Why did I wait so long to read Rebecca? How stupid of me to have put it off, treating it like a chore, one of those famous classics that I ought to read as an educational exercise, in order to be well rounded and to say that I have read it. Knowing that it was a gothic romance of sorts, I expected this to be like one of those Bronte books, which I have almost universally found to be tiresome, frustrating, boring, and featuring an inexplicable romance with a horrible man. But this was a nearly perfect book. It still features a
romance between a heroine who needs to have some sense slapped into her and a horrible man who ought to be kicked in the balls, but I don’t get the sense that the author expects me to find them tragically romantic. This is a clearly dysfunctional relationship where a coldly manipulative older man takes full advantage of an isolated young woman whose naivete and lousy self-esteem makes her an easy target.
But Rebecca is so much more. The deliciously chilling atmosphere and building sense of dread. The creepy, creepy, characters. The immersive sense of place. I loved it.
None of the main characters were likable or admirable. But I loved how the author manipulated me, the reader, tricking me into
feeling sympathy at the foolishly naïve 2nd Mrs. De Winter, only to then carry her desperate neediness to its logical conclusion, where she is so delighted to have secured Maxim that she gives no thought or regard to his confession of murder, but only thinks how to protect him from the consequences so she can go on having him for herself. This is the kind of woman who, in another sort of story, would be an enabler or even full participant in her husband’s crimes against women, rationalizing it, blaming his victims, covering up for him.
Audiobook version, borrowed from my public library. Anna Massey’s performance is magnificent.