Rebecca is a book that I had to give myself over to completely in order enjoy it. The whole experience depends on buying into the moldering, gothic suspense of it all.
Unfortunately, this requires putting up with the unnamed heroine being a hopeless ninny for the first two-thirds of the story. But once I set aside her fear of every person she encounters and her inability to talk to her own husband and went with the flow of the story, I was eventually swept away.
At the center of the story is Manderley, the seaside mansion of Max de Winter. The house is as much a character in the book as the people, providing atmosphere and an elaborate setting with closed-off wings, back passages, dark woods, and hidden coves. The house and all it stands for also motivates the characters and leads, eventually, to their undoing.
When brooding Max brings his new young bride to Manderley, both are haunted by his beautiful, vivacious first wife Rebecca – he in memory, the bride in imagination. By the time both shake loose from Rebecca’s beyond-the-grave grip, it is too late.
Even when the book is frustrating, it is admirable in its relentless adherence to the genre. Every detail layers on the suffocating suspense, from the spooky skull-headed housekeeper, to the relentless summer heat, to the rat-gnawn day bed in the boathouse. Daphne du Maurier created a perfect neo-gothic thriller in Rebecca.
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Rebecca is on the Radcliffe Top 100 list. This was the first of three book I read for theDaphne du Maurier Challenge hosted by Chris at book-a-rama.