I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again." Those are some of the most famous opening lines in a book ever. Alfred Hitchcock's movie only helped to make them more so.  The book was published in 1938, for those who do not know. It opens with the second Mrs. du Winter, who we never get a first name for, due to the fact that the author could never pick one out for her, describe her dream of what Manderly looks like now and it is quite creepy, which sets the tone of the novel.  In the present time her and Mr. du Winter are staying in small hotels in foreign countries trying to avoid thinking or talking about some great tragedy that Mrs. du Winter, our narrator will presently be describing for us in great detail.

Our unnamed "heroine", for lack of a better word, meets Mr. du Winter in Monte Carlo while she is working as a companion for Mrs. Hopper, a vulgar, gossiping woman who is trying to train her. The young woman has no family and little money for clothes, so she dresses plainly. She is in her early twenties and has a love of drawing, which she does on her time off from Mrs. Hopper. When Maxim du Winter shows up for dinner at a table near theirs one night, Mrs. Hopper, a social climber, tries to seize an oprortunity to meet again while they have coffee after dinner. However, Maxim hates women like her, but is enchanted by our heroine.

The next day when Mrs. Hopper gets sick and hires a nurse to take care of her, this frees our heroine up to do whatever she wants. She meets up with Maxim in the dining room when she goes there to have lunch and the two go for a drive to see an old building that she had wanted to sketch and he had wanted to exorcise from his mind.  Soon, they are going on drives and spending lots of time together and our heroine tells him at one point on a drive that she wishes she could bottle up the memory so she could always have it.  This would not be the last time she does this in the book.

Mrs. Hopper gets better and decides she wants to leave and join up with her daughter in Paris who is heading to New York City.  Maxim has taken a drive out of town and she cannot tell him. The next morning they are set to leave and she makes the brave/reckless move of going to his room to tell him that they are leaving. He ends up proposing to her, something he says he was going to do anyway.  It is not a very romantic proposal.  Even he admits as much.  Mrs. Hopper warns her that she is making a mistake, as there is no way she can run a household like Manderly. And she has a point. Our heroine is a bit shy and has no experience with the upper classes and how they do things.

After a few weeks stay in Italy, they head straight for Manderly. He doesn't even stop in London to buy her a new wardrobe. Mrs. Hopper gave her some clothes of her daughters to wear, so she has a few nicer things in her wardrobe other than the cheap plain clothing she had been wearing.  Maxim does not think of these things, though his sister Bea, who comes to visit, along with her husband, soon after they arrive, gives her the name of her dressmaker.  She tells her that "she is so very different from Rebecca", Maxim's first wife who drowned.  Frank Crawly, the estate manager, when pressed says that Rebecca was "the most beautiful creature I ever saw in my life."

When she arrives the staff, including the butler Firth and the truly scary Mrs. Danvers, all want to do things the way Rebecca did them. Mrs. du Winter leaves the running of the house to Mrs. Danvers, as she really has no idea how to do it, but the longer she is there, she realzies that the vase she wants to put flowers in belongs to Rebecca (And Firth tells her it always goes over here, but if she would rather it go somewhere else he could put it there, which of course, she won't stand up to him and everything goes on as before). The morning room is completely done by Rebecca and she is expected to hang out there and take visitors in when they come calling and examine her like a prize cow, and always finding her lacking when compared to Rebecca. Maxim also makes her return visits which is a kind of hell for her, as her shyness has been made even more so as she knows what they are thinking.

Maxim has become distant and she believes that it is because he is thinking about the love of his life, Rebecca. She also has to deal with Mrs. Danvers pointing out to her how inadequate she is and there is a scene in the west wing of the house, where Rebecca lived, that will give you heart palpatations. Much has been made of the relatioship between Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca. You can make your own conclusions.   She is as much a part of the suspense as the house as the ghost of Rebecca who seems to be everywhere.  You can almost see her floating around the place the way everyone seems to keep her alive.

Now, for those who are interested in Alfred Hitchcock's movie version of this book, I highly recommend it. I have seen it many times over the years and watched it again right after I finished this book to see how it matched up.  Like all movies, some things were cut for time. But one thing you have to keep in mind is that Hitchcock was working under the Hayes code, which meant that he was censored in what he was allowed to do.  It is highly entertaining, though, what he does sneak right past the censors noses. There are whole sections of dialouge from the book and some quesionable actions by Mrs. Danvers that they somehow just plain missed. The movie is worth seeing for Hitchcock's masterful hand at filming scenes. He makes it seem as though Rebecca is there in some of his shots.  The movie was nominated for eleven oscars and won two for best picture and cinematography for a reason.  I'm sorry Jane Darwell from the Grapes of Wrath, but Judith Anderson who played Mrs. Danvers to utter, creepy perfection really deserved that Oscar.

I highly recommened both the book and the movie. Both grab hold of you right at the beginning and draw you into the heart of this creepy gothic story of a woman who is trying to find her way in a house that isn't her own and get her husband back from a woman who is dead.  Daphne Du Maurier also wrote Jamaca Inn , which was also made into a movie by Hitchcock starring Maureen O'Hara, and the short story "The Birds", which was also made into a movie by Hitchcock starring Tippi Hedrin.


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 since 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.
-Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca p 5)
  I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire. This we have done in full measure, ironic though it seems. We have both known fear, and loneliness, and very great distress. I suppose sooner of later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.  We have conquered ours, or so we believe.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 5)
 His sister, who was a hard, rather practical person, used to complain that there were too many scents at Manderley, they made her drunk. Perhaps she was right. He did not care. It was the only form of intoxication that appealed to him.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 31)
         I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets man say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infintesimal pricks of day by day brush by one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then—how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 34)

 “She’s very direct, believes in speaking her mind. No humbug at all. If she doesn’t like you she’ll tell you so, to your face.” I found this hardly comforting, and wondered if there was not some virtue in the quality of insincerity.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 79)
 I felt rather exhausted, and wondered, rather shocked at my callous thought, why old people were sometimes such a strain. Worse than young children or puppies because one had to be polite.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 183)
 I wondered how many people there were who in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. 

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 276)
 Why did dogs make one want to cry? There was something so quiet and hopeless about their sympathy.

-Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca p 316)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Daphne-Du-Maurier/dp/0380730405/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467727451&sr=1-1&keywords=Rebecca

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