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)!

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The Man in the Picture

When Oliver visits his former professor Theo Parmitter at Cambridge University, he thinks that they will be spending time just as usual – sitting by the fire, having nice conversations and drinking whisky. Oliver always enjoys listening to Theo’s stories, but this time, the old professor is about to narrate a strange and disturbing tale that will change Oliver’s life forever. The story begins and ends with a Venetian picture – a painting that hangs on Theo’s wall. It depicts a masked crowd at the Venice carnival. If you stare at the picture for too long, you can see strange things happening. It seems to draw you into itself so that you feel like becoming a part of the Venetian scene.  There’s just something odd and mysterious about that picture and the old professor is ready to reveal its gloomy secret. 

Theo has acquired the Venetian picture at an auction when he was younger. He just knew that he had to buy the painting because it fascinated him. Little did he know that this intriguing painting would have such strong impact on other people’s lives. The professor was very content with his new purchase and he often stared at the picture in awe. The years have passed and Theo’s life went on as usual, and nothing of importance happened. However, one day, he received a letter concerning his beloved painting. The letter was from a Lady Hawdon, a Countess who wished to see him and talk to him about the Venetian picture. Therefore, the professor decided to pay her a visit in order to find out what Lady Hawdon had in mind. When he met the old woman, she made clear that she wanted to buy the picture at any cost. Nevertheless, Theo didn’t want to sell the painting, even when Lady Hawdon told him a horrifying tale – a frightening story connected to the Venetian picture. A dark secret lies behind that alluring picture but what does Oliver have to do with it? 

Susan Hill’s Victorian ghost story is an enjoyable quick read – perfect for a winter day (or night). The Man in the Picture tells a strange story of loss, love and revenge. Even though this ghost story is not as frightening as The Ghost Writer or The Séance by John Harwood, it is still a haunting tale! I really liked this book, thus I recommend it to everyone who loves a good ghost story and to everyone who enjoys reading Gothic Fiction. 

I would like to thank Vida Engstrand from The Overlook Press for sending me a copy of this lovely book!

The Séance by John Harwood

The Séance by John Harwood

Constance Langton’s childhood takes an unhappy turn when her younger sister Alma dies at the age of two. Her mother goes into mourning and hardly speaks to anybody, and her distant father ignores her and eventually abandons the family. Since she feels unloved and neglected by her parents, Constance begins to think that she might have been a foundling. However, her questions remain unanswered because the girl has no one to confide in. She often feels alone and she can’t bear to see her mother so unhappy, therefore, Constance wants to find a way to cheer her mother up and to put an end to her pain. Thus, one day, Constance pretends to be taken over by Alma’s spirit and tells her mother that she is in heaven. The girl thinks that her mother will finally be able to go on with her life and to stop mourning, now that she knows that Alma is in heaven. Constance’s mother, however, seems to become obsessed with the idea of hearing Alma. Thus, the two attend a series of séances where Constance continues to pretend to be her sister. Her mother seems to be happy and she even smiles sometimes, but she is no longer content with only hearing Alma; she also wants to see and hold her. In desperation, Constance decides to take her mother to a séance held by a group of charlatans. There, her mother is convinced that she has really seen her beloved Alma and after all these years of grief, she finally seems to have found peace. But when Constance’s mother commits suicide after this event, the girl is shattered and she begins to blame herself for her mother’s death. Since her mother is gone, Constance is all by her self and she feels hopeless and lonelier than ever. Much to her surprise, Constance soon learns that a distant relative has bequeathed her entire estate to her. The protagonist finds out that the estate consists of Wraxford Hall, a derelict manor house in the English countryside. The decaying mansion has an obscure reputation: once, people have mysteriously disappeared there and other sinister things have taken place. Still, Constance doesn’t seem to be deterred by Wraxford Hall’s sombre history. She is determined to find out everything about the decaying mansion and about her distant relatives in the hope that she will learn more about herself. While she tries to unveil the dark secrets of Wraxford Hall, she becomes more and more convinced that she has indeed been a foundling, as she feels a strong connection to Wraxford Hall’s former residents. As the protagonist digs deeper into the mysterious events surrounding the decaying mansion, she finds herself entangled in a web of secrets, lies and deception. Thus, Constance needs to be careful, as in this world of illusion, nothing is quite as it seems and hidden dangers await her.

The Séance is an accomplished second novel from a very talented author; this compelling tale pays homage to Victorian Literature and to Victorian ghost stories. John Harwood has created a captivating world of intrigues, mysteries and dark secrets. The reader will enjoy this suspenseful ghost story, as the author has successfully managed to capture the language and spirit of the Victorian period and in addition, he has provided us with a well-constructed plot and fascinating characters. The Séance will appeal to readers who enjoy Victorian ghost stories and gothic tales and I recommend this novel to everyone who is interested in the Victorian Era. I am a huge fan of Victorian ghost stories, thus I must say that I loved this spellbinding tale! I really liked reading about Wraxford Hall, with its secret passages and hidden chambers, and I loved how the author has used the elements of a classic ghost story in this engaging novel (haunted houses, stormy nights, skeletons in the closet, dark mysteries and secrets, etc.). All in all, The Séance is a terrific Victorian ghost story and therefore, a must read for ghost story lovers!

I would like to thank Mariner Books for sending me a copy of this engaging novel!

 

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renne Hieber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is set in the heart of Victorian London, where dark and mysterious things are taking place. Dangerous spirits are haunting this beautiful city and six people have been chosen to safeguard the mortal world from these supernatural terrors. This group, known as The Guard, awaits the fulfillment of the Prophecy, which promises that a last member will join their circle in time and help them fight against the forces of evil.

Nineteen years later, orphan Percy Parker arrives at the Athens Academy in Victorian London. The eighteen-year-old immediately feels out of place at her new school, since she is not like any other girl. Her strange and unique appearance sets her apart from the other students and Percy finds it hard to make friends. The students and professors think that she looks odd and thus, they keep their distance; but if they gave this timid girl a chance, they would find out that she is unique in every way. Percy speaks multiple languages and she has the ability to see ghosts and speak to them. Furthermore, she is often haunted by strange visions. However, Percy does not know why these peculiar things are happening to her. The shy girl yearns for acceptance and wants to be like everybody else, therefore she doesn’t want to tell anyone about her abilities. Percy doesn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to herself, so she tries to behave like the other students. She tries to focus on school and she is concerned about the fact that she has to attend math classes. She is a bright student, but she isn’t good at math and therefore, she hates it. Maybe her attractive Professor Alexi will be able to change her mind. There’s just something about him that fascinates Percy and she cannot stop thinking about him. What does this mysterious Alexi have to hide? And what do these two unlikely characters have in common?

Vivienne at Serendipity mentioned this refreshing novel and when I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to get my hands on this book!

Thus, I was very happy when I received a copy from Dorchester Publishing and I couldn’t wait to read it! I just loved this compelling novel, since it drew me in from the beginning and it took me on an unforgettable journey through Victorian London!

Leanna Renee Hieber has created a charming and imaginative gothic story that is full of spiritualism, mystery and romance. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is an engaging novel and I was immediately captivated by the lyrical language, the mythic themes and the well-drawn characters. In the beginning, Percy is described as a shy girl who has no self-confidence, but when she meets Professor Alexi, she gains strength and courage. Alexi, unlike the others, doesn’t feel intimidated by her appearance; he appreciates Percy and becomes aware of the fact that she is a beautiful young girl who is intelligent, kind and special in every way! All in all, this book is lovely and beautifully written; I really liked everything about it, especially the Victorian setting and the gothic and supernatural elements. This is indeed a strangely beautiful tale!

For more information (trailer, excerpts and prologue), please visit Leanna Renee Hieber’s website.

The Ghost Writer

As you all know, I decided to read The Ghost Writer by John Harwood for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. I discovered this book at Melody’s lovely blog, Melody’s Reading Corner, and I couldn’t wait to read it!

Young Gerard lives with his overprotective mother and his reticent father in a small Australian town. He doesn’t have any friends and his parents are very strict. His life is uneventful, thus, one day, he decides to sneak into his mother’s bedroom. There, he makes a mysterious discovery as he finds a strange photograph of a beautiful woman and a manuscript in his mother’s cupboard. However, Gerard cannot enjoy his discoveries, since his mother enters the room and beats him up for invading her privacy.

When he wants to find out more about the mysterious photograph, he realizes that his secretive mother has something to hide. He senses that the photograph must have some connection to his mother’s past, but she won’t tell him any further details. All he knows is that his mother grew up in England and that she lived with her grandmother at a grand country estate called Staplefield.

Gerard often thinks about the mysterious photograph and about Staplefield, but he can’t tell anybody about it, since he has no friends. Therefore, he is very happy when he begins a pen-friendship with an English girl named Alice. She is an orphan girl who is restricted to a wheelchair after a terrible car accident. She doesn’t want to talk about her past and Gerard agrees not to ask any further questions. Finally, Gerard has found someone to confide in; he can tell her everything and share his ideas and feelings with her.

Over the next couple of years, they frequently write to each other and their letters become very passionate. Gerard and Alice realize that they have fallen in love with each other and Gerard can’t wait to see his beloved. Thus, he plans to visit Alice in England, but she doesn’t know about his intention. All she knows is that Gerard wants to find out more about his mother’s past while he is in England. Unfortunately, he cannot see Alice during his stay, so he disappointedly returns to Australia.

After his mother’s death, Gerard leaves his home and heads for England. This time, he hopes he can finally meet Alice and be with her. He also hopes to find out about Staplefield and the mystifying photograph and thus solve the mysteries behind his mother’s past.

John Harwood does a brilliant job embedding a few Victorian ghost stories within Gerard’s suspenseful story and the reader soon realizes that these stories are somehow connected to Gerard’s mother. But how are they connected? And what does Alice have to do with these spooky stories? What does she have to hide, anyway?

Well, you’ll have to read this superb book to find out. You won’t regret it, as this novel is truly a masterpiece and a tribute to gothic literature! I recommend this book to everyone out there, since The Ghost Writer tells a story full of hidden secrets, mysteries, intrigues and deception. This novel is an astounding piece of work and a terrific ghost story! I just couldn’t put this book down and was eager to find out how it will end. I loved everything about this captivating novel, especially the stories within the story. The Ghost Writer will remind you of The Turn of the Screw and other Victorian ghost stories and it will linger in your mind for a long time!

The Ghost Writer is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am looking forward to reading other John Harwood novels in the future.

I would like to thank Brittany Edwards from Harcourt Trade Publishers for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books, so when I heard of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange, I knew that I would have to read this book, especially since I also love gothic stories!

Danielle Jackson from Sourcebooks kindly sent me a copy of this engaging book and I must say that I really enjoyed reading it!

Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre begins with the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy; it is a wonderful October day and Elizabeth believes that she is the happiest woman in England. She can’t wait to become Darcy’s wife and spend the rest of her life with the man she loves. However, Elizabeth doesn’t know that her life will take a dangerous and unexpected turn, just after the wedding.

While embarking on their wedding tour throughout Europe, Elizabeth notices some strange changes in her husband’s behaviour. Darcy seems to be reserved and gloomy, instead of being happy and excited. Moreover, he is refraining from any physical affection, and Elizabeth begins to wonder if she is responsible for his retention. She even begins to think that Darcy might regret their marriage, especially since his relatives were not pleased with their union. However, when she confronts Darcy, he denies all of it and assures her that everything is perfect.

As they travel to wonderful places such as Paris and Venice, strange things begin to happen and Elizabeth cannot enjoy her wedding tour. Darcy’s relations and friends seem just as odd as his own behaviour and Elizabeth is only comforted by the thought of her beloved sister Jane. She writes to her sister, relating the peculiar events that have taken place so far. Elizabeth tells her sister about Darcy’s unnatural behaviour, about her horrifying nightmares and about the sinister places she has seen.

 

While the newlyweds reside at an old, crumbling castle, an axe displayed above a doorway mysteriously falls, missing Darcy only by inches. This incident is seen as a sign, an omen, meaning that Elizabeth will cause Darcy’s death. Other strange events take place and Darcy seems even more aloof and gloomy. That’s when Elizabeth decides to leave Darcy and return to England. She is convinced that Darcy doesn’t love her and that he regrets their marriage; however, what she doesn’t know is the fact that she is in great danger.

Will Darcy be able to rescue his wife and finally tell her his dark secret? And how will Elizabeth react to his disclosure?

If you want to find out if their love is strong enough to overcome everything, then you’ll have to read this captivating Pride and Prejudice sequel! I really liked this book, since it is such a suspenseful story, full of gothic elements, dark secrets and danger! Bestselling author Amanda Grange has done an excellent job creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere throughout the story and I truly recommend this book to everyone out there who loves gothic stories and Pride and Prejudice!