Saturday, September 26, 2009
At any rate that’s exactly what happens to our narrator, the young orphan (why is it always the orphans who have all the fun in these novels?) who goes from being a paid companion to an obnoxious middle-aged woman to being Mrs. De Winter, the mistress of the famous Manderley practically overnight. Of course the novel can’t end there or it would be terribly boring and sentimental, so after the honey moon is over the couple returns to Manderley where our young narrator ends up living in the shadow of the previous Mrs. De Winter, Rebecca. She sits at Rebecca’s desk in the morning and eats Rebecca’s favorite foods and is surrounded by Rebecca’s favorite flowers. Everyone seems disappointed when they meet her and she begins to fear that she is a poor replacement for the beautiful and spirited Rebecca who kept Manderley full of guests and glamour. The housekeeper, the terrifying Mrs. Danvers, in particular seems intent on keepig Rebecca's memory alive in the house and targets our narrator as an enemy from the minute she enters the house. Despite all this our narrator knows almost nothing about Rebecca, and her husband is very reluctant to talk of that particular subject. I would have been more annoyed with the narrator for not having the sense to strike her own path and redecorate and buy her own things instead of constantly worry about how Rebecca would have done something if I couldn’t tell that she was frustrated at herself for the exact same reason. Besides if I criticized her too much for being timid and trying to please everyone even when she knew she should and wanted to do otherwise I’d be the worst kind of hypocrite.
I’ve heard this novel called a mystery and an anti-marriage treatise but to me it was a romance, as I feel it was to the narrator as well. I don’t believe that this book is a caution against marriage as a rule so much as it is about going into a marriage with caution. It contains a lot about mistakes one can make in marriage, but hearing about other’s mistakes is how we learn. To me the novel wasn’t about Rebecca, but rather on the effect that Rebecca had on the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. de Winter. Whatever genre it is, however, I’d give it five stars.
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”