I have been focusing lately on reading some modern classics that have always been on my ‘to read’ list and Rebecca is the next book that I’ve always felt like I should read, yet never managed to get around to. I do have to warn you though that this review does contain major spoilers.
It’s taken me a few days to write this review as Rebecca was not at all what I was expecting and it’s taken me some time to get my head around what exactly I thought about the story. Firstly I will say that I massively enjoyed reading it; I love stories from unreliable first person narrators and Rebecca certainly told an interesting and challenging story.
The unnamed narrator marries widower Maxim de Winter early on in the narrative, after meeting him in Monte Carlo. To say she is naive is an understatement, and she soon becomes obsessed with the thought of his seemingly-perfect first wife, Rebecca. When she arrives at his home, Manderley, it becomes clear that she is not the only one obsessed with the memory of Rebecca, as the story is dominated by her character, despite her death in an accident nearly a year ago. Most unsettling is the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who cannot let the memory of Rebecca go.
Then, in a dramatic twist, a shipwreck leads to the discovery of a body underwater which allows the narrator to discover the truth: Rebecca was not flawless or perfect, and her husband has been keeping a major secret from her.
What I found really interesting was that I was expecting a love story, or a story where I would feel pity for the new Mrs de Winter who had been pushed out of the happiness of marriage by the memory of a dead woman. However, this novel was nowhere near that simple and each character contained their own flaws, and none more so than Maxim de Winter. In this character we find a master manipulator who is not only a murderer but who also somehow manages to paint himself as the victim. It is an extraordinary story as it is revealed that character after character works out the truth yet somehow most manage to forgive or even cover for him.
And none more so than his wife, who actually becomes his accomplice once she discovers the gruesome truth. Perhaps it is a sign of her naivety or the skill with which he manipulates those around him, as she covers for him repeatedly, and sees him as the innocent party. As I read this story I could not help but feel some pity for Rebecca who would forever be seen as a monster, while her husband walked free from the dreadful murder that he committed. The ending felt wonderfully ominous though, and I could not help but think that the destruction of Manderley was symbolic of the narrator’s future with her husband: it could not be a happy one with a man like that for a husband.