I finished the last Nero Wolfe book of the 1940’s and I began to re-read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. In junior high, one of my favorite teachers said this was her all time favorite book. I checked it out of the library, got two chapters down the long drive at Manderly and couldn’t go any further. It all went over my head and I didn’t get it. Years later as a senior in high school, it was our required reading during the fall semester. I absolutely fell in love with it and have not stopped raving about it since. It was this book that brought me and my future roommate\bridesmaid\best friend together. We worked together on the final project for this book and immediately bonded. In fact, our favorite quote from the book was written (literally) on our dorm room wall.
In my latter high school years I started to appreciate authors and enjoy story tellers and writing styles. I revere Jeffery Archer as a great story teller and giggle at Rex Stout’s larger than life characters. But no author has my endearing captivation quite like Daphne Du Maurier. She takes control of your imagination and then suddenly turns it against you to terrify. Ryan can attest that I did not sleep for a week after I read The Birds. Don’t Look Now and The Split Second honestly took my breath away and left me utterly dumbfounded. Anytime I think of Kiss Me Again, Stranger it makes my skin crawl.
I have yet to read a short story of hers which I did not like, however I find her novels hit or miss. Her plots are great in saturated doses, but sometimes she doesn’t have enough driving force to pull through an entire novel. The exceptions I have found to this rule are Rebecca and The King’s General. I will admit that I have not yet read Frenchmen’s Creek, but both My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn left me a little disappointed.
Rebecca however, is classic. The majority of the story is a casual turn of events, but there is enough intrigue within the characters to move the plot. The story is told from the perspective of an un-named narrator recanting the story of her life from the time when she met her husband-a widower and estate owner– through the first 3 months of their marriage together. It is not until the last 100 pages that the plot explodes in your face and turns everything you’ve been told thus far on its ear. The story itself is rich in irony, suspense and foreshadowing and nestled in a wonderfully gothic Cornish estate—complete, yes, with blood red flora, an ominous bellowing sea, fog to boot and haunting effects of a deceased.
The characters are exquisite. Max, the widower husband, is plagued by inner demons, the likes of which are not clearly understood until the very last. Frank the non-assuming estate manager calm on the surface but wracked with guilt underneath. And the towering Mrs. Danvers. I have a copy of the radio episode of Rebecca Alfred Hitchcock did and in the intro it is said that he thought Mrs. Danvers was the greatest suspense character of all time. Judith Anderson played Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock’s 1940 rendition of Rebecca and was nominated for best supporting role. For that matter, Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine were both nominated for lead role and the movie itself won best picture.
Ryan hasn’t read it yet so I won’t go further, but I am have about 120 pages left, I’m at the morning after the fancy dress ball when the boat crashes in the bay. Big exciting things are about to happen and I’m giddy with excitement. I dare say this has been more fun to read the second time around.