It has been a long while since I posted about a book. This really doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. It’s truly quite the opposite of that. However, it lacks the time for me to actually sit down and reflect on what I have just read. Or at least, it’s been happening at night, when I should be sleeping to get up early for work. Here’s a short review of a book I’ve bought in my short trip to Paris, in Shakespeare & Co. bookshop.
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
The first time I heard about this book I knew there was a huge possibility of me liking it. It sort of surpassed my expectations. I loved it. And you know what’s funny about it? I loved it despite disliking the main character – the narrator.
The story starts in Monte Carlo, when a young girl with no possessions or social status, working as a companion for an old, annoying lady, meets Mr. De Winter, a man that has recently lost his wife, and owner of fantastic Manderley, a property in England known for its majestic beauty. This man takes an unusual interest in this girl and asks her in marriage in a very quick, sudden way. They get married unromantically, with no party of beautiful, sentimental expressions of love. He takes her to Manderley where the memory of Rebecca, his dead wife, it’s alive and present in every corner of the mansion.
For me, it is Rebecca, this dead woman, who takes the role as the lead character in this book. Of course, the plot surrounds our new Mrs. De Winter, our narrator, but she lacks the presence Rebecca still has in the book – very much as it happens in the story. Isn’t it a fantastic thing? We never get to know the first name of our narrator, as if she was deprived of an identity, reducing her literally to a naive, shy little girl, in love with this experienced, older man, the owner of an entire state in England. Our narrator is only “someone’ when she marries, to become Mrs. De Winter. The trouble is, when this happens, she can’t even full-fill that role. Rebecca is still the true Mrs. De Winter. And her lack of confidence keeps pushing her down, to the background, behind Rebecca’s memory.
I think this is why she annoyed me so much. I’d cringe and hold the book in my hands in desperation. In the beginning of the story, I sympathise. All right, she marries a man she barely knew. She knew nothing about his past, about his deceased wife. She jumps into it, even though he’s quite blunt with her, literally treating her like a child. However, she was young an in love. I guess we could all relate to that.
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word”
I think it’s her lack of strength to overcome her shyness and fears that mostly gets on my nerves. She’s always too afraid of what people might think of her, of asking her husband questions about what the woman, she thought, he was still in love with.
So I don’t want to spoil the story to anyone by giving away any more details on the story. If you like classic thrillers, with a gothic essence, you’ll enjoy this book. The writing is brilliant, enticing. Although I did not identify with the narrator, I was inside her mind, her most deep thoughts.
It’s so human – all of us have fears and insecurities, the way the narrator has. There are long passages of her thoughts and scenes she imagines in her head of what will happen if she behaves in a particular way. What will people say and think, mostly. And no matter how self-confident you are, there will always be times when you’ll overthink when you’ll be aware of others and scared of their judgment.
And then it gets darker and darker, and you can’t put the book down. Suddenly there’s so much you need to know about Rebecca. But she never asks! How revolting it is and yet so appealing? I kept wanting to shout to the book “Just ask him, you little fool!”. You know a book is good when you are indeed living it. When you’re so involved, you feel you’re there, in Maderley.
“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”
However, most importantly, what we learn from this story is how fear can stop you from being happy. If the new Mrs. De Winter has been able to overcome her fears and insecurities much earlier in the book, she would know what she needed to know to be happy in Manderley, to not be afraid of being herself.
“I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.”