Rebecca By Daphne du Maurier
A blah 🍿Netflix movie pointed us to an amazing 📕book. Highly recommend the audio book and novel. 👍👍👍
Rebecca is a very strange book. It’s a melodrama, and by no means short on bangs and crashes. There are two sunken ships, a murder, a fire, a costume party and multiple complex betrayals, and yet it’s startling to realise how much of its drama never actually happens. The second Mrs de Winter might not excel at much, but she is among the great dreamers of English literature. Whole pages go by devoted to her imaginings and speculations. The effect is curiously unstable, not so much a story as a network of possibilities, in which the reader is rapidly entangled. - Olivia Laing: Sex, jealousy and gender: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca 80 years on
The Netflix Film
We watched the movie over Halloween since the film trailer led us to think the movie would have a supernatural horror/suspense to it. This was not the case. The film has exquisitely rendered views of the mansion, romance, and threat; Mrs Danvers is expertly cast though. The bird motif-evident throughout the trailer- is more of a shout out of the author's other famous work (The birds!) and Tim Burton's Sleepy hallow than a meaningful plot device.
Hitchcock Did it First
It turns out that Netflix was not the first to make the film. The Hitchcock version (the cinematic follow up to Gone With The Wind) clearly goes for a more literal retelling; the trailer shows direct readings from the text, and Mr De Winter's age and class difference from the unnamed narrator is pronounced.
We listened to the amazing audio version of the book (narrated by Anna Massey). The velvet language pours forth from the page with a slick cadence under Mrs. Massey's dictation. A sample can be heard on Audible. The novel captures the vast class/caste divide faced by a young woman thrust into a whirlwind marriage to a rich, brooding widower.
“They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then—how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal.”
Our edition of the book is a Folio Society 2008 tenth printing. London based artist Emma Chichester Clark's illustrations are in a dream like state (photos below are from our copy).
Folio reprints books from time to time. The current edition (sold out) features more colorful and modern illustrations by American D. G. Smith you can view here..
Regardless of the version you partake in, the story feels timeless, and the author's gifts are quite rare. Daphine Du Maurier (one of literature's princesses - related to the founder of Punch, and the family that inspired Peter Pan) wrote the novel in the 1930s . For more info on Daphine Du Maurier, I recommend reading Sex, jealousy and gender: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca 80 years on
Daphne du Maurier was a British author and playwright. Born in London in 1907 to the prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont, she was educated at home and later in Paris. In 1928 she began writing short stories and articles, and in 1931 her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. Among her best-known works are the novels Jamaica Inn (1936), Frenchman’s Creek (1941) and My Cousin Rachel (1951), and the short stories ’The Birds’ (1952) and ’Don’t Look Now’ (1971). Like many of Du Maurier’s novels, Rebecca (1938), an immediate best-seller that has never been out of print, was not at first taken seriously by critics, but has since become recognised as a masterpiece of storytelling. Du Maurier lived most of her life in Cornwall, where many of her books are set. She died in 1989. - Folio Society