Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review Wednesday: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had a lot going on, and yet, somehow, nothing was ever happening. And that pretty much sums up my feelings for the book. Parts of it I loved, and I couldn't stop reading. Then parts of it...not so much. I'd stop reading with no interest in picking it up again. So, it took me almost a month to read this book, and in that time I read 3 or 4 other books.

The beginning of Rebecca was way too much information for me. I don't like books that start at the end, and then jump to the beginning. Mostly because I don't know or care about the characters when I start, so I don't really care about them waxing philosophical about fate and the past, and boring hotels, and wood pigeons, etc. Really, the entire first chapter and part of the second could have been an epilogue. And if it had been an epilogue, it would have been better, because the author could have tied up some of the hundreds of loose ends she left dangling. As it is, as a beginning chapter, she can't give away TOO much (although again, I think she goes overboard with the foreshadowing and basically gives away the ending. When she talks about the empty shell of the house, I immediately knew it had been burned, so the entire book I was expecting the ending. If I hadn't been expecting the ending, the end would have knocked my breath out. I did have a wonderful little shiver at the ending b/c the author builds suspense so well, but it would have had a much greater impact without being foretold from the very beginning.

Okay. Now that we've dealt with the beginning and end, let's talk about the middle stuff--plot, setting, characters, themes, etc. Yep, all that meat.

The setting of Mandalay was well-done, but somehow it didn't keep me interested. I wanted it to be more creepy or something. I'm sure it was described very well, but I must have drifted off during those parts because I hardly remember anything except the outdoor part of the estate--the flowers, trees, azaleas, etc. The Happy Valley. The cottage, the beach...all those are painted vividly in my mind. The house itself did not make an impression.

Although we get to know the inner thoughts and insecurities of our young heroine quite well, it annoyed me that we never learn her name or age. Maybe that's supposed to make us relate to her better (she's nameless, therefore she's me!) but it only annoyed me. Maybe I'm not romantic enough to put myself in her shoes. Also, they make her sound like she's 15 or something, and Mr. de Winter is 42, so it creeped me out a little, especially when he says stuff like "you're young enough to be my little my wife." And I'm not a big fan of romance-novel hero types, so mean/rude/distant/self-absorbed guys really don't do it for me. Mr. de Winter was very much that, a Mr. Rochester type all the way. I eventually warmed up to him, but even then I kept wondering why he's been such an awful husband and ignored his child bride and her insecurities instead of trying to make her feel at home, or welcome, or even wanted. Especially since he's supposed to love her.

The other characters were well-done, and I liked Maxim's sister, she was such a character. So were Ms. Danvers, the cousin (SO well done!), and the aura of Rebecca that lingered, and Frank. I really wanted to know what happened to them all at the end, though. A rather big loose end.

I will say, it was fun learning the mystery of Rebecca and having her story slowly revealed. When Mr. de Winter tells what really happened to her, I have to say it was a shock. I laughed and decided then that I love this book. But there was so much to go, I kept wondering if she'd turn up alive at some point! I didn't really understand why she hated Maxim, though, and it seemed like a huge oversight not to give her a reason. Sure, she thought men were a big joke. But he married her, and let her have affairs, and did pretty much anything she wanted. So why was she swearing she'd take Mandalay from him? She had no reason to need to 'win' or get revenge. Also, I didn't really think Max had reason to kill her. And then the book sort of makes you root for him, so I'm wondering if the message is supposed to be that it's okay to kill your wife if she cheats but it's not okay to divorce her. And then of course Mr. de Winter is kind of a jerk up until he confesses murder, and then he's the nicest gut, loving and passionate and open about EVERYTHING even though he'd had nothing but anger/secrecy before this point. Yes, I know he's relieved his guilty conscience, but I still didn't really think he'd transform that fast.

Overall, this was a wonderful, deliciously twisted book that gave me lots of surprises and had good suspense and mystery once I got past the first half, which really dragged. The second half was exciting and wonderful, and I walked away from it laughing despite the huge holes at the end that leaves almost everything unexplained. Such as, who lit the fire? Mrs. Danvers? I thought she'd already left. And why didn't anyone put it out? Did anyone die? If not, what happened to everyone? Why didn't the de Winters rebuild the house, since the estate wasn't damaged, or it doesnt sound like it. Why are they living their lives in a hotel? Why don't they go back? Why didn't they sell the property instead of letting it go wild? Yeah. I had a lot of questions at the end, but still, when they drive over that hill and Max says, "That's Mandalay," I laughed out loud with the wonderful ending.

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