Ugh, this is one of those that I like a whole lot, but not quite REALLY like... so 3.5, rounded up for being a classic and making me angry.
Rebecca - I read this book, years ago, as a wee child, but I have never re-read it, despite the fact that the movie is one of my very favorites. I’m glad I did re-read it, because it’s one of those books you cannot possibly feel
some parts of until you have more experience with life (ie: you can look back and say "wow, I was young and dumb"... not that you aren't stupid still, but you have the strong experience of having grown on some level).
The main character, Rebecca (obviously) is never present in the novel. At least, not her corporeal form. The book begins with a young girl - sensitive, naive, young, lower-class and alone. She is a wealthy woman’s paid companion. She and her companion are met by Max de Winter, an enormously rich and handsome man who owns one of the greatest, most beautiful estates in England. He wooes and marries this much younger, much more inexperienced girl, and all we really know about him is that he’s moody and his wife died not too long ago.
The girl falls in love with him - a ridiculously romantic, puppy love, and you don’t know what the hell he sees in her. He infantilizes her, he disrespects her, and in turn it reinforces her infantilizing and disrespecting herself. To be honest? I can’t stand Max de Winter - he’s a chauvinistic jack-ass, that wants an ignorant child for a wife to control, but I suppose he's a product of his breeding and time (which doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a swift kick).
For the entire novel, the specter and memory of Rebecca, the famed beautiful powerhouse who was Max’s first wife, haunts the new wife. Rebecca is strong, a woman who owns her power, and is generally a force to be reckoned with. I mean, the book is named after her for a reason. In this book we never even know the name
of the second wife, that’s
how insignificant she is.
The book has lots of meandering, lots of flowery language, and there are pages upon pages with beautiful, atmospheric descriptions, but not a lot of action. It’s beautiful, but not actiony.
Through the book, the new Mrs. de Winter grows up and finally starts losing her naivete, losing her timidity and grows into her own power while we deal with a pseudo-mystery/crime. She grows up, she’s never the bitch that Rebecca is, but she uses her experience to get stronger.
However, the one thing I cannot stand (either in the book or the movie), that makes no flying-frakking sense, no matter how you try to sell me is when Mrs. de Winter uses Mrs. Danvers’s suggestion to go as Caroline de Winter to the costume at the ball. In both the book and the movie, they have already had multiple run ins and the girl is afraid of the half-mad woman, so, why, oh why
would she just jump onto that suggestion without a minute of hesitancy or suspicion? Ignorant and naive as that girl is, I just cannot buy it at that point. Argh.
And this quote, I love, which I would have never understood as the child that read this the first time around:I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. Today, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal prices of day by day bush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then - how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.