Rare Bird Emma reviews Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca

Rare Bird Emma reviews Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca

Last month we ran a competition over on our instagram page giving away a book from our bookshelf. We asked our winner Emma to come back and share our thoughts with us when she was finished - and here they are.
If you've never read this one yourself, we strongly recommend adding it to your TBR pile - and when you're done, the 1940 Hitchcock film starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier is truly a creepy classic.
Emma has a wonderful perspective and some great ideas about who could be cast in the remake of Rebecca, so keep reading to hear her thoughts. If you like the idea of reading great books and then telling people what you thought of them, did you know we're an online book club? Just saying.
love from Rachel, your Rare Birds editor

Ok Emma: what did you think?

In 2008 I went on a family holiday to Fowey, Cornwall. I was fifteen at the time and fell in love with this picturesque town, most significantly with an antique bookstore which was a treasure trove filled with unusual versions of classical books. In one of the most vivid memories of that holiday I can still picture my Mum pulling out a beautiful copy of Rebecca and telling me I had to read it. She bought it for herself and that night I sat down…..and decided I couldn’t be bothered starting the book so I watched the DVD copy of Rebecca she bought instead. Fast forward several years, the beautiful copy of Rebecca has been confined to a dust covered pile of “to-read” books accumulating beside my Mum’s bed and I’ve kind of forgotten what happened in the film.
This year after completing University, which has seen me forgo my love of reading novels for reading factual textbooks (oh yay!), I made it my aim to devote as much of my time to reading as many great books as I can. This is why after joining Rare Birds Book Club I decided to enter the giveaway and selected Rebecca as my choice of book as I knew it was about time I finally took my Mum’s advice and see just what the fuss was all about.
Picking up Rebecca is a bit like sitting down to watch Titanic for the first time; you’ve heard so much about it that you know the basic plotline and how it’s going to end. Such was the case with Rebecca, after all it’s a classic! I had heard about Rebecca so much over the years and I can assure you that despite knowing the storyline, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.
So why did I enjoy it so much? First of all I’m a sucker for anything that has a thriller, mysterious element to it and Rebecca packs a punch in this aspect. The basic plotline follows a young, naïve narrator who is swept off her feet by a rich widower, Maxim De Winter, in Monte Carlo. After being whisked away from a life of catering to the needs of a frightfully pompous and tactless older woman, the narrator finds herself as Mistress to her new husband’s home, Manderley…….only there’s a slight issue in the fact that the first Mrs De Winter may be dead but nobody from the servants to strangers offering their congratulations to the new bride can seem to stop blabbering on about how wonderful she was. The poor second Mrs De Winter, after having her self-esteem bashed around a fair amount of the book, starts to question whether her husband actually loves her (think Love Island- its all romance abroad but once they get back they realise they’re two strangers whose affection towards one another has faded long before their tans have). Plus there is this strict unspoken rule that nobody speaks about Rebecca’s untimely demise so the narrator starts to question how she’s actually died. Manderley seems haunted by the late Rebecca and the narrator finds herself battling to overcome the mysterious hold Rebeca seems to have over everyone…..especially the creepy servant Mrs Danvers (who I’m almost certain was actually in love with Rebecca as she hates the narrator with an unfound passion and likes to wander around Rebecca’s old room which she has kept as a shrine just weeping over her possessions).
As my synopsis has hopefully conveyed, Rebecca is all about mystery which is what keeps it so enthralling. As a reader you’re left with so many questions that I found I gorged on the book in a matter of days in the hope to satisfy all the questions I had. Du Maurier keeps you on your toes right up to the end when, just as you think she’s tied everything up, she ends the book in such a way that you’re left sputtering “whatttttt??” but in the best way possible.
The thing is while the focal point of the character Rebecca is the main mystery, Du Maurier has been clever in drawing the reader away from perhaps the biggest mystery of the book- the narrator. Usually most authors provide you with a main character who you are drawn to; they display all the likeable qualities of a good person and you get a quick background of their history etc yet in this novel the narrator remains largely unknown to the reader despite her being the one telling the story. The mystery of Rebecca is eventually uncovered and as a reader it is concluded in a very satisfying manner, yet even by the end you don’t know much about the character who has been speaking to you for the last 400 plus pages outwith this episode in her life. You don’t even know her name let alone much about her background except for a few snippets here and there. I think this is just one example of the excellent storytelling technique of Du Maurier and which makes Rebecca such a great novel and able to stand the test of time.
Likewise another reason I loved this book was simply for the great writing style of Daphne Du Maurier. She writes elegantly in such a way that she really does transport you back to an old England where afternoon tea under a chestnut tree was all part of a normal day and men were chivalrous and people got all dressed up to the nines for dinner in the house. It is very much a book of its time which for the most part is great. The downside to this is that there are occasions in the book that some comments and aspects of the relationships between characters would have any modern day editors frantically scoring out sections of paragraphs due to the ambiguous underlying tones that would definitely have people up in arms, and rightly so. So bear this in mind when reading it as that is the only criticism I could offer.
I heard someone compare this book to Jane Eyre and upon reflection I would have to agree with such a comparison. Both have the same components in their plotline- lonely, broody older widower meets a naïve wallflower, takes her back to his big mansion only for the poor girl to realise the crazy ex-wife isn’t completely out of the picture. Ultimately both are gothic, thrilling novels with a very relatable female protagonist. So if you loved Jane Eyre then I really urge you to pick up Rebecca!
Ultimately Rebecca really is a fantastic novel. This book has been hyped up ever since its publication in 1938 and trust me it does not disappoint. The narrator opens the book with the infamous line “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, well, after reading this yourself I think you’ll find you too will be dreaming of Manderley for a long time after the last page has been turned.

Who would you cast in the film?

Rebecca is, in my humble opinion, long overdue a modern remake. Considering how many Austen TV adaptations we have had and the recent obsession with Agatha Christie courtesy of the BBC, I am at a loss as to why nobody has thought to tackle Rebecca. Maybe people are scared of taking on the intimidating task of trying to outdo a Hitchcock and Olivier partnership but I actually think it’s about time Rebecca was brought into the 21st century.
Trying to attempt to recast Rebecca was a lot of fun and I would like to say now that if Rebecca is remade and any one of these actors end up in the film I expect some form of credit!
So here goes my take on who should be in Rebecca the modern film…..
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rebecca: Emily Blunt*
*Ok so I know strictly speaking part of the mystery of Rebecca is that she isn’t really seen but there may be flashback scenes or possibly even a separate prequel film as such is the craze these days and I think Emily Blunt would deliver this character so well.
Maxim De Winter- Again I have to say I pictured a Clark Gable-esque look when I read the book but, well that’s not going to happen, so I would cast Ioan Gruggudd to do this character justice.
Narrator/the 2nd Mrs De Winter- Eve Hewson
Mrs Danvers: Kristen Scott Thomas
Frank: James Norton
Firth: Hugh Bonneville
Favell: Chris Pine
The Bishop’s Wife: Dame Judi Dench because is it even a British film if this babe doesn’t make some form of an appearance?!

Who are you, what’s your name, and what do you “do”?

I’m Emma Reekie, 25 and live in the small sea-side town of Troon.
I’ve just finished studying for my Masters in Human Resource Management and work as a dispenser in Boots. In my spare time I read a lot, re-watch Friends far too much and drink a dangerous amount of coffee.

Best book you’ve read? Don’t overthink it….

I have a lot of favourite books but so far this year, ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne has been top of my list. I cannot stop recommending it to people so I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

Invent the title of a Self Help book you’d most benefit from reading

A self-help book that would help me right now would be appropriately titled- ‘So No-one Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way; A Manual to Surviving and Thriving In Your Twenties’
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