Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier The last time I read Rebecca I was much closer in age to the second Mrs. de Winter than I am now. I was also a much less experienced reader. What interested me most about this read was the self-reflection it inspired: how much my opinions of the various characters had changed, and also how much more I appreciated du Maurier's writing skills. [return][return]Maxim de Winter has dropped substantial in my esteem, especially considering how clearly I could now see the parallels between the plots of Rebecca and Jane Eyre (Die, Rochester, die!!!). In fact, the Mobil Masterpiece Theatre adaptation ended with Maxim racing into the burning Manderley to rescue Mrs. Danvers (ie: Rebecca-by-proxy) only to be seriously injured. In the book, Mrs. Danvers is seen leaving the estate just before the fire is discovered, which to me is a much more satisfying ending. [return][return]Something I missed on previous readings of Rebecca, no doubt due to my youth, is that it's the story of a very unequal marriage. A man born to power, wealth and position and a woman so powerless she is never even named. But the very thing that give Maxim his power is also his downfall. It is because of Manderley that he accepted Rebecca's sociopathic behaviour and in the end it is a threat to Manderley (the idea that it would fall into the hands of Rebecca's child) that makes him take the final, fatal step. When the second Mrs. de Winter finally grows strong enough to stand beside her husband as something of an equal, Manderley, and Maxim's power, goes up in smoke. [return][return]The triumph of this book, however, is the point of view work. The choice of first person, besides being the only feasible choice to keep a character completely unnamed, also allows us to experience the mystery. Everyone in the story knows more than the narrator, and to step out of her point of view for a moment would have made the story very different indeed. Though the narration is coming from a point in time after all the event of the story ("Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.") the narrator keeps us close to her former self, detailing each piece of emotion, each wayward fear, every physical sensation down to two drops of rain on the back of her hand. This close point of view work rarely lets up, and indeed contains some wonderful passages of steam-of-consciousness that should be held up as examples of How To Do It Without Sounding Like Joyce. [return][return]Some of the symbolism is perhaps a little heavy-handed for today's reader, such as Mrs. Danvers "skull face" and the storm that breaks as Jack Favell brings out his evidence against Maxim, but such are the changing tastes of literature. I'm sure most current critics would advise against starting a novel with a dream-sequence, but can you really imagine another opening line to Rebecca?