Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rebecca Read Along - Week 2 Discussion

I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier many years ago when I was 15 or 16. I fell in love with the creepy, sinister tone of the book, the beautiful writing and imagery, the lonely, insecure, and anxious to please narrator and second Mrs. de Winter, the stately and elegant Manderley and so much more. I read Rebecca every few years after that first time and each time I read it, I got something more out of the story. I saw Rebecca, the 1940 thriller by Hitchcock starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers, ten years ago and several more times ever since. The movie is very good and captures the foreboding atmosphere of the book quite well despite a change to one key scene.

Sandy of the blog You've GOTTA read this! hosted a read along of Rebecca and since I haven't read the book for several years I jumped at the chance and am thrilled that I did. I started reading a little late and wasn't able to get to the questions Sandy posed for the first half of the book but if I have a chance I hope to answer them in a day or two. I read many of the answers by the other readers and the scope of the answers, the different thoughts and the varied ideas raised are what makes read-a-longs such fun. It's wonderful to get a different perspective on a book than my own and to have the opportunity to consider characters, setting and themes from the viewpoint of others in the group.
I agree that this book was a very FUN read, Sandy. Thank you for organizing this read along! If you'd like to see a list of participants and the questions and answers, head on over to
You've GOTTA read this!

1. There is a drastic change in the second Mrs. de Winter (whom I will call DW2 from hereon) mid-way through the book. Talk about what caused the transformation. How did you feel about DW2 after this happened? DW2 is feeling the worst she's felt at Manderley after the fiasco with her dress the night of the dance . She thinks Maxim doesn't love her at all and was simply lonely and needed companionship. She believes her marriage is a failure. She walks outside while thinking things over and sees Mrs. Danvers watching her from Rebecca's room in the West Wing. She realizes that the dress fiasco was Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca's "triumph", that Mrs. Danvers had "meant it to happen". DW2 confronts Mrs. Danvers who says some very cruel things to DW2 and tells her how lovely Rebecca was, how wonderful, smart and talented she was. Mrs. Danvers tells DW2 that Maxim doesn't love her and she isn't wanted at Manderley and never should have come. Mrs. Danvers tries to talk DW2 into throwing herself out the window. They are interrupted by reports that a ship has gone ashore down in the cove.
DW2 doesn't see Maxim before he goes down to the cove, but she hears him calling for Firth and she suddenly feels less anxious and more relaxed because his voice sounds calm and practical, its the Maxim she loves. She also realizes that he didn't go away that he has been at Manderley all morning. Later on in the evening, when Maxim returns from helping with the ship and finds out that Rebecca's boat has been found, Maxim and DW2 have their first honest, heart-to-heart conversation and DW2 discovers that Maxim loves her completely and is in love with her . DW2 learns that Maxim never loved Rebecca and doesn't miss her. DW2 suddenly feel empowered, she's no longer intimidated, she feels sure of herself and knows and believes she can run Manderley. I was still a little
aggravated with DW2 because she didn't try and speak to Maxim about the things that were bothering her but assumed he loved Rebecca and wished she was still alive. But I'm happy for her that she finally knows the reality of the situation and knows she is loved by Maxim. It was great to see her no longer feeling intimidated by Mrs. Danvers and running the house in her own way.

2. Although it was not explicitly discussed, what do you think was the true nature of the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers? I think that Mrs. Danvers was in love with Rebecca. She thought everything Rebecca said and did was wonderful and perfect whether she was as cruel as a person could be to someone or super sweet. At one point, Mrs Danvers says to DW2 that Rebecca should have been a boy, she did everything better than even the boys!. Mrs Danvers seemed to enjoy that most men doted on Rebecca yet she laughed at them all behind their backs. But Mrs. Danvers didn't seem to know everything about Rebecca, though she thinks she did. Mrs. Danvers didn't know, for instance, that Rebecca was having an affair with Jack Favell, her first cousin. I think Rebecca knew how Mrs. Danvers felt about her and she used that knowledge to keep Mrs. Danvers loyal. She manipulated Mrs. Danvers into believing she was Rebecca's sole confidante and favorite person in the world.

3. In the discussion questions last week, I asked how you felt about Maxim de Winter. Has your opinion changed? Why? I thought Maxim was awful to DW2 when she came downstairs in the white dress at the dance. Typically, his first reaction has to do with how he is affected. He's not concerned with DW2 and how she feels. He doesn't speak to her about the dress and ask her why she wore it. But he rarely asks DW2 about anything she says or does unless it is to criticize her. And when the topic of how angry he was with her when she came down in the dress, he kind of laughs it off as if it wasn't anything. Again, he has little concern for how DW2 feels or felt because he is feeling fine again (at least as regards that issue!)
I prefer Maxim after he confesses to DW2 what he did because he shows her the love she deserves and craves and he takes her into his confidence. He finally shows some concern for how DW2s feeling while she waits back at Manderley for him during the after noon of the inquest and he seems more attentive to DW2 in general. But Maxim still treats DW2 like a child, which I loathe and he's critical of her. He is self-absorbed and not very concerned with DW2 except when she is useful to him. His selfishness really shows when he continually says that she won't love him now that he has told her about Rebecca. He assumes he knows what DW2 thinks and feels without even asking her.

4. Were you satisfied with the ending? Did you have closure? Did you have to go back and re-read the beginning? I liked the ending. I don't care if all of the "i"s are dotted and the "t"s crossed. The ending is subtle but we know what happens to Manderley. I didn't feel the need for a blow-by-blow of the incident and what happened to each character. I didn't re-read the beginning but I did think about it. The first time I read the book I was pretty sure about what was going to happy at the end or close to the end because of DW2's dream and memories. Sometimes I wonder if Daphne du Maurier left the ending that way for a possible sequel.

5. If you could write the sequel to this book, how would you envision the lives of Maxim and DW2 after the story's end? Do you think they'll be happy together? I think their life together is at least content with moments, days of happiness. The pain of what happened at Manderley will always be with them but I think over time the pain and memories have retreated and they no longer talk about it or think much about those days. DW2 says that they are a united force and have no secrets from each other. My understanding is that her life with Maxim is a quiet one, with most days following a routine similar to the day before. I think they had a few difficult years and even now have some difficult, sad days but I also think that that's how most people's lives are.
In my sequel, DW2 and Maxim would have gone away for a few months like Colonel Julyan recommended, maybe to Switzerland!

6. How would you classify this novel? Love story? Ghost story? Tragedy? Murder mystery? Some have called "Rebecca" one of the greatest gothic romances of all time. Do you agree? I don't think this is one of the greatest gothic romances of all times but I do think it's a gothic romance because it's primarily a story about the marriage of Maxim and DW2, their life at Manderley and her adjustment to both.. There is some aspect of mystery to the book, though I use that term loosely because for three-quarters of the story there isn't any mystery surrounding Rebecca's death . DW2 and the readers are also unaware that Maxim has committed a crime until almost the end of the novel.


  1. I didn't realise how involved and in depth reading clubs are. I wonder if this might be a useful exercise for writers like myself, to have multiple (editors) discussions about the plot, pace and impact of the characters on the reader. This was fascinating, thank you. I also agree that Maxim does treat her like a child but DW2 is the Anti-Rebecca if you will.

    I think Du Maurier wanted to show a man that is still scarred by love, so he withdrew and slowly starts to blossom with his second wife.

    I would also agree that it is not quite a "gothic romance" whatever that is. I would put "Wuthering Heights" nearer that category.

    Emailing you every soon, it's been a bit of a week.

  2. I got the sense that the point where DW2 is telling us this story is only a few years removed from the incident. She mentions that the pain is still too near - which I took to mean that it didn't happen all that long ago. But then she mentions that Max is so reliant on her these days which to me sounds like he is older and needs her to care for him. So I agree that maybe with the vagaries she intended to write more on this couple in the future and just never did.

  3. Wow! You can tell, you definitely put thought into your answers! Like you, I don't need everything all buttoned up at the end. The whole ending just blows you right out of the water, and I loved it! I was NOT a fan of Maxim at all. He and I would not have gotten along!

  4. This is one of the few books I've read several times. It's a real classic. The first time I read it, I was about 13, but the images stayed with me.

  5. Clarity: It's so good to see you here! If you are interwsted I know that there is a Virginia Wolf read along beginning in January - we'll be reading 5 of her books. Maybe you want to try it. My answers to Sandy's Rebecca questions are probabgly a little too long. But the English major in me loves to dissect and discus and there is so much to do that in Rebecca.
    Good point about a man scarred by love. Wuthering Heights is a perfect example of a gothic romance!
    I'll watch for your email!

    The Bumbles: I couldn't decide if this was a few years after the incident or more than that. At one point, like you said, it sounded as if the story was only a few years after Manderley. But then DW2 wrote something that made me think it was several more years. Of course, Max was 20 years older than her to start with. After the incident at Manderley I wouldn't be surprised if he aged considerable and needed her to care for him! I wish she had written more!

    Sandy: I think my answers are a little too long, I'm sorry! I got caught up in the story and thinking about your questions and the answers! The ending is great! Max is a big pill! I tried to be a little charitable but it was hard.

    Anyone else who is part of Sandy's read along group, I probably won't get to read your answers to Sandy's questions tonight but I will stop by everyone's blogs to read your answers tomorrow and this weekend :o)
    Just wanted to let you all know!

    ~ Amy

  6. KathyA: I was a little older than you (15) the first time I read Rebecca. It does stay with you, right? I loved it then and every time since, it's just so good! Good to see you!

  7. Seashell loved, loved, loved this book when she read it last year. Her very favorite of the year. I will send her over when she has some down time this weekend. By the way, have you ever read "I Capture the Castle"?

  8. So many of us read this book as teenagers! I think that at that age, when the bestowal of romantic love is so tied to self-esteem, we all identify a bit more with the second Mrs. de Winter. Although condoning murder is a bit excessive. None of us are as sympathetic toward the main characters now perhaps, and yet we still love it. Testament to the writing I think.

  9. Kathy: I'm so happy to hear Seashell read and loved this book. I know how busy she is. If either one of you want to email me please feel free. "I Capture the Castle" is a wonderful book. I read it several years ago and want to read it again. I don't own it, I got it out of the library but I think it is a keeper kind of book and plan to purchase it soon. Have you and Seashell read it?

    Frances: Hi! Thank you for visiting. That's a very good point. This is the first time I read Rebecca and was annoyed with the second Mrs. de Winter. I also felt sorry for Mrs. Danvers. But still loved this book and, as you said, it is the wonderful writing.