When the narrator of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier becomes the new wife of Maxim de Winter, she is happy and in love. But she is also young, insecure and worried her new husband is still in love with his previous wife, Rebecca, who died in a boating accident a year ago. Back at her husband's home, Manderley, the new Mrs. de Winter realizes that traces and memories of Rebecca are all around them. The housekeeper who adored Rebecca resents this new woman who is taking her place. Everyone she meets talks about how wonderful Rebecca was and how different Manderley was when she was alive. And the mystery around Rebecca's life and death weighs heavily on the new Mrs. de Winter.
Rebecca is my book club's May selection. I doubt I would have picked it up if it hadn't been. I was hesitant to read it because don't tend to read gothic romance novels. But so many people have told me they loved it, and several reviews I've read mentioned a surprise ending. So I expected to be engaged and intrigued throughout the story, reading feverishly to see what would happen in the end.
Instead, I found myself struggling through the extremely detailed language that just did not flow easily for me. It was so wordy, with descriptions that went on and on and on. And then there were all the rambling thoughts of the narrator, who made up these elaborate stories in her head of what might happen. It was just too much for me. Unfortunately, by the time it got somewhat interesting (around page 150 or so), I was so sick of reading it that I just couldn't enjoy it. I finally gave up reading every word by about page 200 and started skimming more at that point, skipping over a lot of the descriptions and focusing only on the main actions and dialog. I think if du Maurier had written this book in about half as many pages, it would have been a thousand times better for me.
But it wasn't just the wordiness that I didn't like. This is supposed to be a romantic mystery, from what I understand. But I didn't find anything remotely romantic about the relationship between Maxim and his new wife. For most of the story, it was almost like a father/child relationship, and even when they were acting somewhat like husband and wife, it still didn't seem romantic at all. The mystery was somewhat interesting, but it was lost within the hundreds of pages devoted to describing the flora and fauna of Manderley, and the unending imaginations and paranoia of the new Mrs. de Winter. I will admit that the ending was surprising. But it certainly didn't blow me away. And it definitely was not worth muddling through all the unending details on the previous 350 pages.
My Rating: 2/5
Reading group guide and discussion questions for Rebecca
This review was written based on a copy of Rebecca that I borrowed from the library. This is book #6 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge and book #4 for the Spring Reading Thing 2010 Challenge.