Once again, there are other books I should be reviewing first, but I just finished this on Sat. and want to get my thoughts down before they disappear.
Plot: The unnamed heroine of the novel is a companion to an older American lady in Monte Carlo when she meets and falls in love with Mr. de Winter. I refuse to say anymore about the plot since I really think it would spoil the book for others. I read it cold and am glad I did. Actually, if you haven’t read it, but plan to, stop after the first three sentences of the next paragraph and go read the book. It’s better that way, trust me.
I loved this book. It’s brilliant. Du Maurier is a genius. I don’t just say that because she writes a great story, which it was, but because she is a master at language. Her writing style is similar to Virginia Woolf, only with much more structure. As I was reading this book, the language, always so soft, floating, diaphanous, made me feel pleasant and happy, even though I knew there was disaster must be coming. It was a bit like being a leaf which is gently blown along the path by a late summer breeze, lazy and content, yet with the knowledge that disaster will and must strike sometime in the future. It could come in the form of an early winter, or linger on until late November before the catastrophe happens, yet all the time you know it will. You’re not quite sure if you should sit back and enjoy the ride and the lovely breeze, or try and prepare yourself for the coming evil.
For me it was the direct contrast between the oh so beautiful language and the not so beautiful actions of some of the characters that heightened the sense of impending doom -throughout the book really, but especially upon the return to Mandalay. Mrs. Danvers, for example, is never overtly evil, yet she is one of the most innately evil characters I’ve ever come across. Du Maurier’s contrast between the language and the actions rather heightens than dampens Mrs. Danvers subtle hostility and vicious menace. The evil is there, weaving its way between the lines as if poisoning the book while the reader is pleasantly carried onwards through the story.
Granted, I did often feel like slapping the heroine and telling her to grow a backbone. However, after having finished the book, I’m not so sure that would have done her any good. More intelligence and less naïveté, on the other hand, would have helped. It was painstakingly obvious that De Winter and his wife needed to have a serious conversation about Rebecca, yet they both, to their own detriment, avoided doing so. However it was this undercurrent of things unsaid and things unknown that kept the book from becoming solely a beautifully written narrative and turned it into a fascinating mystery.
Overall, 5 out of 5 for this one. Loved it and will surely read it again.