Once upon a time, about 20 years ago, I saw the PBS production of Rebecca really, really late at night. I only remember enough to picture Emilia Fox and Diana Rigg in their respective roles as the second Mrs. De Winter and Mrs. Danvers. As for the story, I didn’t remember much beyond the broad strokes. I’m glad. Reading this book wouldn’t have been nearly as much torture/fun if I’d remembered more of the story.
In the beginning, I felt like I was reading the excruciating tale of an introvert struggling to fill the shoes of an extrovert in a position she was completely unqualified for, and I identified with the unnamed narrator on a deep and uncomfortable level. Soooooooo uncomfortable. Totally introverted? Definitely. Hiding when someone rocks up to the house, unexpectedly or otherwise? I do that. Fantasizing endless scenarios and possible outcomes? I do that too. Giving inadvertent outward signs that I’m engaging in said fantasizing? Yep, that’s happened once or twice. That’s about where our similarities end, but I saw enough of myself in her that the secondhand embarrassment was frequent and intense. I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug her or slap her. Or both. The first note I made while reading the book was “Holy Hand Grenade, am I going to cringe ALL THE WAY through this book?” with the addendum of “(Yes. Yes I am.)”
Boy. Did I ever.
The writing is fantastic. The characters on the page can be having the most banal conversation ever recorded (which they frequently do), and all the time du Maurier is tightening the screw, building tension and stretching nerves past the breaking point. It is beyond atmospheric. I know I’ve already used the word excruciating, but IT IS SO. VERY. EXCRUCIATING.
Ahem. Sorry for shouting. Anyway, despite the excruciating excellence of this novel, I can’t give it five stars. Spoilery reason under the tag:
This is very much a me thing and not a book thing, and it’s one of the same problems I had with Jane Eyre. I HATED Maxim. Just as I wanted to see Mr. Rochester die in that fire, I wanted to see Maxim done up for murder. And I never wanted to slap the unnamed narrator harder than when he basically said, “I hated my wife and I murdered the bitch!” and she responded by going “Squee! He hated her! I’m so happy!” I swear she’s the type who would fall in love with her serial killer prison pen pal. I WAS ACTUALLY ROOTING FOR SKEEVY JACK FAVELL TO PROVE THE MURDER. But all he managed to do was tip Danvers over the edge and get her to burn the house down. Or so I infer from that super-abrupt ending. Meh. Whatever. I hope the dogs made it out okay.
I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Terrifying Women square.