Rebecca (Book) Review

I know, I know, it’s criminal in some respects that I hadn’t read this before last month. It boasts everything I hold dear in literature (Gothic landscapes, strong women, drama, murder, suspense) and yet somehow I just never got round to it. It’s the same with Jane Austen, I feel close to the subject matter but I’ve never actually read any of it (sue me). But when I saw this cover I was sold immediately and a lot of friends weighed in to confirm that this is their favourite book of all time. Well, it was clearly time to pick it up and give it a go.

And?

Well! It’s one of the best books of all time, isn’t it? While I thought I might be predicting quite a lot of what happened, I can’t be sure I haven’t seen an adaptation and forgotten about it in my 40 year life. But it was magnificent and delicious – and above all, relatable. In the sense that haven’t we all, particularly as women in a patriarchal world compared ourselves unfavourably to others a thousand times?

That our heroine, the unnamed narrator and new Mrs de Winter is living in the shadow of a perfect and lovable ghost is heartbreaking, who could possibly compete? Thankfully there is always more to the story than meets the eye and the tale that unravels is classic and cool as fuck.

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Vintage Rebecca cover

In case you’re like me and have been happily chilling under a rock all your life, a cheeky little synopsis for Rebecca:

Our narrator, a naive 20 something companion to a rich American lady meets wealthy widower Maximilian de Winter in Monte Carlo. Despite her lack of life experience, the two embark on a swift courtship that results in marriage. Our nameless heroine soon finds herself back in England, living on Maxim’s sprawling West Country estate Manderley and the phrase fish out of water has never rung truer. Haunted by the ghost (figuratively) of Maxim’s first wife, the breathtakingly beautiful Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter spends her time wandering the estate, wondering if she’s made a massive mistake.

While Maxim isn’t cruel per se, he is often aloof and Mrs de Winter puts this down to him still being in love with his late wife, who drowned in a tragic boating accident only a year before. She might even be able to get on with it if i wasn’t for the deliberate cruelty of bitchy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (surely stiff competition for Nurse Ratched as baddest villainess of all time), who adored Rebecca and relishes every tiny dig.

But as mentioned above, things are not always as cut and dry as they seem and there is plenty more drama before the book is over. Rebecca is an impeccably crafted, paranoid love story that will make you furious on one hand and desperately sad on the other.

What I enjoyed most is that it gives us a heroine who is cut from a different cloth. She’s mousey, angsty and nothing special as far as she’s concerned and yet she has the steel to stay and fight for what she wants and women like that don’t get enough airtime. Her scenes with Mrs Danvers are stressful and every time Rebecca is mentioned by a staff member I wanted to scream – let it go people, she’s dead!

I think this is a book that will just keep giving, an annual revisit sounds like the most comforting thing I can think of and honestly, I enjoyed every word Daphne has set down for me. And lucky me, our local Picturehouse Cinema is showing Hitchcock’s adaptation on the big screen in a couple of months so I’ll be all over that like a rash.

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Various covers for Rebecca, including the copy I have (middle)

Book details:

Rebecca
Publisher: Virago (16 July 2015)
ISBN-10: 0349006571
ISBN-13: 978-0349006574
Gifted paperback (new)

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A Horror Movie Questionnaire

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“You’ve got red on you.”

I’ve stolen today’s cue from Vinnieh, who popped up on my blog yesterday and commented on some of my horror posts. On nosing around his website, I found this questionnaire and thought it would be fun. And it is Halloween month, after all…

Thanks for the inspiration, Vinneh. I needed it.

  1. What is the first scary movie you recall watching?
    I suppose Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)? I can’t remember the exact film but I remember becoming aware of characters like Freddy at quite a young age (8 onwards). I don’t think I was that frightened on first sight, because Elm Street had the comedy element down and I must have taken that away with me but now it makes me wince.

    I’ve grown to fear these characters far more, and with Elm Street it’s the comfort and necessity of going to sleep that is taken away from Nancy and her friends, giving them no escape from the torment of the razor fingered one. One film that scared and still scares the living shit out of me is Candyman (1992) (which I’ll talk about again below), the whole invoking of a vengeful entity freaks me right out.

    On review though, I think it’s the ‘real life’ threats that get me, like the thugs impersonating Candyman to rule the Cabrini Green housing projects. Also, when Helen wakes up on the kitchen floor of one of the apartments in a puddle of blood having killed a dog, I die every time. She has no control over her consciousness – and that’s terrifying.

    I loved Wes Craven‘s The People Under the Stairs (1991), I also loved Hitchcock, Carpenter, Stephen King growing up. They coloured all the best childhoods I think.

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    Knife fingers are never not useful, except during balloon animal classes

    2. What for you is the scariest movie you have ever seen?
    Burlesque (2010).

    Seriously though, I’m going to say that The Blair Witch Project (1999) scarred me for life, and I’ll fist fight anyone who pulls me up on it. It’s a masterpiece, was truly terrifying and shows you nothing at all. It’s your imagination that does all the work. So many films would have been better if they’d reigned it in the way BW did. That ending though.

    3. Which sub-genre of horror is your favourite? (Psychological/slasher/comedy horror are just some to choose from)
    Good question! I do love dark comedy horror, like the Evil Dead movies (II onwards). I recently saw The Greasy Strangler (2016) which was something else altogether.

    I’m going to say psychological horror as it tends to be stronger and more satisfying, but I won’t avoid a slasher. I’m crazy about ghost stories to be honest, I like the feeling of being chilled to the bone and tripping over my own imagination.

    (I think I just love all sub genres, don’t make me choose!)

    4. What does a horror movie need for you to enjoy it?
    It needs to not patronise me or trick me with cheap frights. I can get scared easily, you don’t have to have Noel Fielding dressed as a nun jumping out of mirrors every eight minutes to get me going, you know? (The Conjuring 2).

    Hint, drop clues, get my imagination working overtime and I’m yours. Good examples are It Follows (2014), The Babadook (2014) and The Blair Witch Project (1999). The Descent (2005) is  maybe a little less subtle but it doesn’t give the game away too soon and I love it for that.

    5. Are there any horror movies you really detest?
    I’m not a fan of the Hostel movies or torture porn in general. For obvious reasons I’m not crazy about rape/revenge tales either (Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes).

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    Bumble Bae

    6. What is the sexiest scene you have witnessed in a horror movie?
    I find this really hard to answer because I’m never thinking that way when I settle down to a good horror but I think the Candyman’s backstory (before he’s tortured and killed by angry villagers) is pretty hot. As is he to be fair. Worse ways to go than in his arms, I would think.

    7. Who is your favourite antagonist in a horror movie?
    I definitely have a soft spot for Norman Bates, Pinhead and the Firefly family.

    8. Is there any director that for you symbolises the best in horror cinema?
    George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Rob Zombie all different reasons. George for his sheer audacity with gore, John Carpenter for genuinely inventive films which have stuck with me all my life and Rob Zombie, who doesn’t always get it right but does always pay respectful tribute to the horror genre and you can tell he just loves the films he makes.

    9. Blood and gore or creepy atmosphere?
    There’s a place for both but the latter if pushed.

    10. And finally, what do you think so far of my horror coverage this month?
    I’m a new reader but so far I’m really enjoying the read!

If you fancy getting on board this horror questionnaire, feel free. I’d love to read your answers, Horror Hounds ❤