REVIEW: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
I don’t remember when I first saw the film version of Rebecca – I probably caught it on Turner Classic Movies when I was in my teens. I don’t think I saw it all the way through the first time, and it’s possible I’ve actually never seen it from beginning to end in one sitting. But piecemeal, here and there, over the years, I believe I’ve seen the whole film. I’ve certainly seen it enough to be pretty familiar with the story, and the movie is compelling enough that I remember large parts of it, even with my current sieve-like memory. Laurence Olivier as the dashing yet troubled Max de Winter, Joan Fontaine as the infuriatingly mousy unnamed heroine, and Dame Judith Anderson as the magnetic, maniacal Mrs. Danvers. Worst. Housekeeper. Ever./Comic Book Guy voice
Anyhoo, a while back I was thinking I should really read Daphne du Maurier; I never had. I considered getting My Cousin Rachel, which I knew (and still know) nothing about. I toyed with Jamaica Inn, which I remember from a 1980s television movie (maybe a miniseries?) starring Jane Seymour, with whom I had an abiding childhood fascination (she was so beautiful and British!). But Rebecca came up on sale and though I had my reservations (see: annoying mousy heroine), I snapped it up.
The narrator of Rebecca remains famously unnamed throughout; I’ve seen her referred to outside the novel as simply “the second Mrs. de Winter.” Du Maurier seems to tease us with her namelessness; there are a couple of references to her first name being unusual; Maxim comments on it and later she receives a letter and is surprised that her first name is spelled correctly. Mostly the lack of name is an obvious commentary on the narrator’s own lack of sense of self and the fact, or at least perception, that she stands always in the shadows of the titular character, Max’s dead first wife.
The story begins in some unnamed locale in Europe; Max and the second Mrs. de Winter are exiles, drifting through a rather sad and tedious-sounding life after some scandal/disaster. They stay in small hotels so as to avoid people they know and cleave to small, familiar rituals, like reading English newspapers that arrive in the mail. The cricket scores have become a link to the life they’ve lost.
The story soon shifts back in time, to Max and the narrator’s meeting in Monte Carlo. The narrator is companion to a loud and brassy American woman, Mrs. Van Hopper. The elder lady has the habit of imposing herself on anyone prominent or noteworthy, and she zeroes in on Maxim de Winter when she spies him in the lobby:
“It’s Max de Winter,” she said, “the man who owns Manderley. You’ve heard of it, of course. He looks ill, doesn’t he? They say he can’t get over his wife’s death…”
Mrs. Van Hopper, armed with a total lack of shame, manages to engage Max for coffee. Her efforts to pursue him further are stymied when she falls ill, and while she convalesces Max and the narrator form a friendship, taking meals and drives together. The narrator (gosh that gets annoying to type) is so young and green that it doesn’t seem to occur to her that Max has any romantic intentions towards her until, as she and Mrs. Van Hopper prepare to leave Monte Carlo for New York, he proposes. Though shocked and plagued by self-doubt (maybe “self-doubt” is the heroine’s unusual name; it would certainly fit), she accepts. After a brief honeymoon, it’s off to the famous Manderley.
The second Mrs. de Winter is immediately overwhelmed (to be fair, she’d probably be overwhelmed by a rousing game of tic-tac-toe). Manderley is huge and imposing and full of history and servants, and she has no experience with or understanding of how to go about things. Making matters worse are two things (well three things, because Max is certainly no help): 1) the omnipresent shadow of Max’s dead first wife Rebecca, and 2) Mrs. Danvers, the uber-creepy housekeeper who is Rebecca’s #1 stan.
Rebecca de Winter died in a boating accident the previous year. She supposedly went out in her small boat, got caught in a storm, and sank. Maxim had identified her body when it washed up some time after the accident. When alive, Rebecca was universally (well, almost) adored and admired for being beautiful and charismatic and just about everything the second Mrs. de Winter isn’t (or at least doesn’t think she is).
As I think I’ve made clear, I’m not a fan of the second Mrs. de Winter. I wasn’t in the movie and I definitely wasn’t in the book (actually, reading the book allows me to appreciate how well Joan Fontaine embodied the awkward, self-conscious and perpetually dithery narrator). To be fair, I don’t think I’m necessary supposed to like her. Rebecca isn’t a romance, for all it contains a number of tropes familiar in romance, particularly gothic romance.
So the narrator settles in to Manderley, or tries to, but she’s thwarted at every turn, often by her own child-like fearfulness. For instance, she breaks a small china figurine in her (Rebecca’s old) morning room, and afraid to tell anyone, she hides the pieces. Except it turns out that the figurine was valuable, and when the staff is accused in its disappearance, she has to confess, making herself look ridiculous in the process. Part of me understood her reticence and general lack of backbone – under certain circumstances, I can imagine acting similarly, particularly in my younger days. (Maybe that’s why it bugs me so much?) Another part of me wants to slap her and tell her to fake it til she makes it, or some similar. I feel like I should be more sympathetic to her, but her behavior (and her endless obsessive daydreams about how everyone is looking down on her or how Rebecca would have done such-and-such so much better) make her really irritating and hard to like.
The narrator encounters various other characters once she arrives at Manderley: Rebecca’s oily cousin Jack, with whom Rebecca was apparently, um, really close; Maxim’s brusque but kind sister Beatrice; Frank Crawley, Maxim’s land agent (about the only character I unreservedly liked in the book); and a young local who is developmentally disabled and seems to have been afraid of Rebecca. But she’s also often alone with her thoughts, and with some manipulation by Mrs. Danvers, her thoughts are often focused on her own inadequacy in comparison to the sublime Rebecca. Matters come to a head when the narrator (again with Danvers’ malevolent “help”) commits a huge faux pas at a costume ball that she and Maxim are pressed by locals into throwing (Rebecca used to throw one every year and of course everyone just adored it). From there, things begin to fall apart as the truth of Maxim’s marriage to Rebecca is revealed and the dead refuse to lie quietly.
The movie departs from the book in one significant detail (BIG SPOILER FOR BOTH THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE!):
Spoiler (spoiler): Show
Everything that happens in the last quarter of the book is pretty much a big spoiler, so I’ll stop recounting the plot here. Normally I’m not as concerned with spoiling older books, but so much of Rebecca depends on the twists and turns at the end. If by chance someone *doesn’t* know the story (I think of it as one of those books that one picks up at least some knowledge about via cultural osmosis, but maybe not), then they deserve a chance to read it (or see the movie!) without having those twists and turns ruined.
Often when I review a classic, especially if I mention the romance/romantic elements in the book, someone will pop up and say, “but X isn’t a romance!” And that’s usually true, and definitely true here. I was thinking about why I associated Rebecca with romance. Is it because of the central “aha!” moment, where the heroine learns she’s been mistaken all along in thinking the hero doesn’t love her? That is, after all, a common enough romance cliche. (Mary Balogh comes to mind here, for some reason.) It may be that Laurence Olivier sells it in the movie better than du Maurier does in the book. It was, after all, a big 1940s studio film, even if it *wasn’t* a romance, so I expect it to be more conventional and straightforward in its psychology than the novel might be. I also think the well-established (if twisted) ways in which Rebecca echoes that seminal romance, Jane Eyre, kind of messes with my perceptions of it.
(I was also just re-reading the afterword to my edition of the book, which mentions that du Maurier’s publisher touted Rebecca to booksellers as an “exqusite love story.” Which is kind of crazy if you’ve actually read the book.)
Rebecca really isn’t about love or romance at all, and certainly not about the love between the nitwit narrator and the morally weak and corrupt Maxim de Winter. I don’t see them as being in love – she doesn’t rhapsodize about characteristics of Maxim’s that she admires in the text. If anything, she seems afraid of him – not on a physical level, but she fears his disapproval. She is rescued from drudgery (shades of Cinderella) and appreciates the attention of an older, worldly man, a sort of father figure who will take care of her. She wants to make Max happy the way a dog would want to please its master.
Whereas Max, again in a sort of parody of romance-novel think, is drawn to the heroine’s purity and innocence, her untouched gaucheness. Once the reader knows more of the story, it becomes clear that what he wants is the anti-Rebecca, which, while understandable given the circumstances, really isn’t very romantic.
So what is Rebecca about, then? Mostly obsession, I think. The second Mrs. de Winter is obsessed with the first Mrs. de Winter, as is, of course, Mrs. Danvers. Max is obsessed with Manderley and keeping up appearances, like the good English aristocrat he is, but he takes this obsession to an extreme level (though not so extreme that he doesn’t take pains to cover his ass – Max is at heart a self-interested coward). Rebecca, though ostensibly the point around which the other characters orbit, is a bit of a MacGuffin – she’s just a cold, dead bitch that those characters pin their longings and insecurities to. Her power is illusory, but no one seems to realize it.
Rebecca wasn’t exactly a fun read – my distaste for the narrator was too strong for that. But it is masterfully plotted and written and definitely makes me want to read more by du Maurier. I’ll give it a B+.
I think the Film tries to sell it as a romance. Olivier was at the height of his charm and looks then and the changes from the book ignore what happens “after” (when they are skulking around hotels) apart from the changes to Maxim’s character. They make a point of showing a slide show of their honeymoon where they are smiling and happy and much cozier than they are when they get to Manderly.
Joan Fontaine does a fantastic job of playing the mousy, fearful narrator. I can’t imagine anyone at the time playing it better. Olivier had pushed for Vivien Leigh to play the role and there is even a screen test of hers that survived that shows it was pretty much impossible for her to be convincingly mousy. As much as I am a fan of Leigh’s, I’m very glad they went with Fontaine.
Rebecca, to me, is more of a psychological thriller. I saw the movie before I ever read the book, which was passed on to me by my best friend who found the unnamed narrator too passive. Unlike her, I loved it.
I also love My Cousin Rachel, but it’s not a romance and shouldn’t be viewed as such. As a tale of obsession, it’s brilliant and creepy and a very fine example of the unreliable narrator.
As a teenager reading REBECCA for the first time, I was sure du Maurier wanted us to think *she* was Rebecca. Not IRL, of course, but, yes, I thought she was pretending to be her own main character, being coy with reference to her “unusual” first name, and I understood her surprise about seeing it spelled correctly.
As an adult, I recognized the absence of her name for what it was, an abnegation of self, an erasure. And, boy, did I hate how obsequious she was, even though nothing in her life, as far as we were told, would have given her any confidence or poise or experience. Reading it again for book club last year was almost painful.
Perhaps the reason books like REBECCA, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and others are still thought by some to be romance has more to do with romantic elements or scenes (or actors) than with the actual story. Taken as a whole, these are not romance novels at all. I agree with @autonomous that this is obsession above all else.
I feel for anyone who had to watch the film Rebecca for the first time on TV. I saw it at a movie screening and wow, those shots of the burning house, the billowing curtains, the creepy Mrs. Danvers. It’s Hitchcock and black-and-white cinema at the height of their powers.
I read the book when I was at high school knowing nothing about it at all (thanks to the minimal blurbs on the back of Penguin Classics) and I loved it because I had no idea what was going to happen. Mind you I read exclusively mysteries at the time so I wasn’t measuring the book against romance expectations.
I watched the movie at the uni cinema for English 101 and I was so disappointed by the changed ending! It felt like a real cop out (which of course it was). But they are completely different pieces of art and shouldn’t really be compared, I don’t think. I particularly loved the language of the book and the suspenseful atmosphere. The prologue really contributes to that, because you know something terrible must happen later.
And finally, I read somewhere that the reason the narrator has no name is because du Maurier couldn’t think of the right one, so she decided to leave her nameless. No symbolism intended at all! It was rather serendipitous in the end, though.
@Christine: I read the same, about Vivien Leigh – she was a great actress but it’s very hard to imagine her in that role!
@Darlynne: I felt a little bad about disliking the heroine so much after reading the afterword, in which it’s explained that du Maurier wrote most of it in Alexandria, terribly homesick and discontented with her life as an officer’s wife. She apparently felt some kinship to the narrator, feeling shy and out of place in her role. I do understand the feelings and insecurities the narrator have; we were just too much in her head and she was too obsessive about them for me not to be irritated by her.
@Janine: It’s a beautifully done film – I have not seen all of Hitchcock’s work but it’s definitely one of his best.
@oceanjasper: I wonder how I would have approached the story if I didn’t already know what would happen. I think a lot of the elements that maybe irritated me a bit – mostly having to do with the heroine – would have increased the tension because yes, it’s clear that the whole thing is going to fall apart (I mean, the prologue makes it clear; I also wonder how different the book would without the prologue?).
We have all read “Rebecca” in our family and found it to be extremely exciting and mysterious as like high quality literature. Quite the fascinating wording and told with wording done by a well schooled person.
It is “the best” in our point of view.
Jennie, I’m sorry that Rebecca’s narrator didn’t work for you; it makes the novel a really long slog. I agree with Autonomous and Darlynne that this is a psychological thriller and a story of obsession (of various types and for various people).
It could just be that she wouldn’t work for you at any time, but I do wonder if our emphasis (in romance) on kickass heroines and the heroine’s deployment of agency (in every subgenre) has made us less able to connect to characters like the narrator, who are so beaten down by their circumstances. That’s how I saw her when I read the book many years ago, before I saw the movie. I didn’t identify with her, but I could understand her. I think that her class position also contributed to her seeming spinelessness; she was out of her element and moved from being the downtrodden companion of a horrible woman to the saved and confused wife of a handsome, rich, powerful man. Today such a heroine would take charge, but that’s really a fantasy. Narrator embodies all the difficulties of moving into a world that would despise her.
This is not a romance, but I do think it’s a love story. Narrator loves Max, and Max turns out to love her. He rescues her from her present and she saves him from his past. I believe in their future together, although I’m sure it was fraught.
I read all the du Maurier books I could get my hands on (so I assume all of them) as a teenager, and haven’t revisited any of them since. Although I could appreciate aspects of them, none were what I’d call fun reads. I liked Rebecca best of the lot, but it was dark and literally had no likable characters–and I totally agree with the “nitwit narrator” assessment. But my young self was most disappointed with the ending. Is this all there is? Talk about a life of settling.
That said, I did pick up the audiobook awhile back. I was mostly drawn to it because it was narrated by the amazing Anna Massey (she played Mrs. Danvers in the TV series that was shown on PBS–anyone remember that?), so I’m curious if she was the narrator for your version.
@Sunita: That’s an interesting read about the Maxim de Winter and the narrator’s relationship.
By the end of the book, I saw it as a seesaw of power. Max without Manderley and the burden of what happened to Rebecca was revealed to be weak, broken, and vulnerable. Whereas the narrator now felt empowered by the loss of Manderley (she no longer had to deal with her social and class inadequacies) and Rebecca never being a threat to her marriage. Max–who had seemed so arrogant, so assured, so mysterious–now needed her strength (and love) to feel confident.
I also read this in high school (we studied it in year 9, from memory) and loved it. It still makes my favourites list. None of us had any idea about the plot and it was torturous waiting for everyone to finish reading it so we could discuss the “holy shit!” bits!
I love Rebecca the movie. I have it on DVD. I am all about the romance so I can’t help but see the relationship between the second Mrs. de Winter and Maxim (Sir Laurence Olivier! *swoon*) as romantic. I’m kind of glad I haven’t read the book because it would surely ruin my romantic dreams. LOL. (I know it’s not supposed to be romance but I am extraordinarily good at pretending.)
On a lighter note – this Mitchell & Webb skit about Rebecca is just brilliant. https://youtu.be/-SlebFtgZPQ
Yes, yes, yes. This was my grandmother’s favourite book, and I recently listened to an audio version. Lovely accents, but talk about tedious. And unlikeable. And although I did read the book years ago, the twist still caught me by surprise, so I guess that says something about her writing.
Has anyone else ever wondered if the unnamed protagonist and Max are actually misrepresenting Rebecca (and secondarily Mrs Danvers)? It’s pretty clear that unnamed protagonist is an unreliable narrator who is giving us a second-hand account of Rebecca’s life, and that she may consciously or unconsciously be shaping the story to justify her own life and choices. Even in the best possible light, Max is revealed to be at times emotionally distant and manipulative, calculating, and obsessed (especially with his own heritage and reputation) as well as being someone, who, when in a rage, can and will lash out against those harming him. So much in this novel depends on us believing Max’s stories about Rebecca versus the common public report about Rebecca.
What if scenario that Max paints of Rebecca being cruel and cold and selfish in private is a lie and it’s the other way around? That is, Max is the cruel, selfish one and Rebecca, trapped in unhappy marriage, was rebelling against Max’s abuse and neglect. What if Rebecca’s crime was not promiscuity (which was a common charge labelled against strong women), but rather her autonomy and independence? What if what enrages Max is that Rebecca has no respect for him because he is the contemptible and cruel and hypocritical? What if Rebecca is a “nasty woman” who should be “locked up” because she is not the model of a proper wife — that is, one who is silent, respectful, demure, and so dependent that she ends have have no name?
Finally I know Rebecca has been compared to Jane Eyre — but I’ve always thought that comparison doesn’t quite work. While both stories about poor, lower class, younger women who end up with wealthy, upper-class widowers, whose previous wives were destructive and mad, Jane always has seemed to me to have had much more inner strength and character than Rebecca’s protagonist. The story of Jane Eyre is about Jane — it’s a vindication of her moral principles and viewpoint. The story of Rebecca is much more about Max and Rebecca and the ending much more ambiguous morally.
@Kathryn- so you are looking at Rebecca like a Wide Sargasso Sea situation? I’m surprised someone hasn’t written that book already. I guess if Agatha Christie taught us anything it’s that every narrator is to some degree “unreliable”.
I do think that it’s a modern fashion to look at older literature etc and try to find a feminist spin on it. It’s entertaining but I think from what we know about DuMaurier as the author this is one book where I’m willing to take things at face value. Coming from a female author I can accept that Rebecca was what she was.
I think the strength of DuMaurier as an author is that she wasn’t afraid to write all her characters, including the women, as somewhat “grey”. The narrator could have been a real Mary Sue, instead she wrote her as mousy and weak. A lot of Rebecca’s better qualities like her strength and confidence are things the narrator lacks and could use.
What a great discussion, thank you, all.
My reaction to Narrator, as an adult, is definitely stronger and less kind than as a teenager. Is my frustration with her more about my own insecurities and inability to fix hers/mine? Do I wish she’d come to a more positive understanding about herself? Yes, no, maybe.
Narrator is hyper-vigilant in catching every clue and nuance from Max; every raised eyebrow, every turned newspaper page, every slight is magnified in what I now recognize as co-dependent behavior. She is tuned into him, even after the fire and in their new life, to a very unhealthy degree. This can never be a relationship of equals and, on some level, I recognized this even way back when.
At the same time, however, while she’s obsessively watching the subliminal tennis match playing out among all the characters, she is appallingly clueless, and it is this with which I struggle so much. Maybe it’s because, as readers, we understand more than Narrator tells us, making her the uber unreliable narrator of all time. How did I know so surely that her costume was going to be a disaster? How did I know things were going to go so badly while she’s still standing on the train tracks as the whistle blows? If nothing else, du Maurier dished out heaping portions of dread at the same time she kept Narrator in the dark.
I read all of du Maurier’s books and, looking back, loved them all. Talk about atmosphere and gorgeous writing, I may have read THE HOUSE ON THE STRAND multiple times. But it’s as an adult that my problems with REBECCA surfaced and it just may be a book I have to leave as a fond memory.
I agree, Rebecca is definitely a suspense work and not a romance. I’m fairly sympathetic to the narrator, but I read it when I was an insecure teenager, so maybe I identified with it. I liked the movie, but definitely prefer the book for the ending.
My favorite memory of reading the book was summarizing the book to my dad and shocking him with the (spoiler?) plot twist. Is the fact there is a plot twist a spoiler? I’ll leave it t that.
My dad loves mysteries and thrillers and surprising him with the ending was a real thrill.
@Christine, I don’t think of this as exactly a Wide Sargasso Sea situation — I find Jane a much more reliable (and morally clear) narrator than Rebecca’s protagonist and I think Rochester’s character and moral growth are much more clearly delineated than Max’s. Rochester suffers emotionally and physically and by the end he has become a morally better human, who has learned from his past mistakes and regrets his past behavior to Jane. Max certainly regrets his first marriage, but it’s not clear that he regrets his past behavior (even his past neglect of the narrator).
Rochester and Jane may live a quiet, reclusive life after their marriage, but it’s overall a satisfying life to them. While it feels to me like Max and the narrator live a secluded life in exile not because they necessarily want to (or really find it satisfying), but because they feel the need to hide (or more likely it’s just Max that feels the need to hide).
Maybe it’s because I saw Hitchcock’s movie before I read the book and also because I was an adult when I finally read the book – but after finishing the book, I had no confidence that Max loved (or even really respected) the protagonist. (I actually think the movie is more positive because of way it is structured.) Max depends and needs her and she needs and depends on him – but it didn’t feel like a healthy relationship. Max reads to me as someone who takes and takes, but is not interested in giving, while the protagonist reads as someone who needs to be needed. The relationship felt broken to me and as a result, so does the narrative. And that disbelief in protagonist’s viewpoint on this matter of their relationship, means I begin to wonder about her reliability when it comes to her story about Rebecca and Max’s marriage.
I think that WSS and JE can co-exist somewhat together because they are both books exploring how two women negotiate their positions in a world where most cultural, economic, and social power resides with men (especially white, upper-class men). JE offers a view from the perspective of an impoverished, middle-class, white woman, while WSS offers a view from the perspective of a non-European, upper-class woman. Bertha and Jane definitely have some points in common because they are both women struggling to assert their autonomy in a sexist world. Jane’s real struggles are not with Bertha; they are battles with social/cultural norms and more importantly interior battles within her own pysche. Jane’s struggles are all about remaining true to herself and not giving into temptation. And Bertha’s struggles are also with the social/cultural norms that leave even wealthy women powerless and with her own mental health issues.
Rebecca the character / the unnamed narrator of the book do feel like they caught in moral binary where they can’t both be heroines. I just don’t see how a sympathetic story about Rebecca herself would not undermine the unnamed protagonist’s own story, precisely because she ties her position so tightly to Max’s viewpoint and accepts his moral valuations as correct. Max murdered Rebecca (and remember he believes she is pregnant at the time) and does not regret it because her behavior “forced” him (and the narrator facilitates this argument by telling the reader that Rebecca lied about her pregnancy and by presenting us with Mrs Danver’s reassurance that Rebecca would never have wanted to die slowly from a fatal illness). So a more complicated story about Rebecca undermines not just Max, but also undermine unnamed protagonist’s own character and worth.
Jane questions Rochester’s viewpoint constantly and leaves him because he wants to do something that Jane knows is wrong. So for me Bertha in WSS is not an anti-Jane, whose story undermines Jane’s story, so much as another way of exploring gender issues in the 19th century – this time through a post-colonial rather than through a class-based lens.
@Sunita: I maybe understand the heroine too well – that may be part of my issue with her.
I’m going to disagree with the idea that Max and the narrator truly love each other. It’s hard to know what Max thinks, of course, but the narrator never *seems* like she’s in love with Max, to me. She hero-worships him and wants his approval, but that’s not love, to me.
@Camille Hadley Jones: I think there’s some truth there – I think the narrator gets some of the power that Max loses when the truth is revealed.
I love this discussion! But I’m surprised no one mentioned Frenchman’s Creek, also by Du Maurier? The movie version has Joan Fontaine as the heroine – and she is a true heroine, even sword-fighting. She stumbles on the hero, a pirate who has appropriated her bothersome, disgraced and annoying husband’s country estate to be his hideaway. It’s set in the mid-17th Century in the reign of Charles II and the costumes are superb. The ship scenes at the end have a hokey studio feel, but it was filmed in 1944. The costumes, watch it for those.
The book is likewise, superb. The anti-Rebecca. I say this as a person who probably read Rebecca 10 or 12 times, until I was in my early 20s and like Darlynne and others recognized that Max wasn’t a relationship I wanted. He wasn’t MY hero. He wasn’t even a hero – he was as passive as the narrator (or more so).
Frenchman’s Creek does NOT have an HEA and thus it is NOT what we would call a romance – although there is a love story. But spoiler, no HEA. Although I won’t tell you how that unravels, but don’t expect the happy ending. Still, it’s interesting to compare the main characters and the ‘absent’ spouse in these two books. The dynamics are very different.
@Anna Richland: I will have to add Frenchman’s Creek to my list – I’ve heard of it but didn’t know anything about it.
I think you make a good point about Max’s passivity – he puts up with Rebecca’s behavior and then he handles the aftermath of her death very badly – he almost doesn’t seem that smart to me. I have no idea, for instance, why he misidentified the body that washed up as Rebecca’s. I could make some guesses, but there didn’t seem to be a really compelling reason for him to do so.
I’m so sorry I missed this discussion when it was originally published!
DuMaurier is one of my favorite writers (even my dog is named Daphne!), even though I too consider her work to be very, very complicated. A lot of those complications have already been addressed by other commenters, so I won’t get into it again, except to say that it’s those complications, combined with the intensity of her writing, that keep me coming back to read her work again and again.
I DID want to post a few things about DuMaurier movies, though.
First, MY COUSIN RACHEL is being released as a film later this year starring Rachael Weisz and Sam Claflin. It looks fantastic!!! If you have never read MY COUSIN RACHEL, I would tell you that it is probably one of the best thrillers ever written. You will definitely dislike the characters, and find them confusing and unsettling and menacing, but that’s what makes the book so good, even after it’s over. For me, it’s the most haunting of all of DuMaurier’s books.
Here’s a link to the new movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLTw7f3Yg5g
Second, there IS a recent miniseries of JAMAICA INN that was produced by the BBC. It stars Jessica Brown Findlay (from Downton Abbey) as Mary Yellen. If you love DuMaurier, it’s worth checking out, but if you are just so-so on her works, I’d skip it. I think you can still get it on Netflix. The production values are fantastic, but as a lot of reviewers have said, the accents are really tough to get around. (The main complain was “mumbling.”)
Finally, there is a totally cheesy version of REBECCA starring Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister from from Game of Thrones as Maxim) and Diana Rigg (as Mrs. Danvers) that was made in the late 90s. It is ONLY for hard core REBECCA fans. I am warning you! :) You will not get through this miniseries if you do not absolutely love REBECCA because it is so overbaked — like, Rebecca is seen in soft-focus flashbacks laughing evilly and stuff like that. Maxim and the second Mrs. DeWinter have sex scenes. (Also, Faye Dunaway chews up the scenery as Mrs. Van Hopper, which is pretty hilarious.) It’s worth watching if you are a DuMaurier enthusiast, but otherwise, you will probably be like my husband, who literally stood up from the couch and said, “This makes me feel bad” and went out in the garage to hide.
I have not been able to locate the 1979 movie version of REBECCA with Jeremy Brett as Maxim, but would love to know if anyone has seen it!
@Liz: Go to youtube. The 1979 version is there. Here’s part one of four. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8XdXIVVA0c
@Jayne Thank you! I haven’t looked for it in awhile and didn’t realize it was there!