Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Tennis lessons, my foot!"

I'm not the most well read person I know, especially coming from a family of English majors. But there is one fine piece of fiction that I wouldn't mind reading again and again and again...Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.

Our heroine meets the wealthy widower, Maxim DeWinter, while employed as a "paid companion" to a woman vacationing in France. She is quickly swept off her feet while she supposedly takes tennis lesson, and returns with him to Manderley, his mansion estate, to become lady of the house. The problem is that the late Mrs. DeWinter, Rebecca, was the pinnacle of perfection. Everyone adored her, and although its been over a year since her tragic death in a boating accident, Manderley has not changed at all.

This 1938 novel may be dark and mysterious, but I love the heroine, who is strategically never given a first name. She is naive, fragile, stubborn, gullible, and incredibly insecure. She is constantly haunted by the effervescent Rebecca, whose memory lingers in every room of Manderley, in every desk drawer, and in every coat pocket.
2nd Mrs DeWinter: "Tell me, what was Rebecca really like"
Frank Crawley: "Well...I suppose she was the most beautiful creature I ever saw."
My life is in no way dark and secretive, I'm not terribly ignorant nor am I a pushover, and I'm not haunted by the memory of a former wife, but in many ways, I relate to this woman. I'm pretty insecure and naive about a few things. I thrive on complete openness and un-questioned admiration from my spouse, qualitites which the second Mrs. DeWinter languished for.

Perhaps one of the reasons I'm so drawn to this book is that in the end, when all truths have been revealed, the couple is finally able to embrace as husband and wife, completely in love, and total allies in their honesty.

Every time I read this book again or watch the brilliantly made film (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), I get chills. The dialoge is smart and satirical, the story line exceptional with its surprises and secrets revealed. Even the casting of the film is great! I think about my favorite lines at random moments and am lured back into the world of Rebecca.

Here are a few brilliant lines for your reading enjoyment:

Nameless Heroine: "Oh, I wish I were a woman of 36, dressed in black satin with
a string of pearls."
Maxim: "You wouldn't be here with me if you were...Please promise me never to wear black satin or pearls, or to be thirty-six years old."

Maxim: "Which would you prefer? New York or Manderley?"
Heroine: "Oh, please don't joke about it."
Maxim: "I repeat what I said. Either you go to America with Mrs. VanHopper, or you come home to Manderley with me."
Heroine: "You mean you want a secretary or something?"
Maxim: "I'm asking you to marry me you little fool!"
(Then he tells her how he takes his tea, and urges her never to forget it...)

(Pictured: Joan Fontaine, who plays the second Mrs. DeWinter in the film Rebecca)

1 comment:

judy said...

the movie and book are both brilliant.