DiscussieDaphne du Maurier fans

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aug 4, 2012, 6:39am

Let's start with the most popular of all the novels, Rebecca. Did you love it? Hate it? Want to slap the protagonist? Ever so slightly fancy Maxim? Why do you think this book has such enduring appeal despite its horribly outdated gender roles? Does this even add to the book's appeal?

aug 4, 2012, 9:59am

I suppose that Rebecca has all the ingredients for a sure-fire winner - drama, suspense, romance, splendid baddies and exotic locations. In short, a rattling good yarn. Hitchcock's wonderful film adaptation probably continues to generate interest in the book as well.

I must confess, Booksloth, that the protagonist was eminently slappable in Susan Hill's Mrs de Winter. I lost patience with this one about a third of the way through.

aug 4, 2012, 12:32pm

Thank you very much for the group photo cappybear. I thought Mrs de Winter was execrable, though I'm not a huge Susan Hill fan at the best of times. A much better sequel (IMO) was Sally Beauman's Rebecca's Tale which is well-worth a read. It's hard not to feel your slapping hand itching at the unnamed protagonist in any of the books but - maybe because I couldn't be less like that myself - I actually find it quite interesting to read about what happens if you don't occasionally stand up to your other half.

As for 'exotic locations' - have you been to Cornwall? Still one of my all-time favourite books though.

aug 4, 2012, 5:43pm

I do fancy Maxim rather, or at least see the attraction, in the book that is. Never cared for Olivier.

I also feel that the narrator needs defending. By her own lights she is very young and shy. She is also accustomed to being dominated by that dreadful American woman she worked for, whose influence, I should imagine, would be hard to shake. She is a second wife and believes for much of the book that her predecessor was not only more beautiful and more accomplished than she is herself, but more importantly that Maxim adored that predecessor and constantly finds herself wanting by the comparison. Then again, Mrs. Danvers would intimidate anyone!

The conclusion I come to is not so much that the narrator is a hopeless wimp as that this story is a great example of what happens when people, be they spouses or friends, don't talk to each other. She never had the courage or self-confidence to say at the outset, "I know you loved Rebekah. I know I can never be half what she was to you. Why did you marry me?" And he never said at the outset, "You are so sweet and simple and innocent. And you care so much for me. So very different from my first wife. I know I can be happy with you at last." If they had had some such conversation in Monti Carlo or even upon their return to Manderly, oh how different everything would have been!

aug 4, 2012, 7:10pm

I did have a thing for Maxim until he left the nameless narrator with so little information to go on. What a boob! He had precious little to do, he couldn't have taken some time to help that poor hapless creature? Mrs. Danvers was such a cow towards her. Remember the broken vase or the costume party? I felt like the nameless narrator needed someone in her corner. I wonder if Maxim was ever able to overcome his lethargy and become a good husband to her. The nameless narrator is an excellent example of how confidence in oneself is everything, at the end of the day.

I should really re-read it.

>4 Catreona: Catreona I agree with your take on the need for communication in that marriage. Also, I never cared for Olivier in that role even though, on the surface, he seemed perfect. Olivier as Maxim seemed blithely unconcerned and uncaring. My impression of Maxim in the book was that he did care but it was so bottled up.

aug 4, 2012, 9:03pm

This was almost certainly the first book I ever read in which I discovered it wasn't necessary for me to like the characters in order to like the book. I wanted to shake 'the 2nd Mrs de Winter' and Maxim was so far up himself it must have been very dark indeed. I suspect one reason it works so well is because the baddies - Mrs Danvers, Jack Favell - are even worse. Frank is a good man but he is weak and has misplaced loyalties that result in him helping to cover up a serious crime; Beatrice, Frith and Mrs Van Hopper are shallow-minded small-time snobs and the only vaguely likeable characters are Clarice, Ben and Jasper the Spaniel.

Don't get me wrong here, I love this book with a passion and must have read it at least 20 times since my teens so it certainly isn't the mystery that appeals either. Somehow du Maurier manages to tell us just enough about her characters to make us want to know more, even after the last page is read, which might explain why so many people say that if they were to write a sequel to any classic novel, this would be the one they would choose.

And there can be endless speculation on the psychologies of the characters. Anyone who wants their passion for Maxim killed off for good might be interested in John Sutherland's Where Was Rebecca Shot? in which he speculates on a number of literary conundrums, including the one in the title.

aug 4, 2012, 9:52pm

I don't know how you do it Booksloth. Just when I'm starting to get Mount TBR under some control, you give me a new author or title! This Where Was Rebecca Shot? sounds, unfortunately, really interesting.

I've never forgotten Ben or Jasper the Spaniel even though I read Rebecca when I was 16 or so. I loved that dog even though he should have been snapping at Mrs. Danvers(who was perfectly cast in the movie: Judith Anderson with that tightly pulled back hair).

Even thought I read it at a young-ish age I remember thinking that the narrator wasn't ever going to get to be contented and well cared for. Maxim had rescued her from a life of drudgery but was he much better than that awful woman she worked for?

As soon as I'm finished with The Uninvited which is a bit du Maurier-like, I'm re-reading Rebecca.

Booksloth, you mentioned Don't Look Now in the other thread. Is that the story set in Venice?

Bewerkt: aug 4, 2012, 11:41pm

That's the one, yep. (Sorry about increasing your TBR pile, I do it out of spite because I just can't get mine under control.)

John Sutherland has written several books on 'literary conundrums' and I find them fascinating. They answer such questions as Can Jane Eyre have a happy ending? Why does Robinson Crusoe only find 'a single footprint? Who gets what in Heathcliffe's will? Is Black Beauty a gelding? How old is Beloved? and various others you may or may not have wondered about when reading the books. I should warn you, enaid, that Where was Rebecca shot? is not a whole book devoted to that question but is just one chaper in a book that investigates Heart of Darkness, Women in Love, To the Lighthouse, Rebecca, Lucky Jim and many others and he does this using a combination of logic and poetic licence thast make fascinating reading.

The other books are Is Heathcliffe a Murderer?, Can Jane Eyre be Happy, Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? and, covering problems in Shakespeare, Was Henry V a War Criminal? He is also responsible for two quiz books (as well as many works of criticism), So You Think You Know Thomas Hardy? and So You Think You Know Jane Austen?

aug 4, 2012, 11:54pm

>5e naid: I agree completely with your take on Olivier vs. Maxim in the book.

Maxim's a good man, but unable to express himself. The mere fact that he was able to see and appreciate the narrator's good qualities, of which she was herself unaware, shows that Maxim has a heart. Perhaps he is naturally reserved, as so many Englishman of his time and station were (or are portrayed as having been). We must remember also that Rebecca herself as well as her death scarred him. He should have tried, that's true. At the same time it isn't really his fault he couldn't express himself terribly well.

Yes indeed, reading any thread on LT is a sure fire way to add tonnage to Mt. TBR.

aug 5, 2012, 12:14am

Well, Jane Eyre certainly seems to have a happy ending. Having just read the book again, I can attest to that. Of course, I am often told that I'm naive and shallow.

In the case of the book at hand, Rebecca, it is my belief that in their exile the de Winters do find a measure of peace and contentment.

aug 7, 2012, 1:50pm

I just finished my re-read of Rebecca and, once again, really enjoyed it. This time, I was especially shocked by the power of the ending. The desperate drive down to Manderley from London and seeing the red glow in the west. All I could think of, for some reason, was how many people were now going to be out of work thanks to the evil of Mrs. Danvers and Jack Favell. I've always had it in my head that Mrs. Danvers died in the fire but I notice that she "cleared out" that day so I'm wondering if she got away with it? Still, she is a great villainess. I think the scene where she tried to talk the narrator into throwing herself out the window is even more powerful in the book than the movie.

It made me sad that the narrator never did get to have a house full of children and a contented life. I know she thinks she is happy moving from hotel to hotel in anonymity with Maxim but why don't they just buy a nice house and make the best of it? Brussels, maybe. Or maybe somewhere in Ireland?

I'm going to read Rebecca's Tale just to see what that might hold. I really took on against her when Mrs. Danvers described the scene where used her spurs and whip on the horse until it was frothing and bloody. At the same time, from Maxim's description(and even Mrs. Danver's version of Rebecca) she seems almost too malignant to be true.

aug 7, 2012, 7:19pm

Yes, not even her cousin who supposedly adored her can make her seem remotely pleasant.

What I wonder about is what made Mrs. Danvers the way she is? Her worship of Rebecca is sick. And, yes, I think she does get away, though perhaps she doesn't get away with it. Once Manderley is gone, so is all physical connection to Rebecca. She seemed almost mad with all the things there to remind her of Rebecca. With nothing to treasure, she may go completely mad at last. Not but what it's she deserves.

Yes, I too thought about all the people, especially Frank. And I wondered about Jasper. Funny, I never thought of that when I read it before. Maybe it's because I'm older now and such things matter more.

aug 7, 2012, 9:56pm

re Mrs. Danvers: Her attachment to Rebecca when R. was so young really made me wonder what all went on in Rebecca's home. It would be interesting to know what Rebecca's parents were like or if she had siblings. I mean, look at her cousin Jack and that sick, twisted mess. I do hope Mrs. D. and Jack end up somewhere horrible and suffer a long time.

I noticed(because I watch the animal things like a hawk) that the narrator asked Frank to take Jasper to the office with him because he looked so desolate. My sincere hope is that Frank kept Jasper safe. Now, Jasper's old blind mother I'm not so sure about.

I wonder about poor Frith, so upright, who had worked there forever. What does someone like that do afterwards? I hate that Rebecca continued to damage so many people's lives after she was dead.

What a good book. Even though it was a re-read, it was like new because it has so much in it and, as you say, when we're older we notice different things and see more.

aug 7, 2012, 10:49pm

I think the beginning of the novel is marvelous. It sets the scene, all very atmospheric and romantic, but at the same time lets the reader know that something terrible is going to happen. If the narrator started right away with her life in Monti Carlo with that dreadful woman, the entire feel of the book would be different. ...Does that make any sense at all?

I agree about Jasper's mother. Interesting that she doesn't have a name, just the old dog.

And I agree heartily about Jack and Mrs. Danvers!

apr 11, 2013, 9:45am

All of the characters deserved slaps or at least a good shaking and a recommendation for a marriage counsellor.

jun 9, 2015, 2:08pm

Anybody out there? I am re-reading Rebecca for my local reading group,

jun 17, 2015, 4:12pm

>16 cappybear: Anybody out there?

Only us mice!

I loved Rebecca. I hope you are enjoying it.

jun 18, 2015, 2:58pm

17> Not as much as I did when I first read the book 10-15 years ago. The plot moves at a snail's pace, with way too many walks through the azaleas and rhododendrons, too many manservants wittering and a narrator who follows shoals of red herrings when she isn't cowering. Maxim is just a pain. Can we believe that these two really love each other?

jun 18, 2015, 5:56pm

>18 cappybear: Can we believe that these two really love each other?

I felt the narrator was particularly immature and that infatuation rather than love was the primary motivation.

What I loved about the story included the relationship between the narrator and her employer in the beginning. I also enjoyed the way De Maurier was putting the reader in the position of siding with a murderer.

Bewerkt: nov 21, 2017, 11:59pm


Everything was over, Manderlay didn't exist anymore, that early morning we found only ashes and part of Manderlay’s hull standing. Maxim and I heard a faint bark, it was Jasper, he was alive! thank god, that was a light of hope for us and we stick to it. All the people came and help to turn off the fire, at 7 am all was in silent, I saw Maxim, he was so quiet but in a certain way relieved, at least that was my impresion at the moment, at least was my personal feeling. “I am so sorry Maxim” I said. “It hurts, but we are together and we found Jasper, those are...” -he looked at Manderlay, “the ashes of the past, it doesn’t matter anymore. We will see all this as our oportunity of a new start”, he answer.

I have to be strong for Maxim, he needs me, we need to start again as he said, I thought. Mrs Danvers and Rebecca can’t win, Rebecca is dead and Mrs Denver is now a miserable criminal.

We were in shock for a while, Bea and Giles came at once, we move with them for a short time... “Frank will be in charge of everything” Maxim said.

We had Jasper, if he could escape from hell, so we could too... I gave time to Maxim, time to think, we were together that was the most important thing to me, and he loved me.

Manderlay had an insurance, so Frank would be dealing with all the paper work about it.

Maxim decided to go to Herefordshire, we owned a beautiful country house in there, near to the ocean in a steep mountain, it was surrounded by rocks and then by a forest full of pitch pines, apples, birches, cherries and plums, little bushes and flowers, we brought Jasper with us, he was afraid at the begining, but after two nights in there, finally he was confident... our faithful Jasper.

We were not alone, a little group of servants lived there, they welcomed us with a warm gesture of hospitality. Our life there was perfect, the rumor of the sea wasn’t noising, not like Manderlay. In our lovely little house there was a chimney and a library and our beautiful bedroom was full of red wood and dark furniture.

Maxim went down every morning after breakfast to fish our lunch and I prepared bread and tea for dinner, we read, ate and chatted. We started to took long walks as we discovering secret passages in the forest, Maxim began to laugh with me about silly things, often he ran after me and held me by the waist, then kissed me.

After passed three months, one day Maxim received a letter from Frank, he had sent great news, Maxim’s face lit up, he came to me with a smile “Manderlay’s reconstruction has began, it’s time to go back” he said. He did something else, Maxim had gave orders to thrown down the cottage and the harbour, and rebuild new ones in the opposite bay, that would become in our home for the time that reconstruction of Mandarlay last. “We could stay there near to the happy valley, and I could be aware of the reborn of Manderlay” Maxim said.

We left Herefordshire next morning and went back to Manderlay’s hull, we passed the wall, the iron gate, the serpentine path and finally we arrived to the ruins of Manderlay, long time ago the tragic night seemed have stayed behind. Jasper our faithful companion was happy to be there, he had recognized the land, after we parked the car in front of the hull, he ran and desapeared in the forest.

For some reason Maxim was happy and so do I, the excitement of the moment felt in the air, it was time to begin our new life, the shadows of the past can't be harmful anymore.

The police was after the monstrous old woman Danvers and we had a restriction order against Favell, those two could never do any harm to us again.

There were a lot of crowd working in the reconstruction of Manderlay, Maxim was very excited, I knew what he was thinking, the real ashes were of the past, we were building a new bright future in NewManderlay only for us, without the shadow of the odious Rebecca Hildreth, she became to ashes and dust. Maxim and I were alive and finally happy, inlove, we felt passion over each other, every night Maxim kissed me, every night he whispered at my ear “You are mine, only mine”.

We passed the nights together, sometimes dancing under the light of the moon in the backyard of our cottage, we passed the evenings taking walks over the happy valley, smelling the essences of the flowers, listening the songs of the coloured birds, hand by hand. Suddenly one day I felt someone stared at us, it was a raw feeling, few days later, some of the servants discovered an old woman near of our place in the new bay, it was the miserable Mrs Danvers, we called the police, she seemed mad of hatred... There was an judicial inquiry, she was acused by the insurance company of having set fire the old mansion and finally went to jail.

About Favell, we found a month later, he was involved in a fight, he was drunk and got killed. No more concerns of the shadows watching us, I thought, we were finally free and we had recovered Manderlay, NewManderlay.

I had put my fingerprint in NewManderlay, not anymore greys and whites in the walls, the high ceiling was now pink stone and pearly white, the golden sunlights came through the windows reflected in the walls and built the appearance of slight northem lights over them.

After a year in NewManderlay, we opened the doors of the mansion for the most successful Fancy Dress Ball of the year, Maxim and I were celebrating our triumph, WE WON!, not the deads neither the miserables... Soon over the years, Maxim would see growin up his two lovely children in NewManderlay, he always proud, always selfconfident... and in one of the prisions of London an old and miserable women would hang herself.