*Warning: this post contains material that warrants a “spoiler alert” for those that have never read the novel Rebecca. J
To say that Rebecca picks up speed in the second half of the novel is an understatement. The suspense was finally killing me, especially after the “OMG” revelation at the end of chapter 19. But, before we get to that: a brief summary of prior events. Since leaving off at the end of chapter 14, we know that the mysterious Mr. Favell is Rebecca’s cousin. The narrator has appeared at her first Manderley costume ball dressed exactly as Rebecca had been dressed at her last…due to the meddling of our eerie Mrs. Danvers. (I knew this was going to happen the moment she suggested a costume to the current Mrs. de Winters.) Then, the following morning the narrator has another fascinating run in with Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s bedroom where we learn that Mrs. Danvers had provided care for Rebecca as a child (hence her unusual attachment to the late Mrs. de Winters) and that she was also aware of Rebecca’s infidelity in her relationship with Maxim. The news of Rebecca’s unfaithfulness was interesting, but I did not find the news surprising. During this encounter, Mrs. Danvers also tries to talk the narrator into killing herself since it is “obvious” that Maxim does not love her and she does not belong at Manderley. At this same time, a ship wrecks off the shores of Manderley and eventually a diver is sent down to assess the damage. We learn that Rebecca’s boat has inadvertently been found by the diver and that there is a decomposed body aboard. Could it be one of her lovers?
It is then that Maxim drops a bombshell on his second wife and the reader: “The woman buried in the crypt is not Rebecca … it’s the body of some unknown woman, unclaimed, belonging nowhere. There never was an accident. Rebecca was not drowned at all. I killed her. I shot Rebecca in the cottage on the cove. I carried her body to the cabin, and took the boat out that night and sunk it there, where they found it today.” I have to say, it is not often that something in a novel genuinely surprises me, but this did. Although I suspected foul play in Rebecca’s death, I never for a moment suspected Maxim. I think I may have been suspecting Mrs. Danvers. Immediately, I began to wonder who else may have known. Was Mrs. Danvers aware? Was that why she had expressed such cold, bitter feelings for Maxim to the narrator earlier that day? Did Frank know? Was that why he had been so insistent that he must explain things to the narrator after her breakdown with him on the telephone that morning? It is hard to tell what good ole “Danny” actually knew and when she may have known it as she was so generally unhinged. It seems though, that Frank may have certainly been aware of the true nature of Rebecca’s demise even though Maxim had no idea that he knew.
I found the narrator’s handling of her husband’s admission remarkable. I am not sure that I would have remained quite so calm and supportive. Although I guess one can understand this reaction as Maxim’s confession also brought with it the revelation that he had never loved Rebecca, but had in fact loathed her and their sham of a marriage. The second Mrs. de Winter was, astonishingly, the one and only true Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca had been sleeping around with anyone and everyone including her cousin, Mr. Favell, and appears to have been an all together vile person. But, isn’t it so ironic that Maxim could have saved himself all this misery? He could have saved his Manderley. After all, Rebecca was dying anyway. Now that I think about it, perhaps Manderley was Maxim’s only true love – the only thing he was ever really married to. In any event, I can’t help but feel sorry for the life that the narrator is left with. And, by the way, what was her name??
|The author…Daphne du Maurier
|An older Daphne du Maurier
* Ok, I know we are not supposed to be making our first read-along post for Rebecca until the middle of January, but in order to stay organized (in my weird OCD mind) while I participate in three simultaneous read-alongs, I feel as though I need to make the first post for each novel as I finish the first allotted section for that novel. I plan to finish Rebecca tonight, but I won’t post the final post for any of the novels until the indicated time. So…let this serve as a spoiler alert if you have not yet finished part one of the novel.*
Fourteen chapters in with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, published in 1938, and we still do not know the name of our narrator, the second Mrs. de Winter. I find this very irksome. Perhaps this is so the reader has to focus on Rebecca while the second Mrs. de Winter fades into the background. Here is what we do know about the narrator:
1. Her parents are deceased.
2. She is apparently around the age of 21 when she marries Maxim de Winter who is 42.
3. At the time of her marriage, she does not appear to have much self confidence or social refinery.
4. She does not resemble the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca (which is apparently what attracted Maxim to her).
5. She and Maxim never really discussed Rebecca and the mystery surrounding this woman is becoming a little bit of an obsession for the second Mrs. de Winter.
6. She appears to like dogs.
This is really not a lot of information. What do we know about the elusive Rebecca? Well, not a whole lot more as it turns out. She was apparently beautiful, tall, and blessed with dark hair and fair skin. She was a marvelous hostess and lady of the house. She died in some tragic sailing accident in the bay near Manderley. It also appears that she could be rather odd…rambling around the boathouse at night, sailing alone at night, and threatening the mentally handicapped Ben. He reveals the following interesting information: “She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with mine own eyes. By night she’d come … I looked in on her once … and she turned on me, she did … she said you’ve never seen me here … if I catch you looking at me through the window here I’ll have you put in the asylum.” Hmm…
And, how creepy is the house manager, Mrs. Danvers? I was completely freaked out by her performance with the narrator in Rebecca’s old bedroom in chapter 14. I am wondering what role she is really playing here and in the past with Rebecca. If I was the new Mrs. de Winter, I would have had her replaced despite her efficiency. I also would have asked to decorate my own morning room and not live in the wake of Rebecca’s preferences. Oh, and who the hell is this Mr. Favell?? I did find it rather amusing that he calls Mrs. Danvers “Danny.”
I certainly am interested in getting to the bottom of all this mystery and yet I find that the book is moving along a bit slower than I expected it to. Is anyone else experiencing this feeling?
|Daphne du Maurier
Favorite Quote from the first half of the novel: “A large parcel arrived one morning, almost too large for Robert to carry. I was sitting in the morning-room, having just read the menu for the day. I have always had a childish love of parcels. I snipped the string excitedly, and tore off the dark brown paper. It looked like books. I was right. It was books.” – Mrs. de Winter
I liked this scene so much because I too love to receive parcels, especially those that contain books!