Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

by Daphne de Maurier
410 pages
published: 1938
For: Book Club
1 of 5 stars

Well, you know what I thought of the beginning, but I hadn't finished the book and had not formed my final opinion. I was hoping it would change. Ironically, about half a chapter after my rant, things started to improve. Wanna know why?? People started talking!!!

I didn't before realize how important conversation was to me.


Maxim de Winter brings a young new wife home to his estate where the presence of his late wife, Rebecca still lingers. The new Mrs. de Winter has trouble learning to run a house, trouble with the scornful housekeeper, and trouble staying close to her troubled husband. What happened to Rebecca?


Things had picked up after the first 100 pages. There were new characters, there was confusion, there was mystery. And then there was the freakish housekeeper. Makes me think about traveling asylums, perhaps like door-to-door salespeople:

Ding Dong.
"May I help you?"
"We were just wondering if you had any crazy people you would like us to take off your hands?"
"Why yes. My housekeeper is worshiping a dead sociopath and tried to kill me!"
"Well, we can take care of that for you! Load her up, Frank!"
"What a relief. I'm so glad you were in the neighborhood today."
"No problem Ma'am. That's our job."

But I digress.

So I was enjoying the book finally. I was truly thinking it might all be salvageable. It got creepy. There were several layers of "bad guys." There was the fear of getting found out. There were a few fewer descriptions of flowers and definitely fewer imaginings of Nameless. There was rising action...dramatic action...relief....more rising action...

Then splat.

It didn't finish. It just stopped. I searched the back matter. I searched the crease of my book in case pages had been ripped out. Nope. The book just didn't have an end. ???? I tried to read the included "alternate" epilogue and choked. I re-read the epilogue in the second chapter, choked, tried harder, skimmed, and then called it good. I gave this book more than it deserved already.

Questions Not Answered: (Spoilers Alert!!)
  1. Why didn't Nameless have a name? (In the author notes, Mrs. du Maurier said something like not being able to think of one, then writing no name as a sort of challenge.) Not good enough reasons!! Why didn't she have a name! Or a face! Or an age! This wasn't any sort of a deal breaker, but it was annoying.
  2. Why stop the book before the end?
  3. Did everyone die? Did everyone live?
  4. Did Favell not call Mrs. Danvers in time? Why did she set the house on fire? Did she even do it?
  5. Why did it go all Jane Eyre at the end?
  6. Why did they leave the country? Their life had some rough spots, yes, but leave the whole country??
  7. If they "had" to leave the country, why live a boring, sad life? Why not go adventuring like on their honeymoon? These people are easily broken!!
  8. Why was Mrs. Danvers so dedicated to a sociopath?
  9. Why didn't Max produce proof of adultery as evidence to divorce Rebecca and get out of his nightmare long before that night? Didn't they such things as personal dectectives?
  10. But most importantly: WHY STOP THE BOOK BEFORE THE END?!?!?!?
I may have listed something twice, but so what? Endings are important. A whole book can be ruing by a bad end.

I'm done.


  1. Huh, I really liked the ambiguous ending. Maybe that's just how I like them - leave some things up in the air.

    I also liked that the main character didn't have a name. The book was really all about Rebecca and it would have diminished it (maybe) if we talked about another person's first name as often. She was so overshadowed by that first wife that she was nameless even. An interesting thing, if somewhat annoying :)

    Sorry you didn't like it!

  2. What Melissa said on the name. The book is about Rebecca, even if narrated by Nameless. The fact that she didn't have a name is to make a major point about how powerful Rebecca's presence is and how Nameless cowers before it/her.

    Oh, man! And I wasn't going to go and re-read this one, but I now I feel I need to because I don't remember being let down by the end!

    Gosh, you make me think too much!! :)

  3. THOSE are very good points about Nameless. I had a ghost of that idea in the back of my mind, but two things happened: 1) the author's note and 2) I expected Nameless to receive a name at the end, once the Rebecca problem had been solved, and that that moment would be been beautiful. I think you guys are totally right. I just wish it had been handled differently.

    I don't think the ambiguous ending would have bothered me so much if the epilogue hadn't been so strange and badly placed. What was wrong with those wishywashy people who couldn't make any sort of life after the episode?? Something really awful must have happened at the burning house....but it was just dropped!

  4. So, I'm supposed to have read this book for a book club and lemme tell ya, I simply can NOT get past the second chapter. Every time I pick it up my mind wanders. I'm physically incapable of reading this one! After reading your review, I think I can put it back onto my TBR pile and not feel too guilty about putting it to another day in the distant future. Thanks for letting me off the hook there, Julie!

  5. PS, your traveling asylum idea: brilliant! Made me laugh!