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Review: Rebecca - Daphne DuMaurier

Genre: Classic, Gothic Mystery Published: Virago Press 2003, Originally Published 1938 My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

Dear reader, I have a shameful confession to make: I somehow made it to 2019, without ever touching Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. Now was the time to rectify that grave mistake.

Everybody, by now, is familiar with the story of Rebecca. A timid young woman falls in love with a wealthy widower, but upon moving into his manor finds herself haunted in many ways by the spirit of his first deceased wife Rebecca.

For some reason, I long thought this to be a romance novel, which is why I never picked it up before. It’s not a romance novel, nor would I call it a full on gothic-horror story. It’s a beautifully constructed story of character development, with a hint of suspense and mystery mixed in. I’ve heard many people say that the first half takes some time to get into, but in all honesty, I think I enjoyed that part the most. We see our protagonist struggling to find her place in her new life, having to literally fill the place of her predecessor. I deeply felt for her and her insecurities about her place in Maxims life. Seeing my own father getting into a new relationship after my mother passed away, has made me realize how large the presence of a dead spouse can be in a relationship, and Daphne DuMaurier captures that perfectly in this novel. There is an impossible pressure on the shoulders of the new partner: an expectation that no human can ever fulfill, and our protagonist knows this. Rebecca is incorruptible, untouchable, seemingly forever elevated and preserved in a state of perfection with her death. How can any new partner compete with the memory of the old…?

As the novel progresses, we learn that not everything is as it seemed in Maxims previous marriage. The twist near the end did manage to surprise me, although I do have to say that some of the circumstances were a little too convenient and the solution a little too quickly. That being said: I was pleasantly surprised and then some by this book. I sometimes feel like some popular classics don’t age well (I know, unpopular opinion), but Rebecca is a novel that truly stands the test of time. Highly recommend it for anyone who, like me, has been living under a rock or just hasn’t gotten to this yet.

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