My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Short review: this is somewhat derivative, but well enough rendered bit of light reading; I got through it pretty quickly (a rarity, these days). It takes its structure largely from Jane Eyre, but is not bound by the same faith that gives Bronte’s novel such weight. I almost want to say that Daphne du Maurier opened the door for writers like Danielle Steele, but the truth of the matter is that pulp fiction has been around forever, and DdM manages to just barely hang on the lowest rungs of good literature.
If that sounds like I am damning the book with faint praise, it is just because it is hard to capture the hardest part of writing a story–making the reader want to keep reading. DdM’s plot is fairly simple play on Jane Eyre (young, naive woman gets involved with a mysterious older man and finds her way around a large gothic mansion where the past is a threatening mystery), her characterizations seem like a pale impersonation of Dickens (the one exception is the narrator, who is so spineless I wanted to yell at her through the page), but she also pulls of the neat trick of making me get through the narrator’s endless quiverings and imaginings of what people are saying behind her back (her imagination reminded me of a pessimistic version of Anne of Green Gables, of all things). As for the dash of literary pretension, the narrator does at times wax about the influence of memory on our present relationships; there is much there to be mined, and it is a very interesting area (just how does a couple like Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn claim to get along?), DdM shies away from any meaningful answers in the book. That being said, hey, Rebecca is not a bad way to spend a few days, and now I am interested in the film from Hitchcock, ostensibly a classic.
*It came along with an invite to see “Sleep No More,” a theatrical piece that’s been in NYC for about a year now. The piece looks fascinating: the company has taken over several floors of an old hotel, done them up to look like a thirties hotel in a rather spooky manner, and then set various odd events around the theme of Macbeth and, as I found out, Rebecca. Awesome gift.