The Modern Library, 1938
I borrowed my copy from the library.
I’m trying to read older books on occasion, and I picked Rebecca because of the title and because I mistakenly thought it was published in 1939, which was last month’s pick for a classic crime meme hosted by Rich at Past Offences. While I’ve read/watched Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, somehow I’ve missed both the book and the movie of du Maurier’s well-known work. I was vaguely aware of a couple plot points before I started reading, and my copy’s cover is a bit too obvious about the plot, but that didn’t detract from the reading experience.
What struck me most about the reading experience was how incredibly slow the first 200 pages– roughly 2/3 of the book– went. The story in the first two thirds of the book is the story of Maxim de Winter meeting his second wife in Monte Carlo where she is a poor, young companion to a society maven. Another large chunk of the story is devoted to Manderley and de Winter’s first wife, who mysteriously drowned a year before the events of the book. It’s a story about idle rich people keeping up appearances for most of the story, and I found myself wondering when anything would happen in the book. I think the sense of claustrophobia is intentional: the new Mrs. de Winter is trapped at Manderley, married to someone she doesn’t know well, without a lot of options.
I’m not the biggest fan of gothic novels, but this one kept my interest. Jane Eyre did as well, but I didn’t love either of them. I think the writing is quite good, but I prefer stories with a bit of humor, and Rebecca seemed awfully serious to me.