Rebecca – A Classic Tale of “Romantic” Suspense

****This blog post includes spoilers. Consider yourself warned!***

Rebecca.Image

It’s finally autumn. The leaves have turned color, the air has become crisp and cool, and it’s the perfect time to sit back and enjoy a gothic story.  For me, I figured it was a great opportunity to read “Rebecca,” by Daphne Du Maurier. I heard that the book was a spooky thriller… the perfect fall read!

My initial reaction after finishing the book is that it’s not a romantic thriller, as the cover suggests. It also wasn’t really scary (I assumed it was going to be). If anything, it was more of a mystery.

The book was written in 1930s and mostly takes place in England. The unnamed protagonist is working as a companion to an older lady (Mrs. Van Hopper) in Monte Carlo when she meets a rich widower named Maxim de Winter. The two hit it off and eventually marry. The protagonist quits her job and moves to Manderley, Maxim’s huge estate. While there, the protagonist becomes obsessed with Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, who drowned only a year prior. She’s jealous and is incredibly insecure.

Although I liked this book, I was slightly disappointed because I think I was expecting somewhat of a ghost story. I was also a little confused because it was labeled a “romantic thriller” when (in my opinion) it was neither romantic nor a thriller.

Let’s discuss the “romantic” part. Yes, there’s a marriage. But I wasn’t entirely convinced that the two characters loved each other. Maxim only proposed as a way of preventing the protagonist from moving to New York. And his proposal was, sorry to say, lame! He literally says this:

So Mrs. Van Hopper has had enough of Monte Carlo,” he said, “and now she wants to go home. So do I. She to New York and I to Manderley. Which would you prefer? You can take your choice.”

Obviously the main character is confused and assumes Maxim is making a joke. Then he says this to her:

“If you think I’m one of the people who try to be funny at breakfast you’re wrong,” he said. “I’m invariably ill-tempered in the early morning. I repeat to you, the choice is open to you. Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.”

“Do you mean you want a secretary or something?” (From the main character.)

“No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

So that’s his proposal. Now I’m not much of a romance reader, but I can tell you with some certainty that this is not romantic! If I had been proposed to in this way, I would not have accepted. But again, the main character is clearly young and insecure, so it seemed fitting that she would be swooned by this sort of proposal. :::eye roll:::

Now for the thriller part. It did have some aspects of a thriller, but it didn’t seem like a typical thriller to me. Yes, there was a murder, Rebecca’s murder. But it already happened. It didn’t seem very suspenseful. Nobody was running from danger, except Maxim, who was running from the law, hoping to get away with his wife’s murder.

The best character in the book is clearly Mrs. Danvers, the house manager. Although she was not likeable, she kept the story moving and made it a whole lot more interesting. Unlike the main character, Mrs. Danvers is confident and is not afraid to take matters into her own hands. And in the end, she knows Maxim killed Rebecca and she has no problem taking revenge. Maxim should have gone to jail for what he did, but instead he got away with murder. And while the protagonist is happy about this (because after all, it means Maxim loves her more than Rebecca :::more eye rolls:::), Mrs. Danvers does what needs to be done… she burns Manderley to the ground! Right on!

Thank you Mrs. Danvers. Your service is appreciated.

Now I’m excited to watch the movie!

Reading Out loud with Children

Before I even got pregnant, I knew that I was going to read to my child regularly. It would be a habit to encourage a love of reading. This was important to me. Since I was a bibliophile, I wanted my child to be one too.

Then the magical day came when my daughter was born. Even as a newborn baby, I read to her regularly. It felt silly at first because honestly, she loved to chew on the books more than listen to the story. But as she grew, she really came to appreciate our reading sessions more and more. She is now to the point where she can’t go to bed unless she gets a couple of books (or chapters) in each night. Sometimes I read to her, sometimes she reads to me, and sometimes we’ll alternate who reads which chapter. As a lover of books, this warms my heart!

But now the question becomes: when (if at all in her childhood) does this ritual end?  She’s 8 years old right now and obviously still loves reading with either me or my husband. And I honestly don’t have any plans on stopping our nightly routine. But I’m assuming there will come a time when she would prefer to read without one of us by her side. This will be a day that I’m dreading.

I remember listening to a podcast a while back and heard the host mention that she and her teenage daughter still read nightly together out loud. This surprised me. My mother stopped reading to me when I was about 3. I know, it was probably too young. But this was the 80s and the woman had stuff to do. I’m not judging her.

Obviously, I would love it if my daughter wanted to read with me every night as a teenager, but I know that’s not likely to happen. (Trust me, I used to be a teenager and I can remember not wanting to do anything with my parents, least of all, read with them.)

I’m curious to know when most children prefer to just read independently and not with mom or dad. Is there a typical age for this? When did your child feel that he or she was too old to be read to?

For my daughter, I hope this isn’t for at least another several years.

2018 Rockville Antique and Classic Car Show

This afternoon, Rockville hosted its annual antique car show which featured over 500 classic and antique cars. I’m not much of a car fan, but my 8 year old daughter loves looking at the antiques (she’s very much like her grandfather in this way). Of course I took her to the car show and we were both amazed by the beautiful, fascinating, and often unique cars. And although this has nothing to do with books, I figured I’d feature some of the pictures on my blog as a random, but fun post. I hope you enjoy!

Is it ever okay to hate a literary classic?

I had a very interesting conversation with my aunt about Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Here’s a confession: I always hated that book. My aunt asked “How can you have an English degree and hate Pride and Prejudice?” Good question. How can I not like something that has been loved by millions of people around the world? Something that has consistently been named one of the most beloved classics of all time?

Frankly, I found it dull and boring. I realize that by admitting this, I come off as uneducated and classless. And I really hope you don’t think that of me. But I can’t for the life of me bring myself to like this book.

Don’t get me wrong… there are many classics that I completely fell in love with. “The Great Gatsby” is by far one of my favorites. I felt like I could identify with Jay Gatsby and his need for belonging. I remember in college I devoured everything by Shakespeare and I loved the Bronte sisters. There were so many books that I felt a deep connection with. In fact, I think that’s why I chose to major in English in the first place. So it’s not like I didn’t like classics, I just didn’t like “Pride and Prejudice.”

So this brings me to my question: Is it ever okay to hate a classic?

Here’s my best answer: yes. I think it is completely unrealistic to  assume that people will love every classic ever written. I’m sure even my fellow English majors would agree. I can remember hearing my peers saying things like “Not Hamlet again!” or “I can’t stand “Wuthering Heights.” Yet, we all survived college and earned our English degrees just the same.

To this day, I’m sorry that Pride and Prejudice never appealed to me. I read the thing twice in an attempt to try and force myself to find something about it that I liked. But in the end, it wasn’t meant to be.

I’m sure Jane Austen would forgive me.

 

Pride and Prejudice

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh, follows the story of an unnamed protagonist who has decided to take the year off from life by “hibernating.” She uses prescription medications to sleep throughout most of the day in her upscale, New York City apartment. Due to a large inheritance from her recently deceased parents, the main character is settled financially without ever having to work. 

My Year of Rest and RelaxationThis book is more about character development than it is about plot. If you read this book in hopes of finding out what’s going to happen next, you will likely be disappointed. But if you enjoy doing a deep-dive into the thoughts and history of the protagonist, there’s a high possibility that you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

The juiciest parts  are in the details of each character. This is what makes the book as enjoyable as it is. From the misanthropic main character, to the overly demented Dr. Tuttle, to the materialistic and superficial best friend, Reva, the characters are really what drives this book.  

Would I recommend this book to most people? Probably not. But I think anyone who appreciates quirky characters and dry humor would really enjoy it.