Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


Page from this book:

A quote that showcases du Maurier’s apparently easygoing, relaxed style, that slowly disintegrates until you, the reader, recognize the narrator’s façade of happiness over the dark, swirling undercurrent of fear and unease that permeates the whole book:

“I wanted to go on sitting there, not talking, not listening to the others, keeping the moment precious for all time, because we were peaceful all of us, we were content and drowsy even as the bee who droned above our heads. In a little while it would be different, there would come tomorrow, and the next day and another year. And we would be changed perhaps, never sitting quite like this again. Some of us would go away, or suffer, or die, the future stretched away in front of us, unknown, unseen, not perhaps what we wanted, not what we planned. This moment was safe though, this could not be touched. Here we sat together, Maxim and I, hand-in-hand, and the past and the future mattered not at all. This was secure, this funny little fragment of time he would never remember, never think about again…For them it was just after lunch, quarter-past-three on a haphazard afternoon, like any hour, like any day. They did not want to hold it close, imprisoned and secure, as I did. They were not afraid.”

The book:

The Alfred Hitchcock film version is thrilling (go Netflix it, immediately after finishing the book).  Rebecca le Book is also suspenseful, but in a much quieter way.  No dun-dun-duunnnnn music in the background, for one, and no swooping shots of creepy, ruined black-and-white mansions— instead, the book resorts to a much subtler build-up of tension that nonetheless makes you look like this:

In Rebecca, the main character is a romantic young woman straight from a Gothic novel.  She invents dialogues and conjures up sinister motives for everyone, and jumps at every shadow.  The other characters seem to think her to be rather ridiculous—or perhaps she just imagines that they think she is ridiculous—or, perhaps, she isn’t being ridiculous at all, and there really are creepers in the shadows.

AACK!

Click to enlarge… go on… look closely…. AACK!

The suspense lies in the fact that the readers are never quite sure what is the main character’s imagination and what is not.  Because the reader is limited by the narrator’s romantic blinders, du Maurier lets only the slightest suspicions that something else—something sinister involving Rebecca, the first wife of the main character’s new husband—might be going on behind the narrator’s back.   Du Maurier’s masterful tiny info-leaks build up, and by the end, the the poor narrator is going out of her mind, and the reader is on tenterhooks.  8 out of 10.

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