"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
- Anna Quindlen
This is where I was this weekend:
Can you think of a better place to read Rebecca?
Although the novel takes place over the span of a single summer, and du Maurier devotes page after page to describing Manderley's grounds in vivid, multifarious bloom, this can't be anything but an autumn book for me. It's just too creepy and unsettling. It's just too fucked up.
Rebecca is about jealousy, more or less. Our narrator, young Mrs. Maximilian de Winter, is haunted by the specter of her husband's first wife, the perfect Rebecca, who died tragically in a sailing accident. Shy, gauche, and unsure in her new role as lady of the manor Manderley, the narrator feels herself constantly compared unfavorably to Rebecca - by in-laws, townsfolk, servants, and especially Maxim himself. It's enough to drive anyone completely round the bend, even if there weren't other, even more deranged truths bubbling under the surface.
Although gothic romance has never been my thing ("horrible people being horrible to each other in fancy houses," I scoffed after reading Wuthering Heights in 10th grade), I fell for it this time. I do think Rebecca is both more tawdry and more accessible than anything the Brontës wrote, but it also just took me awhile to grow into an appreciation for brooding, douchey heroes and the monochrome waifs who love them. I guess I'm more of a romantic these days? At 16 Heathcliff had me rolling my eyes, and at 19 I wanted to reach into the book and smack Rochester upside the head. But de Winter? That asshole is a total dreamboat.
And Mrs. de Winter is painfully familiar to everyone who has ever been a dweeby 14-year-old with a crush. Her shyness, naïvete, and Bella-like clumsiness are her only defined traits, making her relatable by virtue of her most superficial shortcomings. She's fully obnoxious, and her husband is a frosty SOB, but they're both utterly compelling anyway. Along with Mrs. Danvers, the menacing and totally batshit housekeeper, and Favell, Rebecca's caddish cousin, the character dynamics alone more than held my interest.
But everything about this novel - characters, plot, setting, theme - is so deliciously fucked up. Everyone's hiding something. Every twist presages an even eerier one. Manderley's grounds are full of ominous crannies and nooks where horrible events have taken place. Nothing is safe and nothing is simple.
I haven't been so thoroughly lost in a novel in a long time, and for that total immersion alone I'd rate it highly. But I really can't find anything at all to criticize - I loved everything about it from beginning to end. It's such a well-constructed, tense and gripping novel. Flawless.