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.
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 daughter...you little fool...be 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!
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.
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