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Pickle Me This

May 17, 2008

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I’ve not had much to say lately, suffering from a sudden dearth of original thought. Hoping to ease myself back into consciousness, however, I’d like to touch on Rebecca. The image at right being from the copy I read, a mass-market paperback passed on by my friend Bronwyn (who’d ended up with two).

I knew very little of Rebecca previously– had one impression that it was a ghastly florid romance with no literary worth, and it was also confused with she of Sunnybrook Farm. My interest sparked, however, when one of my favourite book-bloggers began her “Daphne-Fest”. She’d just finished reading Daphne by Justine Picardie, and I’d fallen in love with Picardie’s non-fiction back when I lived in England. I was also intrigued by DuMaurier’s ties to the Brontes, and I was reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall at the time. So round-aboutly, I came to read Rebecca. Quite late too, as everyone else I know who has read it did so in their early teens, and found it somewhat pivotal. I can certainly see why.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century gothic with modernish times– like Jane Eyre with automobiles! Naturally, I’d always associated such a narrative sensibility with all things archaic, and so to see it in this context made it new to me. The Jane Eyre references coming often related to this book, though I must assert I thought Rebecca more original than it was made out to be. Connections between the two books were a bit tenuous, incidental– this is a book that stands up on its own. And a fascinatingly constructed novel for a variety of reasons– that we never learn our narrator’s name for one, “the second Mrs. De Winter”, though we learn it’s an unusual name, difficult to spell. The love story’s trajectory less predictable than might be imagined, and the arc of the novel itself, for I have never encountered an ending more perfect. Unexpected and expected at the very same time, and that we do not come full circle. Of all the gaps throughout this novel, particularly this: “And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.”

2 thoughts on “Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier”

  1. Leah says:

    I first read this book in a modern Brit Lit class — the professor was also a hardcore Atwood scholar, and she talked a lot about how Rebecca has a lot of similarities to Atwood’s The Robber Bride. I read them back-to-back (and did my senior thesis on the latter), and I think that you can definitely see the similarities and progression in the two novels, and it’s even MORE interesting when you round it all off with a rousing rereading of Jane Eyre.

    So if you’re in the mood for rereading, I would definitely recommend The Robber Bride. I got a lot more out of it reading it in conjunction with Rebecca.

  2. Kerry says:

    I never even thought of that– something brilliant to ponder. Thank you!

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