I’ve read Rebecca (1938) by Daphne Du Maurier. It is a great book of suspense. I read it as part of the BBC book list that I was reading from when I started this blog. (I should get back to that.)
I’m not sure why, but I stopped there with Du Maurier. I didn’t think, “That was a great read: suspenseful, mysterious, engaging, and terrifying. I should read more from this author.” Why didn’t I say that to myself?
Recently, I saw a commercial for a suspenseful movie called My Cousin Rachel (book published in 1951), and when I realized that it was based on a book by Du Maurier, I immediately got a copy from the library and read it. It wasn’t as good as Rebecca, but it was still good. I really liked it. I still wanted to read it every chance I got. I still found myself wrapped up in the characters’ stories. I still found myself cringing when bad choices were made that could have avoided the horror that was to come. (And the “horror” was mostly financial ruin by manipulation. That’s horror. I’m married to a CPA; he would agree.)
So naturally, I checked out more of Du Maurier’s books from the library.
I’ve started with Jamaica Inn (1936), and already, I can see that I will be enthralled.
In my reading of these books, I am realizing that Du Maurier’s work isn’t considered to be “high brow.” Her work will likely never be considered part of the official “canon” of English literature. Nevertheless, I enjoy it, and I plan to keep reading it. And I would recommend it to friends. I also love that it fits the style of some of my favorite fiction, that of the early twentieth century.
Over the past few years, I’ve had my fill of high theory and important novels. I loved doing graduate work and I love being a professor, but for now, I just feel like reading whatever is interesting and fun.
Du Maurier’s books are just that.
“Last night I dreamt I was at Manderlye again…”
I’ve read that book at least four times – it’s one of my ‘nostalgic favorites.’ I’m not sure why it appealed to me, aside from that lovely opening line and later the description of the ‘rhododendrons’ and of course unraveling how Rebecca overshadowed the story…
Enjoy your joy of reading, just because you can!
Thank you! And yes, Rebecca has the best opening line. I love that book too!
I’ve been following that BBC list too, and somewhere I dropped it. Your post reminds me that I need to look at that list again, and yes, also read something other than Rebecca by duMaurier.
Looks like we both have some catching up to do!
I think over here in the UK she’s kind of considered as a modern classic writer. One of my absolute favourites by her is Frenchman’s Creek, which is a romance, a genre I’m not normally attracted to. Rebecca is an interesting book because I found I completely changed my opinion of the anonymous narrator the second time I read it for a university course. Two weeks ago I saw the film My Cousin Rachel and loved it so will be reading that book soon. By the way, you probably know this but she also wrote amazing short stories, including The Birds and Don’t Look Now, which were made into horror films.
Ooh, I can’t wait to read the short stories now. I’m all for expanding the “canon” and including female writers, even those who were popular in their time. I think there’s value in all styles of writing. Glad to hear she has some respect in the UK!
I taught The Sheik in a Women’s Studies class once. Very dated, of course, but a real page turner. And quite interesting from a feminist perspective. I found an original edition in my school’s library that had never been checked out, ever. I felt kind of like a literary Indiana Jones😄
That is amazing! I love it when I discover books that nobody has ever checked out. I had that experience with A. J. Cronin’s The Green Years, and it was a gem of a book.
I just realized how off topic my comment seemed. My point was just that I also love Rebecca, and I thought if you like Du Maurier, you might also appreciate The Sheik for similar reasons, and on multiple levels.
I will try it!
Rebecca is often on high school reading lists here in the UK. I remember having to analyse the first chapter for my English literature exams. But I’ve never actually read the whole book. I should remedy that!
I saw the trailer for My Cousin Rachel too and it looks so good. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
My sister and I have made plans to see it next week. I’ll let you know how it is!
I think I’ve read just about everything Du Maurier wrote, but Rebecca is still my favorite. I missed the movie at the theatre here. It was only here a week. Darn! I’ll have to wait for Netflix.
That’s not long enough for it to be in a theater! I hope you get to see it as soon as the DVD is available.
We live in a small town now, and only the kid movies and the action pictures stay very long. It even didn’t stay in nearby Vancouver, which is a city, but a small one. If you haven’t seen the old movie of Rebecca, starring Olivia De Haviland (I think, or her sister, I get them mixed up), you really should.
“Yay!” for old library books!
(I know your post isn’t about this but seeing your photograph of DuMaurier books reminded me of the shelves of library books that I imagine have grown more lonesome since the invention of e-readers and focus on new books).
I love old books! In fact, I spent a few minutes examining the old library cards and stamps in these books. What fun to remember how we used to check out books!
Thought of you when I saw this: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/books/daphne-du-maurier-enthusiast.html
I remember loving it and I’ve been meaning to re-read it. I didn’t realize it wasn’t considered “high brow” literature (I think I’d read it for school). But I agree with you that it has significance, as popular novels can tell us a lot about the women readers at that time, and what resonated with them. I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!
Thanks! I hope you are having a good summer too. I agree. I love older popular fiction that isn’t necessarily assigned in literature classes. There is more insight there.
Jessica Chastain should be the updated Mrs. de Winter. Check out the story collection titled ‘Don’t Look Now’.
I read Rebecca when I was a student, and that was my first acquantance with the writer. At that time ıt was the narrator with her common sense that appealed to me but later it became Rebecca , enigmatic and impenetrable. The film adaptation of Rebecca, unlike “My cousin Rachel” leaves much to desire. The latter is really captivating.
That is so interesting that you changed the character you connected with. I feel like many books, if reread, would find us doing this or even feeling differently about how much we enjoyed it.