I always feel a little silly reviewing Classics since they have been around long before I was thought of and will continue to have a place in the world after I’m gone. My opinions are irrelevant, but I will share them anyway in the hopes of encouraging someone else to pick up this book.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
I find that my fear of Classics from high school still persists, so I decided to stick to the audio edition of Rebecca. I thought it might help me if the story was slow or the language was difficult. I think this was an unnecessary precaution since I wished I could follow along in the book if only to soak up some of the wonderful lines. Nonetheless, I found the audio to be extremely captivating with the wonderful narration of Anna Massey.
There are many exceptional elements of this story, it’s difficult to find a place to begin. One of the biggest things that stood out to me was just how much I loved having an unnamed narrator. It truly places the reader in the story, making them feel as if they could be the leading lady, experiencing the world of Manderlay themselves. I especially enjoyed our narrator’s thought processes or her overthinking as we’d call it today. Though we know little about her outward appearance or her name, we know her mind quite well. She constantly thought of what others must be thinking of her or imagined alternative events playing out in a way I’ve never experienced in literature before. It was completely realistic and quite a lot how my own thinking plays out most days. Her insecurities (and self-awareness) about being too young and too unexperienced were all quite relatable. I always get excited when I find thoughts to match my own in Classics. It’s this amazing form of connection through history, making me realize again how humanity is always experiencing life in the same ways, no matter what the current trends or fads of society are at the time: there are always nosy busybodies, people always struggle, women are always expected to impress in some way or another, etc.
“…the routine of life goes on, whatever happens, we do the same things, go through the little performance of eating, sleeping, washing. No crisis can break through the crust of habit.”
I loved the living, breathing home that is Manderlay. It felt as if there was a secret story behind every door. Our narrator’s hunting of clues about Rebecca’s life through the items she would find in each room was exciting to experience. There was constantly a feeling of suspense and mystery, making me wonder if Rebecca’s ghost might take physical form by the end of the book. As the ending arrived, I was completely surprised that I didn’t predict how it would play out. When the music started playing to conclude the audio, I didn’t want to let the story go!
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
I can’t think of anything I didn’t love about Rebecca. I want to pick up the physical copy next for a reread! So many thanks to Heather (@books_onmymind) for creating the “Du Maurier Delinquents” buddy read. I probably wouldn’t have felt such a push to read this one otherwise and I can’t imagine not knowing this story now!
Rating: 5 stars