Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again",
With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
In my time blogging there are many books that you see reviewed over and over again. Rebecca was one such book. I had never read Daphne du Maurier before, but I was constantly hearing about her. One day when I was at the second-hand bookstore I picked up a copy of Rebecca to finally see what it was all about. The only problem was I couldn't convince myself to actually read it. The only cover I could find was this one:

I had heard this book was Gothic and maybe even a bit creepy, but this cover just made me think 'romance novel'. I try to not let myself judge a book by the cover, but I wasn't succeeding with this one.

 In the fall there is a reading challenge called the 'R.I.P. Challenge'. In 2010 I was seeing Rebecca on many lists either going to be reading it or recommending it as a book for that time of year. I kept looking at the above cover and thinking 'Really?'. I am obviously missing something. While searching through the library catalogue one day, though, I found that they had added a new copy of Rebecca. Despite having a copy sitting on my TBR pile, I requested it and finally read it. I included this cover in my original review:
  That's a big change from the ugly red cover. I am thinking they were worried no one would read du Maurier if they didn't make her look like a romance novelist.

Here are a couple excerpts from my original review:
I loved the characters in this book. Mrs. Danvers was a really well-written villain. You never knew what to expect from her at any given time. It was fascinating to watch her character progress and discover just how crazy she could be. She is very unhappy that Maxim has remarried and still feels like Rebecca is a presence in the household. She is determined to keep her memory well alive and to do anything in her power to bring about the end of the new Mrs. de Winter. I think Daphne du Maurier captured her on the page brilliantly. She really came alive for me. Then, there was Rebecca herself. She played the perfect ghost. Even though she was not alive for the novel, you still knew her really well by the end of it. She may be dead, but she has not actually left Manderley. From the surface she seemed like the perfect hostess for a beautiful house, but as the story progresses and the layers are peeled back you will be fascinated by the character that appears.

And:
I just loved this book so much! When I started it I was constantly interrupted and only managed to get through 200 pages. The next day I managed to block most things out and read to the end. I was so excited to see how the story played out, but on the other hand I was really disappointed that it was over with. There haven't been a lot of books like this so far this year, so I was so happy that I finally found one! It is was atmospheric, Gothic, and the perfect book for this time of the year. If you are participating in the R.I.P. challenge and haven't read this book before, you really should! I am glad that I did!

For Christmas of 2010, I decided to buy my own copy of Rebecca with an appealing cover. I have this one on my stacks:


I had hoped to reread it this year, but I think I will probably save it for the fall.

What do you think of the various covers of Rebecca? Would you be a cover snob like me?


Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940):

I have wanted to see this movie for ages, but I couldn't find a copy. I had no idea that you could watch the entire thing on YouTube. I still would love to own it at some point; but over the winter I sat down and revisited Manderley for the first time in over a year. From the opening line I was excited. I have seen Alfred Hitchcock movies over the years, but never this one. I expected it to be very good and it was. The movie stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the two lead roles. Judith Anderson plays Mrs. Danvers. It won best picture at the 1940 Academy Awards and you can easily tell why. It stays very close to the original story and the mood of the movie is perfect. It is very much worth a watch!




Now it is your turn. Let us know what you think of the covers for the book, the book itself, or your own experiences with the movie in the comments.

14 comments:

  1. I own that hideously lurid red mass paperback -- ugh. But I adore Rebecca so much I read it once a year -- one of the only books I'll do that for. God, so good.

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    1. I just couldn't get beyond it. Sometimes I guess the cover really does matter. I am glad you enjoy it so much that you can overlook it, though!

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  2. When I was 14, my best friend Stephanie introduced me to Rebecca and I was hooked. We watched the classic 1940's movie first and then she loaned me her Grandma's original copy. We also read her short story "The Birds" in my 9th grade English class at the time.

    I've reread Rebecca several times through the years and have loved it more each time. Even better has been reading it with two different book clubs and seeing how it manages to enrapture different friends.

    Reading Rebecca made me obsessed with du Maurier's novels. I've read quite a few, and also have a large stack I've collected and haven't quite read yet. I love her short story collections as well.

    Rebecca has the distinction of being not only one of my favorite novels, but also one of my favorite movies. Not too many books get such an awesome movie made out of them!

    As for the covers, I have the red cover version, but would really like a hardcover for a book I plan on keeping and rereading through life. I already knew what was inside when I bought it as a teen so the cover didn't matter to me.

    Thank-you for such a great review and wonderful celebration of Du Maurier!

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    1. It would be nice to have hardcovers of du Mauriers books. The new covers that most of her books have been rereleased with are nice, but paperback.

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  3. Rebecca is one of my all-time favorites, and the movie is wonderful, too! My first paperback cover bought back in the 1970's is not pictured here, but it was definitely forgettable. (Blue and white cover.) I love the cover with the gates of Manderley inviting you in...or warning you to stay out. I enjoyed your post very much!

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    1. I considered adding more covers to the post, but there are many. It would have been a very long post!

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  4. I still have this to read again. I have cover #2 that I picked up in a bargain bin. Been saving this one for last.

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  5. I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved – it doesn’t have to be one they just posted about. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved June Edition

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  6. That red cover is exactly the reason why I never read Rebecca till this year. But when I read it, same reaction -- why didn't I read this years ago?? I saw the Alfred Hitchcock film immediately after I finished the novel and I was thrilled with the way they portrayed Rebecca, all lips and shoes -- exactly as described in the book. Yes, the cover matters a lot, and I don't think it's snobbish to feel that a great book deserves a great cover. Nothing wrong with a trashy romance, but don't design a cover that that looks like one genre when it really belongs to another.

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    1. I am glad I am not the only one that avoided that cover!! It really did a disservice to the book.

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  7. Kelly you make me want to grab Rebecca and reread it. :-)

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    1. I want to reread it myself... I will have to work it in!

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  8. Now I'm in the mood to read Rebecca again. I haven't read it for so many years.

    Thanks for the post!

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