Why Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Let Me Down (BookTube)

Posted October 30, 2014 by LeahAdmin in Reviews / 25 Comments

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Published by Avon on 1938
Pages: 380
Genres: Classics
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on The Book Depository

Hello booklings! Today I’m stepping SUPER far outside my comfort zone and sharing a video review! This is my first venture into BookTube (besides my woefully embarrassing video about the blog planner I created), so please be kind!

In this video, I discuss my reaction to reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for the first time. For those of you who don’t like watching videos (or you can’t withstand my pitiful attempt at speaking into a webcam), I’ve summed up my thoughts below.

Whenever fall rolls around, I find myself in the mood for a dark, creepy gothic classic. Last year I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which I was surprised to discover that I really loved. This year, I picked up Rebecca, having heard great things about it and seen on numerous “spooky fall reads” lists. But to my disappointment, I really didn’t find it to be all that spooky.

The novel follows a young woman (we never learn her name) who is working as a companion to an older woman in Monte Carlo. While there, she meets Maxim de Winter, a charming, wealthy widower who had lost his wife, Rebecca, in a tragic accident the year before. Our narrator falls in love with Maxim, who quickly marries her and whisks her off to Manderley, his huge, famous estate.

Life at Manderley isn’t what the new Mrs. de Winter had anticipated. She doesn’t know how to run such a massive estate, her husband isn’t as warm and caring as she had hoped, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is downright cold to her. Mrs. Danvers had been very close to Rebecca and is angry to see Maxim’s new wife try to take her place. On top of this cold reception, our narrator is made to feel inferior to Rebecca by nearly everyone she meets; she is constantly hearing about how beautiful and vivacious Rebecca was. Everyone seems to have been captivated by Manderley’s former mistress, and the new Mrs. de Winter feels like she can’t possibly measure up. All of these things make the narrator feel insecure, like a little girl playing house.

And that’s… pretty much it. My copy of the book is 380 pages, and nothing really suspenseful happens until 100 pages from the end. A big, dark revelation is made, and the rest of the novel is spent resolving this discovery. The cover copy on my book calls Rebecca a “masterpiece of romantic suspense” and alludes to “an eerie presentiment of evil.” I didn’t find this book to be remotely romantic or suspenseful, and I thought the promise of evil was a bit over-the-top. Led by the marketing and the way people talk about this book, I was expecting more literal ghosts and hauntings than this book supplied.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I went into it expecting it to be just a character study about a young woman who feels inferior and out of her depth. As a romantic suspense, it didn’t work for me. I’m really not trying to say that this book is bad. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and I felt a bit let down.

If you have read Rebecca, what did you think of it? What were you expecting when you went into it, and how did it measure up to your expectations?

Disclosure: If you make a purchase through the link above, I will make a tiny commission.

  • Great video, Leah! And, it’s so interesting that you were disappointed in Rebecca. I haven’t read it, but have only heard good things about it. When I do read it (and I still want to someday), I will remember what you have said about it so I won’t be disappointed. Thanks!

    • I really think I would have liked it better if I didn’t have expectations of it being super creepy. And maybe suspense in books just doesn’t really work for me (I didn’t find The Shining all that scary either). I definitely encourage you to read it if you want to; I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Words for Worms

    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Your reactions are cracking me up. I liked Rebecca, but your “not sooo much…?” Did me in. Awesome.

  • I just watched the beginning of the video and stopped at the synopsis because I sweearrr I’m still going to read this and I want to go in totally blind, but you’re adorable and I’m so glad you jumped out of your comfort zone!

  • Kelly TheWellReadRedhead

    First of all, giant kudos to you for the video review! I know fo’ shizzle that I will never feel confident enough to do that (seeing myself on video makes me cringe every.time.). You did great! And I loved the review. I’ve not yet read Rebecca, but it’s one of those classics that people keep pushing on me, so I feel like I should do it…too bad it wasn’t very spooky though! That’s definitely been one of the draws of many of the good reviews I’ve seen.

    • I don’t know if suspense just doesn’t work very well for me in books, or what. Movies can scare the crap out of me, but I’ve yet to read a book that makes me want to keep all the lights on. So I don’t know if it’s just me? I think I also expected Rebecca’s ghost to be much more literal than it was, so that made it less spooky than expected.

      I’d encourage you to read it if you want to, but don’t read it just because you feel like you should! I think reading something out of a sense of obligation makes it more difficult to enjoy.

  • Mrs. Danvers is the creepy/scary factor in the book, and I was sufficiently creeped out by her. I’m sorry it let you down. Great video!

  • Kudos for stepping into the video blog universe!

    Sorry for the long response.

    I adore Rebecca, but that is probably because I saw the movie at exactly the right moment of my life — I was about 15 and it part of a double feature with Gaslight at a movie theater in NYC that specialized in reviving Hollywood classics. I loved how Alfred Hitchcock used the set and the actors to heighten the tension, though the creepiest thing about it was Mrs. Danver’s obsessive devotion to Rebecca. Like the narrator, I longed for a handsome wealthy older man to come and sweep me off my feet and take me away from my tedious life. I fell hard for Maxim (Laurence Olivier) and rooted for the narrator (Joan Fontaine). If you haven’t seen the film it’s really worth watching — it won Best Picture in 1940. While in many ways it will seem dated, it is directed with panache and with great visual cues that hint at the things that couldn’t be explicitly said or shown at the time.

    I finally read the book a few years ago, but I appreciated the differences from the film. It struck me as a tale about a young woman growing up and coming to see the world as a complex and morally challenging place — I found the narrator’s naïveté and insecurities frustrating in a way that they weren’t when I was young which I think is the more appropriate response. Now I find it interesting that the narrator ends the book still in love with Maxim yet relieved that her love is tempered by understanding instead of remaining mired in hero worship of a sexy father figure. The really creepy part of this book seems to me to be the psychosexual undercurrents that mark the relationships between the characters — Mrs. Danver’s repressed lust for Rebecca, Rebecca’s almost incestuous love affair with her cousin, Maxim’s need to be adored by a girl-woman. What made it a chilling read for me was that all of these elements lurk under the surface for me as a reader to add up.

    • I should really see the movie. I’ve liked the Hitchcock movies I’ve seen, I know he can do a great job with tension.

      I was frustrated by the narrator’s naivete, too. But it is very interesting that learning Maxim’s secret makes her feel closer to him and gives her power; I think most people would be horrified to learn what she does. Great point about the weird sexual undercurrents; they were rather creepy.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    You did a great job with the video! I feel like I should read Rebecca but I’ve never felt compelled to do so.

  • I’ve been saying I would read Rebecca for a very long time–and I had a copy out from the library for October, but never got to it! I wonder if it is one of those classics that seems underwhelming now because we have all read–and seen–other versions of that type of chilling/creepy suspense. Maybe we’re a tougher reading audience now than Du Maurier faced back in the 1930s.

  • Elena

    I have read Rebecca and I loved it, but because I found Rebecca herself the most interesting and complex character in the novel. For me, it worked to apporach it from the theory of silences: we never met Rebecca, her body is not present, her images are not much present either, yet she IS the novel. I thought about how someone can be totally silenced – like the narrator – even when they have a body and they are there, and then there are people who just linger. I also thought that, as the Other (aka the previous wife), Rebecca was such a anti-system and subversive character that I could read another book on her.

    • That is really interesting. It’s so fascinating that the book is named after a woman who is never physically present in the novel, but the narrator doesn’t have a name.

      I think I was just so frustrated that this book wasn’t what I was expecting that I didn’t give it enough of a chance. I think it will grow on me over time, as I think about what the book is, rather than what it isn’t.

  • Brava- well done you! You handled vlogging well and I agree about Rebecca. It left no real impression on me except that I thought it was too long. So…can we expect more video ventures from you?

    • I think I’ll try vlogging again! I just need to find a spot in my apartment that actually gets some sunlight 😛

  • I was also underwhelmed by Rebecca–I expected it to be much more suspenseful than it was. The end was better than the start because of this, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

  • I was expecting something more overtly creepy and gothic, too. Luckily, despite that, I still really liked it, but definitely not what I was expecting. I LOVED your BookTube video! You should definitely do more.

  • I think you did so well in this video, better than in the previous one on the planner: you sound and look much more comfortable 🙂 You should definitely do more videos! As for the book: I haven’t read it, so I couldn’t say anything about it 😉

  • I’m sure your video is great, but I don’t like watching videos, so I appreciate the written review! I haven’t read Rebecca, but I’d like to. I haven’t read any romantic suspense and I’d like to read the recent retelling after reading the original.