Saturday, August 9, 2008

Books I read in high school: Rebecca

When I was in high school I read everything and anything I could lay my hands on. I was a big book geek and proud of it too. I must have read most of the books in our local library.

Sometimes during high school I started getting into reading books in English. Up to that point, I had only been reading books in Dutch, including translated English titles. I soon found out what a difference it makes to read a book in its original language.

One of those books I first read in English was Rebecca. Rebecca is the most popular novel by Daphne du Maurier that was first published in 1938.

I must admit I have not read this novel since I was in high school. I do remember that I really enjoyed reading this book, and I also recall most of the major storyline, but you will have to forgive me if I am a little sketchy on the particular details.

The story is about this woman who becomes involved with a wealthy Englishman called Maxim de Winter. She agrees to marry him and move back with him to his estate, after only having known him for about a week.

Of course, that is not one of the smartest things you can do, because you really do not know someone after such a short time, and you have no idea what kind of skeletons they are hiding in their closets.
It turns out Maxim was married before to a woman named Rebecca, who has drowned the year before. Under any circumstance this would be difficult, but the fact that the memory of Rebecca still has such a strong hold on all the people that knew her, makes it very hard for the new wife to find her place.

Already an insecure kind of girl who worries a lot about how she is going to be a good wife, these feelings are only increased by the constant undermining by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, one of the meanest bitches in the entire world.

Mrs. Danvers goes out of her way to declare her devotion to Rebecca and at the same time make sure the new Mrs. de Winter feels like she is worth nothing and will never be able to compete with Rebecca.

She even purposely makes suggestions about how she should act and behave in order to make her look stupid. Convinced that Maxim still loves Rebecca and desperate to change that, the new Mrs. de Winter is actually dumb enough to do exactly what Mrs. Danvers says.

This all gets completely out of hand at a costumed ball, with her dressing up in the exact same costume as Rebecca wore right before her death.

However, instead of seeing what a pathetic woman with no self-esteem, he has married and leaving her, Maxim actually decides to tell her the truth about his marriage to Rebecca and about how she died.

Turns out things were not exactly like she was let to believe they were. Even though the extreme insecurity and desperation of the main character to please her new husband annoyed me a lot, I have to say the story is very interesting and captivating. I remember not wanting to put this book down until it was finished.

Then again, it has been a long time, so I am not sure if I would still feel the same way. It is not unlikely annoyance over the girl with no self-esteem would win this time around.

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