Review: REBECCA

Happy Tuesday!

Today I’m taking a little break from my Lady Emily review series to talk about another book I read recently: REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. This is a classic novel, but shockingly, I’d never heard of it before. My soon-to-be sister-in-law turned me on to it, as she does with most of the books I read these days, and we hosted our own little virtual book club where we read a chapter every day and then screamed about it via text after. It was so much fun, we’re doing it again with another book I’ll review soon!

REBECCA really deserves all the praise it gets. Everyone I know that’s read it has given it a solid 5-star review, and I have to agree. A late-Victorian Gothic Romance set at the fictional Manderley, we follow the unnamed Second Mrs. de Winter as she adjusts to her new station in life as Mistress of Manderley. Adjusting to such a new, upper class lifestyle with her much older new husband is stressful enough, but when you throw in the haunting presence of your husband’s late wife—and her creepy old nurse—things get complicated. The Second Mrs. de Winter is young and naïve, and watching her try to adjust is almost comical and sometimes a little too relatable (the scene where she tries to climb through the window to avoid meeting Maxim’s sister and brother-in-law is #relatable).

But as comical as the young new wife’s antics may be, you can’t help but feel for her. Maxim is distant. Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca’s old nurse, is terrifying, and downright a bully at some points. The sympathy the second Mrs. de Winter receives from Frith, the butler, Robert, the footman, Beatrice and Giles, Maxim’s sister and her husband, and so many other side characters is almost embarrassing. I found myself cringing plenty of times while reading, not because the writing was bad but rather because it was so good I could picture myself in the second wife’s shoes. I suffered severe second-hand embarrassment while reading, which just added to my 5-star rating in the end.

I will admit, I felt the beginning was a little slow. I went into this book with no expectations and no idea what, exactly, the book was about. I damn near stopped reading after the costume ball scene because I was so angry with Mrs. Danver’s treatment of the Second Mrs. de Winter. But I’m glad I didn’t.

Because right after this scene, things pick up. Before I knew it, I was reading multiple chapters in a day, instead of our agreed-upon one chapter a night. I couldn’t stop—I needed to know what would happen next. The shift in tone, in the second Mrs. de Winter, in her relationship with Maxim—and their relationship with Frank Crawley—was just so, so expertly done. I wish I’d been assigned this book in an English class so I could really delve into the literary nuances of Daphne du Maurier’s work, but since finishing this book I’ve sought out tons of articles and essays analyzing REBECCA and its role in women’s literature.

I don’t want to give too much away here, because I honestly think the less you know going into it, the better your experience as a reader will be. I fully, fully recommend this book to everyone. This should have been a book we read in high school—it is absolutely required reading, and I’m excited to explore more of du Maurier’s work soon!

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