Reading this book took me back to the world of Jane Eyre again. Heroine from a reduced background, trying to make ends meet, comes across the mysterious yet appealing hero.
The key attraction of the book to me was the story play. It’s flow from present to past and some intermingling of both in a very convincing manner. It is a piece of very intelligent writing. It’s truly a touching story with some romance and many elements of mystery keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Read the author for the first time, and I am very impressed. There is a lot of descriptive detailing, particularly the landscape and nature elements of the book. Sometimes it did get on my nerves, but the thing is the narrative is the record of observations of Mrs. de Winter, and she is shown to be a person enjoying nature and has a keen observation and retentive mind. So, that’s the reason I presume. Manderley does make a lasting impression on the mind it is pictured so convincingly beautiful.
It’s the story about a simple and unaffected girl (unnamed throughout the book) who is acting as a ladies’ companion to an American lady in Monte Carlo and who comes across the rich widower Maximilian de Winter, believed to be struggling to get grips with life after his late wife’s sudden death. As circumstances unfold they get closer and marry away hurriedly. The book is a first person account of the now Mrs. de Winter about her journey and growth from a shy and ill at ease, poorly confident girl to a woman, all the while trying to fill in some very big shoes of her predecessor, the much loved, beautiful, charming and elegant late wife of Maxim, Rebecca.
The narrative beautifully persuades you of the happenings from Mrs. De Winter’s point of view, but as you proceed, the unfolding truly brings out the mystery, and equally convinces you of this side of the story. I wondered throughout the book why it was named after the late wife, and not something else. You will understand the reason in the last three pages of the book. Everything that happens is due, in one way or the other, to her. Ultimately, as Maxim says, it is Rebecca who has won. This story has to be read with a great deal of attention to understand the gist of the matter. I still feel I may have missed out on something, a re-read somewhere in the future may bring me about it!
The characterization is impeccable and again, convincing! Right from Maxim to Mrs. de Winter, Mrs. Danvers to Ben and majorly, Rebecca. I loved the protagonists. Maxim is very likeable, initially he seems to like Mrs. de Winter a lot and is a great deal amused by her, but after their marriage there may be doubts in the reader’s mind about his sincerity because there is no over profusion of love that he displays and is always kind of aloof. It is later on when we come to understand through his justifications of his motives, and it turns out that the reader may end up liking him best! Very possessive of his ancestral home, it is his love of the same place that is the cause of most of his sufferings. He builds a mask about his feelings and keeps everyone blocked out, suffering inwardly. It is after meeting her, his second wife, that he starts to live again.
Mrs. de Winter! Oh what a cute girl! The unsure, shy, clumsy and plain girl with flat hair, a careless dressing sense and always with her nails between her teeth. Her feelings, her motives, her behavior is all very natural, innocent and unpretentious. The best part is her over active imagination jumping from one mole to a hill in ten seconds! Her presumptions lead her to the delayed realization of a happy relationship. Her growth is depicted remarkably. And she never ever tries to take Rebecca’s place, being very unsure all the time.
The story moves pretty fast, and you can really enjoy it if you like the Gothic and mysterious feeling of the place and the characters. Definitely worth a read by lovers of the genre. I had wanted to read this for a long time, and my time spent on it was positively worth it.