Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (5 of 147)

One Sentence Summary: An awkward, innocent young heroine walks haplessly into the aftermath of the death of the lady of Manderley, only to find the poison of the mysterious event seeping into the waters of her new life.

Subtitle: Jane Eyre got nothin' on me.

"We can never go back again, that much is certain. The past is still too close to us. The things we have tried to forget and put behind us would stir again, and that sense of fear, of furtive unrest, struggling at length to blind unreasoning panic- now mercifully stilled, thank God- might in some manner unforeseen become a living companion, as it had been before."
Now this is my kind of Gothic literature. My personality and tastes pin me as a Bronte sort as there really seem to be two fawning camps- Team Austen and Team Bronte. I certainly don't fall into the former, as I have never been able to push through the first chapter or so of anything Austen (although I confess, somewhat shame-facedly, to loving the films where I do not enjoy the books), but I really don't fall into the latter, either. I have never read Wuthering Heights and, while I enjoyed Jane Eyre sufficiently to complete it, something fell flat in it for me. I think it had a lot to do with this:
Click on me to make me bigger!
Appalling male characters aside, I also didn't find that Bronte possessed the same knack for creating momentum that Du Maurier had such a grip on. The way she spins out the tale is nothing short of masterful. From "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," I was totally taken in. Every time I thought that I knew what was going on, I was wrong and when it comes to thrillers- of any time period- I love being wrong.

This was the perfect end of winter book. All of the lush descriptions of spring-to-summer on the grounds of a grand and half-wild English estate had me lying in bed, washing the half-light drain from the treetops with longing. Soon, life will return to everything and all of the intrigues of nature will conspire to bring personality back to the land. I fell in love with Manderley as our heroine did, a beautiful thing to be kept at arm's length- deceptive beauty, a place for hiding things where they would be neglected for lovelier imaginings. Next, our nameless narrator- watching her grow into herself, sharing her (very familiar) daydreams, her anxieties, her child-like fits of passion, made me want to embrace her over and and over again. I felt for her, enormously, and her emotional journey struck an intense chord with me. My heart accelerated with her Belle-esque poking in the West Wing, with her horrifying failures, and her little triumphs.

This is the rare sort of book in which you can lose yourself completely. The language is absolutely incredible, the descriptions transport and turn common-place perceptions into the author's play-things:
"There was something rather blowsy about roses in full bloom, something shallow and raucous, like women with untidy hair."
In the same vein, the changes of mood, the most minute tweaks in wording and landscape, give you the best variety of literary whip-lash. It is a book for hyper-vigilance, for hearing voices in an empty room, for seeing the water move when there is no wind, and it doesn't let you go until the very last possible moment. The violin string finally snaps, and then you are alone with the trappings of the 21st century room slowly becoming concrete around you again. The world you are surfacing from seems so much more real, the world you belong in has new shadows and grades of light than it did before. 

I read somewhere that du Maurier is sometimes credited with the creation of the modern thriller. I am not in the least bit surprised. I read the whole book in a couple of days spent at home in which I was finally required to erect a strict rewards system in order to get anything done: work for one hour, read for one hour. I stuck to it... mostly. The deviation couldn't be helped. I was so desperate to get back into the story, to brew another cup of tea and sip it furtively while attempting to hold up this heavy leather-bound copy with the other hand.

Upon finishing, my wrist hurts and I am content. There is a certain impenetrable sense of calm that comes only at the end of the finely tuned instrument of agitation that is a great mystery, and Rebecca left me with that, in just the way I'm sure it will leave me upon many stormy nights to come.

Recommend this for: cast-iron gate and flower symbolism lovers, Bronte fans, Turn of the Screw fans, Downtown Abbey people
I Do Not Recommend this for: people who are into jump-scares, sociopaths

Note on this Copy: Leather-bound, gold leaf, heavy enough for self-defense- I don't really know where I got it, but it is beautiful and, according to the gently penciled in price in the front cover, only cost me $7. Whoop!

No comments:

Post a Comment