My name is Rebecca so perhaps it is a given that my favourite book is Daphne Du Mauriers’ Rebecca. I suppose I sought it out because of the title not expecting to find a book that would stay with me for life. I collect different copies now, mainly older versions, and even found a first edition one year at a boot fair. It was my birthday and I paid the handsome sum of 20 pence for it. It was that years birthday present from my late father. I say every year that somehow he finds a way to send me a present. For my birthday this year (today!) he got me a copy of The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith which I had been hunting for everywhere and never seen, until yesterday!
So my history with Rebecca is important and will perhaps explain my review of Mrs De Winter which is this. Leave the classics alone. Don’t write sequels to the great novels. Leave them to stand alone in their greatness, they don’t need help. They don’t need explaining. They just need to be left to stand in their own splendour.
I had avoided any sequel to any of my favourite books for years but you know recently I came across Susan Hill who is an author I am currently loving. I enjoyed her personal exploration of her own library, Howards End is on the Landing, and I really really enjoyed The Woman in Black. Engaging with Mrs De Winter was inevitable.
I have to say that I was extremely impressed by how quickly Mrs Maxim De Winter the Second moved back into my head. The narrators voice to Mrs De Winter is surprisingly similar to Rebecca. The tone is perfect. All the characters were quickly alive again in fact. Susan Hill is a gifted writer and I rate her very highly. This is an excellent story and beautifully written.
But it’s not Rebecca.
It becomes apparent throughout the story what a huge role the sea and the cliffs around Cornwall played in Rebecca. I knew that because I always say, “Daphne Du Maurier Country” when we drive over the border into Cornwall. You can see it and feel it. The moody atmosphere filled with sea spray! There was barely a glass of water in Mrs De Winter and I felt it’s absence keenly.
The story follows the De Winter’s as they return from a 10 year exile abroad to attend a funeral. There is much to-ing and fro-ing as they travel about here and there continuing to run from their past. But it catches up with them eventually. Of course. Apparently the loose ends needed to be tied up.
But were they?
I hated the ending. I found it disappointing and unnecessary. I love Susan Hill but as a long term and avid lover of Rebecca I am afraid I am going to do my best to forget the ending that she chose to give to this story. It is not the ending I would have given.
Have you read it? What do you think? Are you a Rebecca fan?