that I found their relationship very believable. Both I think were dominated by Rebecca's much stronger personality and caught in society’s expectations, and in Mrs de Winter’s case, her own insecurities. There were also aspects in both of their characterisations that I could really relate to.
I found du Maurier's choice to have Rebecca, who gets the book's title, totally overshadowing the heroine who is never even named really interesting and after reading the afterword, this obviously gives rise to lots of intriguing analysis. The final twist was great, and I didn't see it coming.
For me this was a fantastic read - character development, a tight and suspensful plot, great setting, and a writing style that made the pages fly by. Rebecca has so many layers, I’ll definitely reread it in the future.

May 25, 2013, 12:43pm Top

Great discussions going on here. I think most readers got more out of this one than I did but I can see where du Maurier has strengths in character and plot development. While I found it to be a good story, I was more taken with the mystery and the 'reveal' than the characters or the finer details of the story, enough to want to read more of du Maurier's books. I have posted a review of sorts that can be accessed here.

May 26, 2013, 8:59pm Top

Two years ago this book was the required reading for seniors at one of the local high schools. I never really understood why because it so obviously demands some life experience, but somehow the discussions connected with that said that the books was a metaphor for the failing and corrupt British Empire. Did any of you see that in the book?

May 26, 2013, 9:22pm Top

#50 No, but that is the kind of interpretation that turned me off of literature as a student. The teachers were always so confident that the books meant something that seemed to have nothing at all to do with the plot, and I NEVER understood how I was supposed to know that. My senior year in high school, I took an elective English class called "College Reading". He would have us read short stories and demand that we tell him "what it means, what it's really saying". I hated that class.

May 26, 2013, 9:24pm Top

Two years ago this book was the required reading for seniors at one of the local high schools. I never really understood why because it so obviously demands some life experience

I too missed the "failing and corrupt British Empire" metaphor, even when I read this for the second time in my 30s. I just want to add though that I read it first when I was about 14 or 15 because a friend recommended it--we both thought it was an entertaining book and that was all. So although I enjoyed it as a teenager, I don't see this as a book that all seniors need to read. I expect I'll read it again at some point, and I'll look out for the metaphor.

Edited: May 26, 2013, 9:30pm Top

He would have us read short stories and demand that we tell him "what it means, what it's really saying". I hated that class.

That's sort of dumb on his part, because, really, you can never know what an author intends. When I was getting my English lit degree, that only had to be said occasionally, because it was expected that we understood. So you were right in noticing that your teacher was in error.

May 26, 2013, 9:40pm Top

>51 sjmccreary: Ugh! I *hate* the "every text has metaphor and meaning" idea. I took quite a few literature classes as electives in college, and I got so tired of everything having to have a meaning, even if it meant interpreting a story within an inch of its life. Personally, I read for fun. Sometimes I find deep meaning in what I read (mostly because a book intersects with my life experiences in some meaningful way, and not because I'm looking for meaning) and sometimes it's just a quick pleasure read. But I find joy in reading, and that's what matters to me, not some tortured metaphor.

I'm really only familiar with British history up through the Reformation (plus WWII), so does anyone know what was going on in the Empire in the 1930s when the book was written? Was the Empire failing and corrupt? (Another frustration from lit class: when people tried to make historical arguments from fiction without consulting the history first.)

Edited: May 26, 2013, 9:49pm Top

#53 you can never know what an author intends

Yes, but sometimes a good guess can be made. But Rebecca is so obviously a great mystery, with gothic elements, and just a good book on the surface. How would anyone know that it has a deeper meaning, like as a metaphor of the state of the British Empire, unless the author has said so? And how can a student know how to see any of these less obvious, deeper meanings without having been taught to recognize them? And why does every book have to have a "real" meaning? Can't it just be a good story? That is why I hated the class.

Edit - I cross posted with casvelyn - who expressed my frustrations much better than I did!

May 26, 2013, 10:08pm Top

Yes, but sometimes a good guess can be made.

Right, but it's always arguable--which is what gives English lit students topics for essays. Any idea, or good guess, has to be supported by the text, and also, it has to have a counter-point.

May 27, 2013, 5:32am Top

While in high school (many years ago) I heard of someone whose college thesis was refused because the professors disagreed with the student's interpretation of a poet's work. The student sent both thesis and reply to it to the author. She replied that she had meant exactly what the student had said, and that what the professors had written was NOT part of what she had intended. Apparently the college then made a rule that thesises (?) in literature could only be written on the work of dead authors.

I also think that high school teachers wrecked certain works for me for ever. My experiences with literature in college were better.

Edited: May 27, 2013, 11:13am Top

They could look it up on Wikipedia. Or in Cliff Notes. :-)

Oops - made a mistake with the posting numbers so now maybe it makes more sense.

Edited: May 27, 2013, 11:01am Top

#58 - That has nothing to do with it. The point is, unless the author has specifically said what he or she intends, the reader can never know. You can make an argument and back it up by the evidence in the text.

Edited: May 28, 2013, 8:36am Top

52> I'm with you, you can't ever really know what was meant - and interpretations shift depending on the prevailing mood at the time. And I would protest that you can't be wrong in an opinion if that's all it is.


The copy I read had notes by a feminist, going on about how Maxim had clearly murdered both his wives, one actually and the second by the way she'd clearly been made submissive to his will that she, in effect, ceased to exist as an individual. Which I felt was a bit much to swallow. The second marriage struck me as far more companionable and cosy than the first - give me comfortable & cosy over passionate and fiery any day.

May 27, 2013, 5:05pm Top

> 60 According to some notes I read online (can't remember where now) du Maurier intended the story to be one of a man with all the power and a woman with no power, and she got really frustrated with critics who didn't see it that way. I agree with you, though; take away the second Mrs. de Winter's insecurity and it seems like a lovely relationship.

Edited: May 28, 2013, 3:23pm Top


I usually don't like classics, but I liked this one. Maybe because of the mystery involved.

What really fascinates me is that we hear the story throughout by the nameless heroine. Don't you think that at the end she should have at least been given a name?

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