If you haven’t already seen the film or read the book and plan to, I suggest you skip to the last paragraph because it’s likely some spoilers might slip out in the process of writing this review.
I discovered Rebecca while browsing my father’s DVD collection. He’s an avid fan of Alfred Hitchcock and has all his DVDs. When I settled in to watch it, I didn’t realize that it was film adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s bestseller (which I still had not read at the time, although I had a very vague idea of the plot). I only found out when Max de Winter was introduced in the story.
So, having seen the film, I decided to check out the book. I will be ordering it soon online, however, I couldn’t resist downloading an ebook from The Burgomeister’s Ebooks.
Somehow, I wish I had read the book before watching the film. The film was very good, however, there is something about the book which tells me that I would have enjoyed it more if I had plunged into the Daphne Du Maurier’s world without a notion of what would happen. I understood, though, that film adaptations sometimes tend to alter certain plot details, so I was prepared (and somewhat hoping) to be surprised.
The book is written in first person, the unnamed narrator (the second Mrs. de Winter) recollecting her past – how she met the widower Maxim de Winter, and her life trying (and failing) to fill the shoes of Max de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, who had died earlier in the year. It shows her struggle to deal with Mrs. Danvers, the hostile housekeeper at Manderley (Mr. de Winter’s estate) who resents her for trying to replace Rebecca, and her struggle with the belief that her husband is still in love with his late wife. If you’d like to read a better plot summary, there is one on Wikipedia.
The novel, with its famous opening line “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, truly draws you in. While the book wasn’t packed with much action, you already feel something right from the beginning. Daphne Du Maurier’s writing is filled with gothic and sinister undertones.
I was happier with the book than I was with the film. As much as I love Alfred Hitchcock films, I still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they had to alter a major plot detail. A plot detail that strongly influenced the story.
It was a somewhat slow read, but an enjoyable one, though I never really expected the ending to go that way. I was surprised about how the truth came out. I just never saw it coming, and I never thought that Rebecca had died that way, as it was shown differently in the film. However, I wasn’t let down. I put the book down, satisfied, fascinated – and sort of wanting more.
I keep wondering what the second Mrs. de Winter’s name is, though. I think that the author deliberately did not mention it so the new Mrs. de Winter would remain standing under Rebecca’s shadow.
I’d recommend this to fans of mysteries, and also for people who liked Jane Eyre – you will see some similarities.
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