Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why Do I Torture Myself?

In an effort to increase the number of classics I have read, I recently completed Rebecca. I chose this book as a result of reading a favourable review on another blog. I am glad to have read it because when I say it was atrocious I can tell you exactly what it was about the book that I disliked as opposed to saying "Oh, I tried, but I didn't like it so I never finished it".

Rebecca is the story of a young woman who is of a lower to middle class upbringing and becomes the second wife of a well to do older gentleman.

My problems with this book are many. The Narrator (that is what we have to call her, for she is never named) meets Maxim De Winter while being the paid companion to an obnoxious woman who is obsessively nosey and incredibly snobby. When the insufferable old coot falls ill and is bed ridden for a couple of weeks, The Narrator occupies her time getting to know Mr. De Winter, whom is presumably on vacation recovering from the loss of his wife. Once the employer regains her health she decides to visit a daughter in America. The distraught Narrator informs Maxim of her impending departure and he asks her to marry him. Yep, after a scant two weeks of courtship. Fine, I'll swallow that with only a mild grumble.

The Narrator has married a man twice her age. She moves into his home and assumes the role of a woman above any station she has been familiar with in life. Good, a little bit of a May-December Rags to Riches romance book. Great, I can enjoy a romance when it's well written. When the characters are likable. The Narrator is not. She is a nitwit. She constantly worries she is not up to the task of running a home such as Manderley, yet she never tries. She simply differs to the staff. She is harassed and terrorized by the former Mrs. De Winter's maid and says nothing, for fear of appearing weak, yet she never questions how weak she is when she is hiding or keeping secrets from from Ms. Danvers. She incessantly wonders if her husband loves her and whether she is living up to the reputation his first wife has left behind, without ever asking her husband what that reputation might be in his eyes. She eventually resigns herself to a loveless marriage so long as there is a facade in place so that the servants, family and public beyond never need know she has failed. She is certain Maxim does not love her. He cannot love her, she is unworthy of it.

I will give Daphne du Maurier credit, she threw a curve ball when I least expected it and it was the only thing that kept me from heaving this book at the wall. The twist was exactly what this book needed when it happened. Try reading a couple hundred pages worth of the the thoughts and ramblings of a woman with little to no self-worth. It is bloody draining. You want so much to root for her, you know there is something wrong, you are sure it isn't a result of The Narrator, but you find yourself rooting for her only because you know you should, such is the effect of her depression on you.

I have one other complaint. I usually enjoy when authors make use of speech/grammar trends of a particular era. I don't know if this one did, I would imagine its so, it is the only explanation I can think of. It seemed to lack an article where there should be one here and there. The chosen phrasing irked me on occasion. I don't know, I'm not doing an adequate job of explaining my meaning, I don't think. It could be this book is written in a style I haven't encountered before and am unfamiliar with, having nothing to do with the time it was written. Regardless of the reason, I did not enjoy reading the style.

I won't read this book again. I am glad I finished reading it because it was tough. It annoyed me and bored me, but I finished so that I could say I did. I didn't give up. So, there's that.

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