Rebecca is a tale of romantic suspense, written in the 1930s: ‘Mrs. de Winter narrates the haunting events surrounding her marriage to Maxim de Winter and her growing obsession with his first wife, the beautiful, now dead Rebecca.’
I chose Rebecca to be the second book for my 2012 Classics Challenge because I hadn’t heard of the novel, or it at least hadn’t registered with me, until last year. I then started to see more and more comments from people who said it was their favourite classic. I became curious about the book and the reasons why it resonates with so many people. I had a perfect excuse to pick it up, then, when I was given New Girl by Paige Harbison to review, a young adult contemporary novel based on Rebecca.
Rebecca is a slow, but not at all tedious, read. Daphne du Maurier gradually creates an unbearably tense atmosphere, which was my favourite aspect of the novel. It was unlike anything I’ve read. I’d feel the atmosphere when Mrs Danvers – she terrified me – entered the room when Mrs de Winter was alone, and I’d keep thinking about it long after I’d put the book down. I personally did not find the novel thrilling – the mystery was unexpected, but not horrifying – but it was certainly suspenseful. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition between the past and present Mrs de Winters.
I also have to acknowledge that I thought Rebecca was extremely readable and ‘current’. I’d often forget that I was reading a book that was written in the 1930s. It’s probably just my own prejudices but I often feel that ‘classics’ are unapproachable and, well, difficult to read, but I cannot say that in this case. It’s a wonderfully easy, but not meager, novel to become immersed in.
Overall, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Rebecca – it’s readable, exquisitely written, and suspenseful. I’m glad that I decided to pick it up; I shall not hesitate to recommend it to others. I am more likely to read Jane Eyre now that I think I finally ‘get’ Gothic literature.