Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Not Quit Haunted House

Alrighty folks, it's gonna be a beast of a week.  Without being held over, or overtime I'm on the ambulance for at least 96 hours this week...so if I miss a few days of posting you know why.  In the meantime, here is the first of my spooky October ramblings to tide you over.  The book is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and I have had my eye on it for quit some time.  It took me a bit to get into it, but it was worth it.  I will try and do my best to get my feelings down...but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD! (seriously if you haven't read the book yet do yourself a favor and read it first 'cause half the coolness of the book is the surprises)
The whole book has a bit of a dreamy feel to it, but I will do my best to get the basic story across.  We start the story with our unnamed narrator (we never learn her first name...or her maiden name) giving us the famous opening line of the book "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again."  This sets the stage for our story.  The narrator takes be to when she first met the older Maxim de Winter when she was no more then a shy poor girl, fresh from school in the 1930's.  She is the paid companion of a loud and brassy American woman who has decided to spend some time in Monte Carlo.  When the lady falls sick, our narrator is left to her own devices and ends up spending time, and falling in love with the quiet and reserved Maxim de Winter.  She finds out that his wife Rebecca died the year before, drowned in a boating accident and that he has left his beloved Manderly to get away from his memories.  He decides to marry her, making her the second Mrs. de Winter and takes her back to Manderly with him.  Once there our narrator spends most of her time just trying to figure out how to fit in to this new high class life.  She is haunted by the memory of Rebecca, constantly comparing herself to dead woman and coming up short.  This is not helped as most of the people in the surrounding area are constantly telling the second Mrs. de Winters how different she is from Rebecca, how Rebecca was beautiful and vibrant and personable and polished and pretty much everything that the narrator feels she is not.  The house itself holds many memories of the late Rebecca, kept alive by the mysterious house keeper Mrs. Danvers who keeps the west wing of the house exactly as it was when Rebecca was alive.  Maxim himself seems to be distant and occasionally angry now that they are back at Manderly and the narrator is concerned that he regrets his impulsive decision to marry her.  This all comes to a dramatic head when at a fancy dress party, Mrs. Danvers convinces the narrator to unknowingly wear the same costume that Rebecca wore to her last party before she died.  Maxim understandably is upset, further convincing the narrator he is not happy with her.  After the party, a boat runs ashore and subsequently a diver finds the boat Rebecca died in...with her body in it.  Maxim admits to his new wife that Rebecca didn't drown in an accident.  Maxim tells her that he shot Rebecca down at the beach after she told him she was pregnant with another mans child.  Maxim reveals that while to the world Rebecca was wonderful, she was actually quit awful and made Maxim miserable.  He shot her, put her body in her boat and sank it.  Instead of being horrified, the narrator is relieved that she no longer has to compare herself to the dead woman.  She is now confident in Maxim's love for her, precisely because she is so very different from his first wife.  The death is ruled a suicide and it seems that the de Winters can live their life in peace.  Unfortunatly, a cousin of Rebecca's declares that Maxim killed her and he has proof in the form of a note from Rebecca asking him to come see her.  He says that she would not have written the note if she planned on killing herself.  Mrs. Danvers is called in and she produces a notebook with all of Rebecca's schedule in it which shows a mysterious doctors appointment.  Maxim and the narrator are sure that when the doctor is interviewed he will tell of the pregnancy, casting doubt on the suicide story.  When the doctor is finally tracked down, it is revealed that Rebecca actually had ovarian cancer, which back in that day was untreatable and motive for suicide.  On their way home the de Winters speculate that it was possible for Rebecca to have goaded Maxim into killing her after hearing her diagnosis...one last bit of revenge before she died.  Maxim gets a call at their hotel informing him that Mrs. Danvers has disappeared after the verdict and is assumed to have moved on to another house.  The narrator has a very bad feeling and encourages Maxim to get back to Manderly.  They arrive just in time to watch it burn down.  The pair then take to the road...taking us back to the beginning of the book.
I initially chose this book because many people who recommended The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson which I adored, said it had a similar feel.  I agree with that assessment to a point.  The book defiantly falls into the atmospheric category, with much of the suspense coming from the environment itself.  Unlike Hill House, which felt mad and haunted, this book felt sad and desperate...in a good way...I'm not making any sense am I?  Ok let's try this again.  I mentioned before that the book was a little hard to get into, and this is really its only salient bad point.  It took me a while to get into the rhythm of the flowey, dreamy language which in my opinion tended to get way to overly descriptive of scenery and such.  Oddly enough once I got into the story just sort of flowed, it was one of those books that even when you put it down for a few minutes, you kept thinking about it, kept wanting to go back to it.  I absolutely LOVE this kind of book, because it feels living and breathing to me.  The author made the choice to never name the main character/narrator, leaving her as only the second Mrs. de Winters if she was named at all.  I think this was brilliant as it gave us even more of a feeling of this poor girls feelings of inadequacy.  In the end I feel that this is what this book is really about.  One girls journey into owning her own life and becoming a woman.  She starts completely powerless and then when given the opportunity to become the mistress of a very important house and family she is constantly made to feel inferior.  Lack of information, communication and encouragement from anybody at all connected with her just keeps her feeling sad and desperate to be happy.  It is not until she finds a way to posses herself and actually force communication to happen does she finally grow up.  The sequence of events in this book, while not necessarily horrifying are definitely suspenseful and surprising.  I will say I did not see most of what happened coming and that made my enjoyment of the book even more complete.  The ending of this book is the kind that I love because it ties right back to the beginning, making it possible to have a real ending without it feeling rushed or contrived.  I call this a loop ending and it is one of my favorite ways to end a book or series.  This book will not be everybodies cup of tea (or coffee), the style of it is very specific and you have to be able to let yourself just kind of get swept into the book to really enjoy it.  While not the spine tingling madness of Hill House, this book did deliver suspense and a few chills and was a great October read.  I give it 8 out of 10 cold lunches and recommend it to anybody who loves an atmospheric book, full of tension and imagery.  Happy Reading Everybody!

No comments:

Post a Comment