Author: Daphne du Maurier
Page Count/Review Word Count: 432
First off, whatever you do, don’t read the Virago Modern Classics edition. The front cover is a spoiler for the last page and the introductory essay is a spoiler for the other 431 of them. I already knew a little bit about the story line of Rebecca because of its parodies in popular culture, and particularly Mitchell and Webb which ruined the scene with the dress from the portrait, and what I didn’t know was spoiled by Sally Beauman’s introductory essay. And from what I understand, that was only there in the first place to try to get you to buy her “award-winning Rebecca’s Tale, authorised by the du Maurier estate.” Yeah, I won’t be reading that.
Because of all that, this entire read felt more like a re-read, even though it’s the first time I’ve ever picked it up. And that’s a shame, because it took a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me. Sure, it was good to read it to see how du Maurier told the story, but none of it took me by surprise, as I imagine it would have if I’d read it in 1938. I’ve also never read Jane Eyre, which apparently it’s based on, so maybe I would have got more from it if I’d read that.
The unnamed narrator is bland and boring, at least for the majority of the book, but that’s a deliberate ploy on du Maurier’s part. Still, it was kind of irritating to have to read her whittering on about stuff, especially when you already know what’s going to happen and that it’ll make most of what she’s even going on about completely redundant. Maxim de Winter and Mrs Danvers were much more interesting.
I also found it entertaining because I didn’t trust Rebecca and then it turned out that I’d sussed her character out when everyone else in the book was taken in by her. But that wasn’t outright spelled out or spoiled for me and so even though I called it, at least I called it myself. I was also taken by surprise by a twist towards the end when they called upon Rebecca’s former doctor, but I also thought it was a little too convenient.
Overall, based on my reading experience, Rebecca just scrapes a 4/5, and only because I’m generous and based on the strength of du Maurier’s writing. Without being spoiled, it would have been an easy 5* and a contender for my book of the year. Oh well.