It has not been apparent to me before, how much the flora contributed to the sense of menace Daphne du Maurier creates so exquisitely. This is the best part about rereading a favorite novel, and reading it again: the atmosphere never gets old.
I had not realized how closely the trees grew together here, their roots stretching across the path like tendrils ready to trip one…there is no sense or beauty in this undergrowth. That tangle of shrubs there should be cut down to bring light to the path. It was dark, much too dark. That naked eucalyptus tree stifled by brambles looked like the bleached limb of a skeleton, and there was a black earthy stream running beneath it, choked with the muddied rains of years, trickling silently to the beach below. (p. 155)
At every turn, Rebecca is lifted up. Admired. Adored. Almost idolized. Mrs. Danvers, of course, keeps Rebeca’s rooms in the west wing in perfect order, as if Rebecca might come back at any moment. Her apricot nightdress, creased from when she last wore it, is in its case; the costly china ornaments are freshly dusted each day, and flowers adorn every surface.
The new Mrs. de Winter is taken by her sister-in-law, Beatrice, to visit Gran. At first, their meeting is quite pleasant, with water-cress sandwiches, freshly cut, laid before the old woman. Then, Gran’s memory clouds. “I want Rebecca!” she says. “Where is Rebecca? Why did not Maxim come and bring Rebecca?” They quickly leave her to the nurse, both deeply embarrassed.
One of the greatest horrors in the novel is the fancy dress ball. Lady Crowan suggested it should be hosted at Manderley once again this year, and as it was practically forced down their throats, Maxim agreed. When Mrs. Danvers slyly suggests a painting of Catherine de Winter for the Mrs. de Winter to copy, the new bride promises her husband the “surprise of his life.” She doesn’t realize how true this will be, for she dresses exactly as Rebecca did at the last fancy dress ball. Mrs. Danvers knew. Mrs. Danvers manipulated the whole charade.
What does she care if Maxim is wounded by her deed? “What do I care for his suffering?” she said, he’s never cared about mine. How do you think I’ve liked it, seeing you sit in her place, walk in her footsteps, touch the things that were hers?…She’s still mistress here, even if she is dead. She’s the real Mrs. de Winter, not you. It’s you that’s the shadow and the ghost.” (p. 246)
All along, we’re led to believe that Rebecca is the one who is loved. Rebecca is the one with the power. That Maxim paces the floor in grief over the loss of his wife.
I shall not spoil the ending. I shall not uncover what du Maurier has carefully built up. But, every time I read it, I am astonished anew. When critics have said Daphne du Maurier is the master of suspense they weren’t kidding, and everyone else pales in comparison. Just as we think the new Mrs. de Winter pales next to Rebecca.
Thanks to Heavenali for hosting Daphne du Maurier reading week. Every year it gives me a chance to enjoy her work all over again.
Happy Mother's Day to you!!! I'm thankful for you and for your Motherhood. By the way, I'm almost done with Jamaica Inn - So good!!!!!!! Have a very lovely day. I'll talk with you more about Daphne du Maurier a little later.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your good wishes for this day; how blessed I am to be a mother, to have my dear son.Delete
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about Jamaica Inn and discussing Daphne du Maurier.
Your post makes me want to reread Rebecca... right away!ReplyDelete
Can one read Rebecca too many times?😉Delete
I have read 3 books by her, so far this is still my favoriteReplyDelete
I think it is mine, too, but I’m terribly fond of Frenchman’s Creek, too….Delete