“I could fight with the living but I could not fight the dead. If there was some woman in London that Maxim loved, someone he wrote to, visited, dined with, slept with, I could fight her. We would stand on common ground. I should not be afraid. Anger and jealousy were things that could be conquered. One day the woman would grow old or tired or different, and Maxim would not love her anymore. But Rebecca would never grow old. Rebecca would always be the same. And she and I could not fight. She was to strong for me.”
Oh, Hay-on-Wye! Whatever would I do without you? Yet again in the half term holidays I went and came back with a pile of books for my list and helped by a huge shipping from EBay the other day, I now have the majority of the books that I need. Now to get to reading them all… So, where to start? Such is often the problem and becoming ever more difficult with the more books I have- so I decided to go for ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. I’d heard of it before, the Hitchcock film over the book, but when it appeared in a ramshackle shop for 50 pence I couldn’t resist it. On the way home, I leafed through the pages and delved into the world created between the pages, of Manderley and the Happy Valley seemingly miles and miles away…
Suddenly, I wasn’t in the car on the winding roads back home but enthralled by the narrator’s first sight of Manderley, the ancient house yielding secrets far more than she knows. After a hasty marriage to the wealthy Maxim de Winter, she moves there with him but is haunted by the presence of his first wife, the eponymous Rebecca, who no-one can quite seem to forget about- in particular Mrs Danvers, the cold housekeeper who still hasn’t quite gotten over her death. The story is one that echoes Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’, paralleling Maxim and Mr Rochester struggling to get over different losses of first wives, the narrator and Jane coping with the presence of these wives and the stately country home that reverberates with ghosts and memories. I haven’t read ‘Jane Eyre’ yet but it is on the list and if it’s as good as ‘Rebecca’ then I expect to enjoy it very much.
Following quite hard-going books, I found that I enjoyed ‘Rebecca’ more than any other novel on the list so far. The descriptions were so vivid, in particular Manderley with the huge gates and the wild flowers blooming, all within ear shot of the breaking waves of the sea and the sight of the rocks on which Rebecca’s body had been splintered. Apparently. There is much, much more to the story than it first seems- psychology comes into play and the guilt and torment of the gothic backdrop serves well to the literally haunting atmosphere. The Happy Valley is a safe haven at first but soon the love that Maxim and the narrator first shared is misconstrued to accommodate the third party to their relationship- Rebecca. Or, rather as the narrator begins to believe, she herself is the third party to Maxim and Rebecca’s marriage, continuing after her untimely demise. The villainous Mrs Danvers does nothing to alleviate this worry and everything becomes a theatre of pain in which the final, devastating act has yet to play…
Intrigued? You should be.
‘Rebecca’ is available on Amazon in paperback (£5.39) and on Kindle (£4.99