January 28, 2011

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (15-27)

January 28, 2011
*Warning: this post contains material that warrants a “spoiler alert” for those that have never read the novel Rebecca. J
To say that Rebecca picks up speed in the second half of the novel is an understatement. The suspense was finally killing me, especially after the “OMG” revelation at the end of chapter 19. But, before we get to that: a brief summary of prior events. Since leaving off at the end of chapter 14, we know that the mysterious Mr. Favell is Rebecca’s cousin. The narrator has appeared at her first Manderley costume ball dressed exactly as Rebecca had been dressed at her last…due to the meddling of our eerie Mrs. Danvers. (I knew this was going to happen the moment she suggested a costume to the current Mrs. de Winters.) Then, the following morning the narrator has another fascinating run in with Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s bedroom where we learn that Mrs. Danvers had provided care for Rebecca as a child (hence her unusual attachment to the late Mrs. de Winters) and that she was also aware of Rebecca’s infidelity in her relationship with Maxim. The news of Rebecca’s unfaithfulness was interesting, but I did not find the news surprising. During this encounter, Mrs. Danvers also tries to talk the narrator into killing herself since it is “obvious” that Maxim does not love her and she does not belong at Manderley. At this same time, a ship wrecks off the shores of Manderley and eventually a diver is sent down to assess the damage. We learn that Rebecca’s boat has inadvertently been found by the diver and that there is a decomposed body aboard. Could it be one of her lovers?
It is then that Maxim drops a bombshell on his second wife and the reader: “The woman buried in the crypt is not Rebecca … it’s the body of some unknown woman, unclaimed, belonging nowhere. There never was an accident. Rebecca was not drowned at all. I killed her. I shot Rebecca in the cottage on the cove. I carried her body to the cabin, and took the boat out that night and sunk it there, where they found it today.” I have to say, it is not often that something in a novel genuinely surprises me, but this did. Although I suspected foul play in Rebecca’s death, I never for a moment suspected Maxim. I think I may have been suspecting Mrs. Danvers. Immediately, I began to wonder who else may have known. Was Mrs. Danvers aware? Was that why she had expressed such cold, bitter feelings for Maxim to the narrator earlier that day? Did Frank know? Was that why he had been so insistent that he must explain things to the narrator after her breakdown with him on the telephone that morning? It is hard to tell what good ole “Danny” actually knew and when she may have known it as she was so generally unhinged. It seems though, that Frank may have certainly been aware of the true nature of Rebecca’s demise even though Maxim had no idea that he knew.
I found the narrator’s handling of her husband’s admission remarkable. I am not sure that I would have remained quite so calm and supportive. Although I guess one can understand this reaction as Maxim’s confession also brought with it the revelation that he had never loved Rebecca, but had in fact loathed her and their sham of a marriage. The second Mrs. de Winter was, astonishingly, the one and only true Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca had been sleeping around with anyone and everyone including her cousin, Mr. Favell, and appears to have been an all together vile person. But, isn’t it so ironic that Maxim could have saved himself all this misery? He could have saved his Manderley. After all, Rebecca was dying anyway. Now that I think about it, perhaps Manderley was Maxim’s only true love - the only thing he was ever really married to. In any event, I can’t help but feel sorry for the life that the narrator is left with. And, by the way, what was her name??

The author...Daphne du Maurier

An older Daphne du Maurier


Kristi said...

I always thought that the new wife's reaction was kind of odd. I agree about Maxim only loving Manderley. I never got the feeling that he really loved his new wife. To me, it seemed like he married her as a distraction.

Lit Addicted Brit said...

Interesting points on Maxim's love of Manderley - I never thought of it like that but I think in some ways you're right.

Oddly enough, I like that we don't find out the narrator's name. I think it reflects Maxim's attitude towards her - she could be any woman, from anywhere of any age; a nameless wife. Because that's all he wants, just somebody. I think it also contrasts nicely with the excessive use of, and weight attached to, 'Rebecca'. But that could well just be me...

LBC said...

I felt like the narrator was relieved when Maxim confessed, because she knows she can stay with him now. I think she doesn't have a name because her only identity is Mrs. DeWinter. She wouldn't have much of story if it weren't for Maxim. Rebecca isn't really her story anyway as evidenced by the title.

I really like your blog by the way. This is my first visit.

Here is my post from the readalong:

Jessica said...

I thought the narrators fate was a terrible one but also ironic that she started the novel as a companion to an elderly woman and ended it as a companion to an older man, euh

Great review, the novel certainly kept me on my toes

Katy F. said...

That one scene where Mrs. Danvers was trying to talk the narrator into killing herself had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn't believe she was actually listening to Mrs. Danvers, the woman who had proven herself time and time again to be untrustworthy.

Carey said...

I have been so bothered by the fact that the narrator didn't have a name, but as I read the comments here and other blog posts and comments I realize that the novel is better with the name having been omitted. It is almost necessary for her to have been nameless. This is another reason why I have enjoyed these read-alongs: the ability of other readers to help me gain a more full or well-rounded understanding of the novel. :)

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