Monday, March 14, 2011

On Reading "Rebecca" Again

I'll post the book club comments following our Wednesday meeting, but just a note with my thoughts on rereading Rebecca.

I first read the book in 1967. I so identified with the shy, awkward narrator at that time. Since then I've seen the movie several times on television, which follows the book fairly closely.

This time around I knew the story twist ahead of time and could appreciate Du Maurier's set up and foreshadowing. Her writing is much more dense than is currently popular. Nowadays folks want to speed through novels, but Manderley is a character itself so descriptions of the manse and its grounds are critical to establishing the story atmosphere.

The story is narrated by the unnamed second Mrs. de Winter who is 20-some years younger than her husband and inexperienced with the lifestyle into which she married. Using this POV character was genius. Her interpretation of people and events establishes the reader's expectations of the story's direction. And the story doesn't exactly go where expected.

It's also interesting to view the narrator from a more "advanced" age. When I first read the story I could empathize with the naive bride who was cowed by the servants and awed by Manderley. From my current viewpoint, I was irritated with Maxim de Winter who left his new wife to sink or swim as the mistress of an historic manse. And perhaps a wee bit exasperated by the young woman who crumbled so easily.

Taking a second look at Mrs. Danvers revealed why she also wreaks havoc in Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series.

This time around I could not read Rebecca without envisioning the actors from Hitchcock's movie version of the novel. The casting was perfection. George Sanders has never been more oily. Dame Judith Anderson could give one nightmares. Olivier was appropriately handsome yet moody. Joan Fontaine conveyed so much of the narrator's self doubts through her expression and posture. There was a remake with Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter -- but I think the Hitchcock version nailed it.

Anyway -- it will be interesting to see what the other book club members think of Rebecca.

1 comment:

Rising Rainbow said...

Just the mention of Hitchcock sends chills through my bones.