For the few years I have wanted to write thrillers, most writers of said genre have recommended reading Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca as the epitome of thriller and suspense fiction, and a classic in the era of Gothic fiction. Every time I saw this advice, I went “Yeah, but I’ll read it some day” and proceeded to forget. Not so recently—i.e. December last year—I picked up a copy from my local library with every intention of reading it. I started it slowly across January to March, only reading approximately 100 pages, but ultimately finding it far too slow-paced for my liking. Come last week, I had a bout of insomnia that coincided with the month of April and all that happens in the so-called “cruellest month”, as T.S Elliott and others have dubbed it (Easter, ANZAC Day, school holidays, etc). With that sudden case of insomnia, I thought to myself; “Why am I wasting time on the internet. Why not read?” Preferably, as the ad goes, I thought por qué no los dos, but I managed to read the remaining 280 pages of Rebecca in under a week, so it all worked out in the end! It didn’t help that, despite the initial slow-pace, Rebecca was so damn interesting, as Maxim de Winter would likely say.
Rebecca is the 1938 novel by English author Daphne DuMaurier, which was turned into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. While I haven’t watched the film, I have watched The Birds, another DuMaurier story-turned-film, and didn’t like it. I mean, I love Hitchcock’s Psycho, but The Birds just didn’t do it for me, mainly the ending. Maybe DuMaurier’s short story is much better than the film, but it left me a little worried when I started reading. Never mind! Despite starting off relatively slowly, and being very long (my edition was 380 words of short text—lucky I’m short-sighted, not long sighted!) As said before, I read the first 100 pages in three months, but the remainder of the book took me about 4 or 5 days. This is amazing for a slow reader! The basic premise of Rebecca is this: When the shy, unnamed narrator meets charming recluse gentleman Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo, they immediately fall in love and get married. However, their wedded bliss is short when they return to Manderley, Maxim de Winter’s lavish estate in the Cornish coast in England. The problem: the reason Maxim escaped to Monte Carlo in the first place was he had lost his first wife, the charming and amazing titular Rebecca, a year earlier, and when the second Mrs. de Winter arrives at Manderley, she lives in the shadow of the perfect previous Mrs. de Winter, and many of the residents of Manderley—including head maid Mrs. Danvers, among others—won’t let her forget that. There’s a lot of secrets at Manderley!