rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
Something about this book seemed eerily familiar from the first chapter. The opening line is famous, and with good reason. I don't recall another book whose opening is quite so immediately enchanting with DuMaurier's gothic style.
Perhaps the familiarity stems from the main character, an insecure and timid young girl who falls madly in love with a handsome, rich, complicated older man while employed as a companion to a boorish American woman, Mrs. Van der Horne.
I know Stephanie Meyers SAYS she got inspiration from Wuthering Heights, but honestly, there are SO MANY parallels between Twilight and Rebecca.
The (unnamed) narrator in Rebecca was self-depreciating, clumsy, insecure, had a vivid imagination and was in a different class than her love interest. I actually called her Bella in my head. :)
Maxium was handsome, rich and mysterious. He had a dark secret and was a bit elusive with the 2nd Mrs. de Winter. She was constantly haunted by Rebecca's memory, the incredibly beautiful person who was so well suited to Maxium's world. (coughTanyacough)
This book was written so much better than Twilight, but it was impossible for me not to see the parallels.
But onto the story...
Supposedly Maxim was a dashingly handsome romantic interest that ladies of the time were swooning over, but I think he sounded like kind of an ass. When the 2nd Mrs DeWinter was spending time with him in Monte Carlo, it was difficult to see why she was falling in love with him. Other than that he was handsome and rich, he didn't seem all that interesting. The distant moodiness and the constant brooding was just kind of...eh. Where was the passion? Granted, this was in a time when feelings were repressed in Britan - perhaps feelings were a bit more muted.
I was thoroughly annoyed with Maxim when he was telling Mrs DeWinter that she could either stay as a companion or come and live with him at Manderly and the duties would be the same. Uhh...ok? No thanks...
He then said that it wasn't exactly the proposal that she dreamed of, that she should be in a white dress and he should be making love to her violently behind a palm tree. Much better but still - not exactly swoon worthy.
Meanwhile, the incredibly romantic narrator sees Maxim like this:
"His face was arresting, sensitive, medieval in some strange inexplicable way, and I was reminded of a portrait seen in a gallery I had forgotten where, of a certain Gentleman Unknown."
And like this:
"Could one but rob him of his English tweeds, and put him in black, with lace at this throat and wrists, he would stare down at us in our new world from a long distant past—a past where men walked cloaked at night, and stood in the shadow of old doorways, a past of narrow stairways and dim dungeons, a past of whispers in the dark, of shimmering rapier blades, of silent, exquisite courtesy."
It's as if the word "dashing" was invented just for him. Though the book didn't cause me to fall in love with Mr. DeWinter, I did fall in love with Manderley, and with Daphne Du Maurier. Soon I will be going back to Manderley again, to wrap myself in the enchanting tale of a gothic romance I'll never forget.
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