Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca

This is probably not the most fitting book to be reviewing on Christmas day, but what can I say, I like to be rebellious. While I’m opening presents and stuffing my face with pot roast and cookies, I thought you all would enjoy this ranting book review. What is more fun on Christmas day than a rant review?

Anyway, this is a book I have wanted to read for years, and one I’m both happy to have gotten to and sad I even bothered reading.

Release: 1938

Synopsis: This book follows a young idealistic woman who marries a wealthy man and returns with him to his estate, only to be drawn into the mysterious death of his previous wife.

Spoiler Review!

I’m not even going to bother with trying not to spoil anything, because I honestly could not care either way.

Before I get too ranty, let me pull myself back and talk about some of the things in this book which I did enjoy. Du Maurier knows how to set a fantastic, ominous setting. You can feel the suspense through the eerie descriptions and choice of words. The writing at times feels poetic, and I enjoy much of the word choice. The ending of the mystery also was quite satisfying, a few quick twists to bring the story together. However, it has also been a long time since I have read a book which is just so boring.

It was an interesting choice to make the main protagonist, the second wife, nameless. She is never given a name. On one hand, I liked the idea of her starting off as a naive, frightened girl and truly coming into herself, but I felt the execution left a lot to be desired. She goes from being one character to behaving quite differently, only because she learns her husband killed his previous wife, who was actually a horrible person. I understand that dramatic shifts in how they perceive reality can change a person, but not so drastically so quickly. It made no sense to her character.

For about the first three-quarters of the book, I was bored to death. You have a lot of hints that something may be going on, but they are pretty much the same hints over and over again. I never felt like the story was progressing or we were getting closer to the truth. The last fourth of the book did a really good job twisting what most of the book told us, which I did enjoy. I enjoyed learning that Rebecca, the previous wife, was not good as everyone seemed to believe, but instead cruel and manipulative. I enjoyed the suspense of whether or not her husband would be caught for his crime of killing her, even if she baited him into it knowing she was dying.

My point is, for a short time in the book, I was thoroughly enjoying it. And then the ending came. The book ends with the new husband and wife returning to the estate to find it burning. It might have been the old servant who had loved Rebecca. It might have minorly damaged the house or majorly. We have no idea. And then the book ends.

There was no debate on whether or not Maxim de Winter was right or wrong for killing his wife, or how everyone else was affected. It just ended.

I have a feeling my opinion is an unpopular one for this book, because I know many people who absolutely love it. However, I did really enjoy Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, so I have a feeling I dislike the author less than this actual story. I also feel like, if the book had been half the length and had a more fixed ending, it would not be so bad.

Have you read this book, or seen any of the adaptations? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

  1. Rebecca was never a favorite of mine from Daphne, but Jamaica Inn was absolutely outstanding. I have watched all the movie and TV adaptions of all her books and some were good, some not so good. She wrote these stories when it was a difficult time for female authors to be taken seriously, and we haven’t a clue how much editing the editor did to her books. The whole publishing realm was so different in those days. Her mind was fantastic and you are spot on about her being able to spin a mystery and set a setting. She was awesome. Also, she was one of the first female authors to establish the Romance genre. but you’re right. A review of Scrooge by Dickens would have been more appropriate for Christmas time. Lol. 🙂

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    1. I agree. I loved Jamaica Inn, and possibly some of her book are worse because of editing, though I guess it’s hard to know. During her time, many controversial female authors were publishing books, so I’m not sure how to tell if hers in particular were changed/edited into something different than the author’s vision. Either way, she is a wonderful author, just in the way she describes things, even if Rebecca isn’t a new favorite of mine.

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  2. I’ve never heard of this book. It seems that pace is really significant to a mystery novel. And when hints are repeated, it should be added something new. As Hemingway said, a good author is supposed to know much more than what he finally chooses to write down. After all, it is a genre that concentrates on the plot. By the way, Somehow I like reading a rant review!⊙▽⊙

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    1. I like reading rant reviews too. And I agree that often inserting hints to a mystery book adds to the intrigue, but this book seemed to just be suspenseful for the sake of being suspenseful. Many of the hints didn’t add anything new. However, I do know so many people who love this book, so it could just be me.

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      1. I agree with you. Let me see if I understand. If hints are inserted to a mystery book just for the sake of being suspenseful, then the mystery book might be intriguing on the surface, but may be a little bit bland on the inside, for essentially the hints talks about almost the same thing.

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  3. Nice review! I probably enjoyed this book more than you, but your points are sound, too. Rebecca has never been the most logical book out there and it does leave a lot of questions -in my opinion. For example, I understand that we sympathise with Maxim, but a murder is a murder and a killing is a killing no matter how bad another person (victim) was or how much provocation there was. I also liked the fact that the main heroine did not have a name – that means – symbolically – that she does not matter – there is a strong message that it is all about Rebecca and it is this name alone that we should remember.

    Yes, I have seen Hitchcock’s famous adaptation (though it is more correct to say that it was Selznick adaptation because the studio had all the control), and I enjoyed it, though they obviously had to change some major things because the cinema code at that time dictated that a murderer should never get away with murder in cinema so there was one “accidental killing” there.

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    1. Yes, the old movie was totally different than the book, which I was not expecting when I started reading the book. But you make an interesting point that the main heroine was more symbolic than an actual person, because I definitely felt that she was more of a caricature than a real person. Likewise, I found it fascinating how Maxim is presented as a good person, despite murdering someone. I suppose it wasn’t my type of book, but I am glad I read it. Your comment definitely made me look at the book differently.

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