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0144 | Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Context: Moving house again, this time to a room in a lovely house in Piddington.

Never read any du Maurier so wasn’t sure what to expect from this. I wasn’t too eager to read it as the cover looked a bit sentimental and like it might read more like Mills & Boon. Thankfully it didn’t and, once more, the 1001 books list has lead me to the discovery of a book that was excellent.

This is a novel that surprised me on many levels. First of all, it’s titled after the central character in the book. While that may be no innovation, you discover very very early on (so not a spoiler) that Rebecca is in fact dead. It is remarkable that the central character in the book, despite being completely absent in body, dominates every page, every character (pretty much) and overshadows the whole narrative entirely without doing a thing.

This is very clever. It’s particularly clever in light of the fact that the character who narrates the story, and thus provides the central perspective for the novel, is kept entirely anonymous. You never discover her first name and her last name is, as readers will find out, not her own either in more ways than one. This creates a unique (as far as I’m aware) twist to the whole book and makes it quite sinister.

I was also very impressed by the realism that du Maurier lends to this narrator. You are, from the very first line, entirely bound up in the thoughts and feelings of this anonymous woman. So much so, in fact, was I captivated by this that I had no idea I was. This was revealed to me about two thirds of the way through when a plot twist that sends this narrator reeling also had me kicking myself that I didn’t see it coming. I had been blindfolded by du Maurier to the same extent that her character had been. This is very clever too.

And the suspense builds all the way through. Those who are admirers of Dan Brown’s works (is works the right word?) and think they enjoy suspense have not even tasted how sublimely suspense can be crafted. In Rebecca, du Maurier is such a subtle director of suspense that you aren’t even aware that it’s there. Even the suspense is somehow suspended,creeping up on you and binding you up while you sit mesmerised. By comparison, Brown’s world of writing (is writingthe right word?) is crass and lacks any art of suspense whatsoever; it’s like being mugged.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

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1 comment… add one
  • karen mobile 1 September, 2009, 7:46 pm

    I love Daphne Du Maurier and this has to be one of my favourites of all time. Escapism at its best.

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