Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

You know you’ll love a book if the first page makes you long for more and if you forget about everything else that surrounds you. But if the first sentence already overwhelms you and you just want to read on and on and never stop reading, then it must be an amazing book. And for me, that was the case with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I just couldn’t put this book down and I was lost in du Maurier’s beautiful writing style and her vivid descriptions. The entire book is just fascinating and you’re aware of this fact when you just read the first sentence:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

As a reader, you immediately begin to ask a lot of questions (Where is Manderely? What happened there? Who is the narrator?). You just want to find out more about the mysterious speaker and about Manderley. With each page, I was eager to find out more about the narrator and about Rebecca. Needless to say, I just loved this book and it is now one of my favorite books. I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, as I knew about it from my mother and grandmother. We had this book for as long as I can remember, but yet, I didn’t get to read it and I don’t understand why. But better too late than never, right? I am just glad that I finally had the chance to read such a wonderful and engaging book that astounds you and takes you to places who have never dreamed of!

This time, I won’t dwell on the summary of the book, since I think that most of you have already read it. (In case you haven’t read it yet, you can find out more about this book here). Instead, I want to do something different this time. I am going to answer some study questions and that way, you can find out what I have to say in particular about this excellent novel.

I’ve chosen three questions for further reflection:

Why do you think the narrator remains nameless?

If you have read the book, you may have noticed that the heroine’s name is never revealed in this novel. I think that the absence of a name symbolizes how uncertain the heroine is of herself; when she marries Maxim, she takes his name, but she doesn’t feel really comfortable in it, because she is not the first to have taken Maxim’s name. She is not the first Mrs. de Winter, and thus she has to compete with the late Mrs. de Winter, with Rebecca. Rebecca’s name is haunting the narrator like a dark shadow throughout the book and it’s even the book’s title. The heroine feels defeated and overpowered by Rebecca, until she finds out the truth about her. When she learns about Rebecca’s true nature, our heroine is suddenly feeling at ease; she no longer fears Rebecca and she begins to feel comfortable as Mrs. de Winter and as the mistress of Manderley.

What makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature?

There are many gothic elements presented to us throughout the book, but ultimately, it’s Rebecca’s “ghost” what makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature. From the beginning, the narrator has to compete with Rebecca. Everyone compares her to Rebecca and our heroine feels haunted by Maxim’s first wife. Her spirit is still present at Manderley, partly because Manderley is still run just as Rebecca has run it and also because Mrs. Danvers keeps Rebecca’s bedroom ready for her, as if Rebecca would return any minute. Furthermore, Rebecca’s memory is piercing the house and all of those who knew her. Our heroine feels her presence everywhere; every little thing reminds her of Rebecca; from the pen she uses to write letters to the chair she sits in. Everyone is still talking of Rebecca, preserving her memory, and mourning over her death. Thus, Rebecca’s “ghost” is haunting our narrator. Even though we are not talking about a real ghost, or supernatural forces, Rebecca is still present at Manderley; although she is dead, Rebecca’s spirit is still filling up the rooms with the help of her “messenger”, Mrs. Danvers, who is very devoted to Rebecca and who is willing to retain her memory forever, at all cost.

How does Maxim’s relationship with our heroine develop throughout the novel?

At the beginning, our nameless narrator is really happy when she marries Maxim. She has a great time on their honeymoon and she is anxious to arrive at Manderley and to take on the new role as Mrs. de Winter and as the new mistress of the house. But when the couple arrives at Manderley, the heroine sees that Rebecca’s presence dominates the place. Everything is run exactly as it was run when Rebecca was alive. Mrs. Danvers, who admired Rebecca, is always mentioning the former mistress of Manderley and she makes clear that she doesn’t approve of the narrator. The sinister Mrs. Danvers makes our heroine feel inferior and she tells her how much everyone loved the perfect Rebecca, especially Maxim. Thus, our heroine begins to feel intimidated by Rebecca and she begins to wonder if Maxim still loves Rebecca. Maxim and the narrator don’t really spend time together, and Maxim doesn’t tell his wife that he loves her. The heroine thinks that Maxim doesn’t love her and that he has married her only because he didn’t want to be alone anymore. She feels that Maxim treats her like a child and that he makes fun of her. During the course of the novel, everything changes, because Maxim tells her the truth about Rebecca’s evil nature. He tells her that Rebecca’s image was a mere illusion; she was not who she seemed, and therefore, our heroine doesn’t have to compete with the late Rebecca anymore. Maxim finally confesses his love for the narrator, and their bond grows stronger. They are companions now, who share everything with each other and there are no secrets that stand between them anymore. At the beginning, Maxim was distant to her and Rebecca was always lying in-between, but now that everything has been clarified, Rebecca’s shadow cannot interfere with the couple anymore. The question is if they are really happy now, with everything they’ve been through. So many things have happened that none of them will be able to forget and even though they love each other, the past is still haunting them from time to time. Daphne du Maurier gives little hints here and there (at the beginning of the novel) and the reader can conclude that not everything is perfect for the couple. Even if you want to forget your past, you can never quite accomplish that, because there will always be certain things that will remind you of it!

I wish I could answer more questions, but I am afraid that I would give away too much and I don’t want to spoil the story. For those who haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s masterpiece, I highly recommend that you do so. You won’t regret it, as Rebecca is an amazing tale full of dark secrets, remarkable characters and mysteries. This novel has everything I expect from a great book: psychological suspense, gothic elements, romance and twists. I just loved this book from beginning to end as it reminded me a little bit of Jane Eyre (one of my favorite books). I loved the characters and the plot was captivating and mesmerizing! Daphne du Maurier has created a fantastic and unforgettable tale and her descriptions and writing style are beautiful and breath-taking! I can’t wait to read other novels by this talented writer (I only read Frenchman’s Creek a few years ago)!

Advertisements

Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) is regarded as one of the key figures of the Romantic Movement. During his short life, the poet produced a series of odes, which remain “among the most popular poems in English Literature”. However, he received several critical attacks from his contemporaries and it was not until the latter part of the nineteenth century that his work began to be recognized. Keats had a major influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen and his letters are “among the most celebrated by any writer”.

Bright Star contains 13 poems and 37 letters that  bear witness to the love between John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Their passionate love affair began in 1818, when Keats was twenty-three years old and Fanny just eighteen. It was an intense love story, but unfortunately, it had a tragic end, as Keats died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five.

Keats and Fanny both lived in Hampstead and in 1819, they began living in the same house, which was divided into two separate living quarters (Fanny’s family moved into the same house where Keats lived with his best friend, Charles Brown). Thus, they saw each other quite often and they “shared the same garden and many meals as well”. In the early summer of 1819, Keats and his best friend left Hampstead for a writing retreat on the Isle of Wight, so Fanny and Keats were separated. Thus, the poet wrote his first letter to his beloved, pouring out his heart:

“…Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammeled me, so destroyed my freedom…I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain…”

Nevertheless, they both knew that their situation was difficult, as Keats had no money to marry Fanny. His first book of poetry had sold poorly and had earned ruthless reviews. Furthermore, Fanny’s mother and Keats’s friends disapproved of their relationship. Still, Fanny and Keats could not live without each other and when Keats returned to Hampstead, he gave Fanny a ring and hoped that his next book of poems would be successful enough so they could marry.

In 1820, Keats began showing signs of tuberculosis, so the doctors suggested that he should move to Italy and leave the cold airs of England behind. Fanny and Keats knew that they wouldn’t see each other again and the poet’s departure was unbearable for both of them. While in Italy, Keats did not write to Fanny again and the letters Fanny wrote to her beloved in Italy were buried with him, unopened. When twenty-year-old Fanny heard of the poet’s death, she was devastated and she spent three years in widow’s black. She married at the age of thirty-three and had three children. Nonetheless, she could never forget her first love and would wear the ring he had given her until her death.

Although John Keats died at such a young age, “he left behind some of the most exquisite and moving poetry ever written”. The young poet feared that he would be forgotten, but he has been rediscovered by many people and his place in English Romanticism is now fully and rightly recognized.

Bright Star contains Keats’s remarkable poems and letters to his beloved; this volume is a testament to love and “a dazzling display of a talent cruelly cut short”.

Here’s one of his poems:

Bright Star by John Keats

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors-
No–yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever – or else swoon to death.

Bright Star was made into a film and you can find out more about it and watch the trailer here.

I would like to thank Gabrielle Gantz from Penguin Group for sending me a copy of this beautiful book!

The Earth Hums In B Flat

I just finished reading The Earth Hums In B Flat by Mari Strachan. I discovered this charming book at Vivienne’s lovely blog, Serendipity, and I am so glad I did, because I loved this book!

The Earth Hums in B Flat tells the story of a curious young girl who lives in a small Welsh village. Every night in her dreams, twelve-year-old Gwenni flies above her village, observing its people and their hidden secrets. One night, she sees something disturbing that she can’t easily forget. The next day, Mr. Evans, the husband of Gwenni’s teacher disappears and the village people start gossiping. There are many rumours going around about the missing man and his family, but Gwenni wants to discover the truth about what really happened. Thus, she plays detective and starts to ask people questions about the man’s whereabouts. However, Gwenni finds out more than she maybe wanted to know and she soon learns that everyone seems to have a secret, even her own family. Moreover, since she has disclosed so many secrets, she now has to deal will the fact that her life will never be the same again!

I really loved this book, since Gwenni is such a sympathetic character. Her own family and other village people think that she is odd, but she is just a curious young girl with a vivid imagination. She is very clever and just tries to understand everything that happens around her. She just wants to understand human behaviour, and therefore, she asks many questions. The people around her don’t like her questions, since they have something to hide and they don’t want their secrets revealed. However, Gwenni doesn’t seem to stop investigating until she has found out everything she needs to know!

The Earth Hums in B Flat is a wonderful and magical novel full of secrets and mysteries. This book is beautifully written and provides us with an intriguing portrait of life in a small Welsh town!

 

 

I Capture the Castle

I have just finished reading I Capture the Castle and even though it’s a good book, it was not as charming as I expected it to be. Since I have read so many positive reviews about this novel, I expected it to be as wonderful as The Enchanted April. I suppose my expectations were too high, thus, I was disappointed with this book. As I said before, I Capture the Castle is not a bad book; it has a nice story line and interesting characters. In addition, the author does a great job describing the protagonists and the setting by letting Cassandra record her personal thoughts and observations in her journal. That way, we can witness how she falls in love for the first time and how she deals with it. Furthermore, readers get to know her eccentric family and learn engaging things about the village life and the old English castle.

Many people have compared I Capture the Castle to the novels of Jane Austen, but honestly, I can’t really see why. In my opinion, Cassandra lacks the charm, wit and passion of a Jane Austen heroine. Sure enough, Cassandra is bright and charismatic, but sometimes also very childish and naïve. She tells the story with an honest teen perspective; the reader gets to know every side of her (clever, sad, vulnerable, naïve etc.), and that’s what makes her a realistic and believable character. However, I didn’t like her as much as I liked Jane Austen’s heroines since I find that Cassandra is a shallow character.

Overall, I Capture the Castle is an enjoyable book and even though it’s not one of the best books I’ve ever read, it still attracted me because of its wonderful and romantic setting: the crumbling English castle!

 

 
 

 

The Enchanted April

I have just finished reading The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim and I must say that this book is truly enchanting! It’s a romantic, magical and special book that you just have to read, otherwise you will miss out on something beautiful! Elizabeth von Arnim does a great job portraying the main characters and revealing their inner thoughts to the reader. You will be very curious to find out what happens to each of them and you will be very fond of them. Furthermore, you will immediately fall in love with San Salvatore and will imagine yourself there, observing the protagonists as they undergo emotional changes and begin to live again. San Salvatore works its magic on everyone, due to its beauty, charm and peacefulness. The author describes the place in such a wonderful way, that you can fully comprehend why the main characters are changed forever. This book is beautifully written and it has become one of my favorite books. I will probably reread it over and over again as this is a wonderful book about love, life and relationships.