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)

What are you currently reading?

Dietland

*The first 3 episodes*

I want to talk about the TV adaptation of one of my favourite books in recent years (and apparently, my Book of 2016) – Dietland. It’s just started airing in the US and thankfully also on Amazon Prime – which is the greatest weekly treat. The first three episodes are up now and so far so good.

IMDB Synopsis

Plum Kettle is a ghostwriter for the editor of one of New York’s hottest fashion magazines. Struggling with self-image and fed up with how she’s treated by her boss and society, Plum sets out on a wildly complicated road to self-awakening. At the same time, everyone is buzzing over news reports about men, accused of sexual abuse and assault, who are disappearing and meeting untimely, violent deaths.

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My Thoughts So Far

Joy Nash is gorgeous and so likable as Plum – and she’s actually fat! But I can’t help thinking she’s too good-looking and not fat enough – wouldn’t this be even better if she didn’t fit into the ‘beautiful’ ideal at all? (Hate saying anyone isn’t ‘enough’ of anything but hopefully you know what I’m trying to say) – that said she’s so bloody lovely, I want to see her in everything coming up, please.

Julianna Margulies as Kitty Montgomery is PERFECTLY cast – I despise her in every way. What a prize A CUNT

♥ I’d give anything to visit the beauty closet for just one hour – ten minutes, even

♥ It is never tiring to watch abusers get their comeuppance, even when it’s brutal and violent (particularly then)

♥ I really like that Malleck Ferguson is such a poorly disguised version of a well-known fashion photographer and abuser – down to the minute details of his over-the-top glasses and personal style – LOL

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♥ Marlowe Buchanan is also cast well (she’s played by Alanna Ubach) and so far comes across as a bit of an arse with a God complex – proof that heroes and villains aren’t always cast in black and white

♥ Not enough Leeta (Erin Darke) – so they better bring her back again soon

♥ The closing speech at the end of Episode 3 made me cry. I won’t spoiler but it starts with “I don’t hate myself, society does” and it’s important and vital and above all TRUE

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I haven’t seen any violence towards sex workers or porn stars yet but I’ve read a discussion about it on Twitter and I’m not into it either. I know that the book tackles the porn industry on the whole and it opened my eyes when I read it – but I don’t think this should be a judgement of the women themselves, in either capacity. I’ll see when it comes along how I feel but I am hoping that it doesn’t let me down.

I can’t wait until the next episode, TV just got GREAT again!

Anyone else watching? What are your thoughts? 

Girl Gang: Stephen King Character Edition

Inspired as always by the brilliant Meghan Lightle and her Avengers Girl Gang, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mighty female characters of Stephen King’s books. While some of his books are decidedly female-ccentric, it isn’t always the girls that get the glory. I’m here to round them up for my own personal girl gang needs.

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Emily Perkins (1990) ~ Sophia Lillis (2017) ~ Annette O’Toole (1990)

Beverly Marsh

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Our Bev is a fighter and no mistake. A victim of childhood abuse at the hands of her father, she grows up to fulfill her creative dreams but still has to deal with the weak bullshit of men throughout her life. The only girl in the Losers Club, I feel like Bev could do with some girl power in her life, not that there’s anything wrong with the dynamic of that original squad (icky adolescent orgy aside).

Bev isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it comes to bullies nor stick up for what is right at all costs, and these are qualities you need in a friendship circle. Plus, she’s a ginger like me (in the book and most recent adaptation).

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Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan (as Elizabeth Beaumont) in George A. Romero‘s The Dark Half (1993)

Elizabeth Beaumont

In The Dark Half, Elizabeth is a plucky and resourceful character who has to deal with an awful lot of upheaval when her author husband Thaddeus takes on his supernatural killer twin, George Stark. Stark is best described as other-wordly and not altogether human, born of the page created by Thad himself. When she finds herself caught in all the drama of Stark’s ‘birth’ (read the book), Elizabeth remains level-headed and pragmatic. She’s a mother lion ferociously protecting her twin cubs (twins run the family, what can I say) and she doesn’t suffer fools.

In all of Thad’s scenes I wanted to read more about Elizabeth, who deserves more than just a supporting role. More female central protagonists please, Mr King!

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Chloë Grace Moretz (2013) ~ Carrie cover ~ Sissy Spacek (1976)

Carrie White

“It was time to teach them All a lesson, time to show them… a thing or two!”

Okay, so Carrie is a little bit freaky deaky but she’s a talented telekinetic and how fun would that be? You could have her tip cups of coffee over mansplainers all day long with no come back.

Plus, how much did Carrie just need a damn good friend to stand beside her and say, You’re fine babe just as you are and these high school days, they mean nothing in the end? I’d take her under my wing and I’d just have to be sure I never upset her.

(Admittedly, the movie version of Carrie White seemed a little fluffier than the book version).

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Shelley Duvall (1980) ~ Rebecca De Mornay (1997) ~ Wendy Torrance fan art

Wendy Torrance

Mrs T is slightly irritating but she’s also a damn survivor and that makes her okay in my book. She’s quick to pick fault in her husband Jack but to be fair he’s not the nicest dude (in the book more so – he breaks his son’s arm even before he goes insane in The Overlook).

I think we’d get on because I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that has you walking on eggshells (past, don’t worry) and I kind of dig her kooky wardrobe. She seems like fun when she’s not stressed out.

Who’s in your gang?

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter pointed out that she’d choose Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne for not putting up with any shit from men and I realised I’d forgotten to add Rose to my list.

Dolores I’m sure is a worthy contender but I haven’t read her story yet, and can barely remember the film. So shout out to these two women who are welcome to join the gang anytime! 

Weekly Digest

This week I am seriously digging:

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Atlanta, Season 2

The first season of Atlanta was so good, I feel like I’ve been waiting a life time for it to return. And now Donald Glover and friends (including the amazing Lakeith Stanfield) are back and it’s just as good as ever. Not only is deeply observational, it also has a lot to say about the state of the world, from the point of view of its mainly black cast.

It’s also funny as hell with some of the most off the wall scenarios (particularly episodes 1 (“Alligator Man“) and 6 (“Teddy Perkins“)). One of my favourites so far is episode 5, “Barbershop” which is pure perfection in its simplicity but is written so well and made me cackle all the way through.

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Killing Eve

I’m two episodes into this Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-written thriller and I’m frankly OBSESSED. Starring Sandra Oh, Fiona Shaw and always-flawless Jodie Comer as super-assassin Villanelle it’s already been pretty explosive.

Currently playing on BBC America it’s one of my most favourite current shows and I can’t wait to see how Oh’s Eve Polastri fares in her mission to uncover the identity of the woman knocking off several of the world’s most prolific people. What’s more this all feels very female and while we do meet your usual bullshit male bureaucrats, it’s very much the women who shine here.

Jillian, I think you will LOVE.

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This Jumpsuit (Above)

Look at this total babe in her orange kimono sleeved jumpsuit.

I can’t imagine myself looking half as good as this in it, however I still want to swan around in this in the warmer months, a straw bag swinging from one arm and my own statement earrings embellishing my ear lobes.

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Penguin Modern Collection

There are 50 books in the Penguin Modern collection and are only £1 a pop, so you can grab yourself some classics from the greats without breaking a sweat. So far I’ve got:

Fame by Andy Warhol
New York City in 1979 by Kathy Acker
Food by Gertrude Stein
The End by Samuel Beckett
Investigations of a Dog by Franz Kafka
Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa and Others
The Breakthrough by Daphne Du Maurier
The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson
and The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker

Not bad for under a tenner, eh? And they look amazing on the bookshelf or in my case, dotted around the flat.

What are you digging this week?

The Woman in the Window (Book) Review

I read this book in tandem with my friend Heather and it was so much fun. We both raced through it in a couple of days and compared notes as we went. This book is impossible to put down, something authors are always quoted as saying for the cover of novels but in this case it’s true.

Anna Fox is a shut in who hasn’t left her home for ten solid months. Currently living alone, Anna moves dreamily from room to room within her own safe haven, only stopping to overdose on old Hollywood movies and to watch her neighbours through the window.

When she’s feeling up to it, she also offers her support to people like her on an online forum for agoraphobics. As a former child psychologist, she knows what she’s talking about. Sadly Anna is too haunted by her own past and mistakes to be any good at taking her own advice.

When a new family moves in across the way, Anna becomes infatuated with their day-to-day movements. But when she witnesses something earth-shattering her life is tipped all the way over and she must fight to prove she’s not a crazy bitch making shit up.

I really enjoyed the character of Anna and felt desperately sorry for her at times. Trapped in her own home there’s not a lot of freedom for our protagonist but she’s a goddamn fighter. The concept of the bat shit woman imagining things is not a new one but I feel as though the pace and plotting of this novel lifts it above the rest. The prose is beautiful and the characterisation well padded.

My sympathy is with Anna and her family and even though I thought I could see it all coming, it kept me guessing until the end. As an avid curtain twitcher myself, I really appreciated the Rear Window-esque snooper in Anna and her love of black and white noir doesn’t hurt either. It’s incredibly Hitchcockian and that can only ever be a good thing.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves a thriller.

Book details:

The Woman in the Window
Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018)
ISBN-10: 0008234159
ISBN-13: 978-0008234157
Gifted hardback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Weekly Digest

This week I am loving:

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The Fall

I’m very late to this party but I’ve become obsessed. I’ve done the first two seasons already this weekend. Could being able to rinse an extraordinary amount of television within a tiny window of time be considered a super power?

In The Fall, a strangler is terrorising Belfast with his sadistic woman-murdering ways. He has a very particular type too, so dark-haired, beautiful professional women beware. Hot on the heels of this monster, thankfully is Gillian Anderson‘s Stella Gibson, MET officer and all-round badass – so he better fucking watch himself.

There’s little mystery here, from the start you know whodunnit but as it unravels we learn more about the psyche of the man behind the killer – and it’s a compelling watch. PHEW-EE.

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Stella Gibson from The Fall

A shout out to the character of Stella Gibson as mentioned above for her cool demeanor – and her chic-as-shit wardrobe. Stella is fighting the good fight for the victims of the Belfast Strangler and I enjoy her very much. She doesn’t seem frightened of anything in the heat of the moment but she’s a deep and interesting character.

I really enjoy Stella’s confidence, attitude towards the Patriachy and her chemistry with both PC Danielle Ferrington and pathologist Reed Smith.  Who run the world?

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Pet Sematary – Film & Book

My god I love this book. I’ve recently finished it and can honestly say it’s one of my favourites so far. While I was expecting it to be super trashy, I was actually greeted by a sad lament on grief and loss – by way of an abandoned Indian burial ground, of course.

Nobody can spin a yarn the way Uncle Stephen can and I’m still firmly in love with his mind. Who knows what I’ll find next?

As for the 1989 film adaptation, well it is what it is. And what it is, is: AWESOME.

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This Week’s Graffiti

Just a few of my favourite bits of graffiti/street art from this week. Brighton is great.

What are you digging this week?

Weekly Digest

This week I am digging:

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Search Party, Season Two

One of my favourite shows is back and I found out BY ACCIDENT! So I spend a whole weekend rinsing the second season and it was dark and funny – and a perfect reminder of how much I love the characters in the first place.

I’m going to give this show a post of its own so won’t go into too much detail but this season picks up right after the shocking events of the last, and sees our intrepid foursome dealing with some very hard truths in the cold light of day.

Love, love, love.

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The Mountain Between Us

I thought this film would be cheesy as all hell and it is. But there’s something kind of old school and wholesome about it – and I enjoyed the ride. The obvious thought here is who wouldn’t want to be stranded up a mountain with Idris Elba, even with a broken leg and certain death just round the corner? But I will not be that predictable.

Kate Winslet for the record is still a problematic fave. I like and respect her but I just can’t really get my head around the defending Woody Allen thing. Like, she’s allowed to have her own opinion but I’m surprised by it.

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Little Fires Everywhere

When artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, everything changes. Not least for the Richardson family who rent a duplex to the new arrivals. Mia promises Pearl that this time is different, that this time they won’t leave after six months for the next town that feels right – and Pearl starts to plant roots, starting with new best friend Moody.

Things are idyllic for a while but then something happens and the two families find themselves on opposing sides of an argument that threatens to split the perfect community in two. Secret pasts unravel, loyalties are tested and hearts are broken.

LFE is beautifully written by its author, Celeste Ng. The characters are vivid and wonderful. A good read for a cold Sunday afternoon, or anytime really.

What are you digging this week?