Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rebecca Read Along - Week 1 Discussion

Welcome to Week 1 of the Rebecca Read-along! Our goal was to read through Chapter 16 today, and then participate in a few discussion questions. Here are our friends sharing in the fun:

Michele @ Reader's Respite
Carrie @ Books and Movies
Jackie @ Farm Lane Books
Frances @ Nonsuch Book
Molly @ The Bumbles
Donna @ From Little Acorns
Another Cookie Crumbles
Alice Teh @ Hello My Name is Alice
Heidenkind's Hideaway
Susan @ Bear Swamp Reflections
April @ Good Books & Good Wine

Paperback Reader

For those who are not reading along with us, and haven't read the book, here is the jist:

Atmospheric, gothic, eerie. A classic. A snobby social-climber's young assistant meets the dashing widower Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo, and finds herself married and whisked off to his estate on the Cornish coast. Despite her fanciful expectations, life is not easy for her at Manderley. She finds herself forever in the shadow of her husband's elegant, beautiful, dead wife Rebecca. From Rebecca's loyal and sinister servant Mrs. Danvers, to the senile grandmother that screams Rebecca's name, there seems to exist an evil presence at Manderley. Secrets are slowly revealed, and we wonder...will Manderley ever be the same? Will Rebecca get the best of them, even from the grave?

While I have tried to make my question fairly general, spoilers may follow, so please be warned!

1. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." This is quite possibly one of the most famous opening lines of a book. How do these words set the tone for the rest of the story?

The beginning of the book is intriguing, with the narrator reflecting, almost wistfully, back over her years at Manderley. Since I've never read the book before, I really had no clue what had taken place. What happened to the great estate? Why are they living in a hotel? What I did know was the mood felt subdued, poignant and regretful. The atmospheric quality of the writing kicked in early, which made the description of Manderley seem almost haunted. I could easily deduce that things had not gone well.

2. Du Maurier obviously chose not to name the second Mrs. de Winter (referred to as DW2 from hereon). How did this affect your perception of her?

I was probably well into Chapters 8 or 9 when I realized I didn't know DW2's name. I had to stop for awhile and wonder why Du Maurier had taken this tactic. It seemed obvious that the author wanted us to feel the same emotion as the narrator, and that was the notion that she was nameless in the overwhelming shadow of Rebecca. The narrator felt she could do nothing right, and did not fit in. She was self-described as having plain hair, plain clothes, she had no skills in social settings, she did not share the love of hunting, riding horses, golfing, and she commanded no respect from her servants. Somewhere along the line, I she really all that bad, or does she just have really low self-esteem? Either way, perception is reality, and I began to think of her as a mousy little pushover.

3. Do you think the character of DW2 was believable?

I believe that the character was totally believable of a 21 year old girl. That doesn't mean I liked it! She was very eager to please, eager to get away from her employer, eager to be "in love", and eager to live in the estate that she has always admired from afar as a child. Never mind that Maxim talked down to her, was moody and distant. Someday he would come around and realize how much he loved her! If we have seen it once, we have seen it a thousand times.

I was also quite entertained by DW2's mental flights of fancy. True to form in an emotional immature girl, she would imagine all of the conversations the townspeople and servants were having behind her back, imagine the life that her and Maxim would have someday, imagine the gloating letters she would write to her former employer.

I was literally screaming out loud, however, when she took fashion advice from Mrs. Danvers for the ball. The woman loved Rebecca, obviously hates DW2, looks like a walking corpse...would you trust her? I hate to say it, but little Miss Innocent had that life lesson coming to her!

4. What was your first impression of Maxim de Winter? Did you like him? Did you trust him?

Like I said earlier, Maxim seemed a little bi-polar to me. Moody one minute, the next minute chatty, but never expressing too much thoughtfulness towards his new bride. I just shook my head at the willingness of DW2 to accept the lack of a formal wedding (just because HE had already gone down that road). He often treated her as a child (granted, she was, being half his age). Perhaps this was the appeal. But because we saw Maxim through the narrator's eyes, and he treated her almost dismissively, we never really got a good glimpse of his personality. I wasn't sure I liked him, but I didn't really think he was dangerous or untrustworthy. I just thought he was self-centered with a few screws loose.

How do you weigh in on these questions? Feel free to answer in the comments, or link to your own post. See you next week with Round 2!


Melody said...

Though I'm not participating in this read-along, I'm enjoying reading your answers and I definitely look forward to reading other participants' thoughts as well.

Just wondering... are all particpants answering the same questions? ;)

I think this book fits well for the RIP IV Challenge!!

Alice said...

Hi Sandy, I really enjoyed reading this book. Although I'm behind (I'm only up to Chapter 8 of the book), I will still try to attempt to answer the questions:

Question 1: Those words stopped me for a while before I continued reading the sentences that followed. I wondered if the narrator is no longer at Manderley and is somewhere else. I continued reading in anticipation of what actually happened at Manderley; thus, causing the narrator to dream of returning there. It sets the tone that is full of mystery.

Question 2: I have read a few chapters into the book, and still not know the name of DW2. She gives me the impression that she wants to stay anonymous. It's like, that part of her is unimportant, just like how her social standing is and other characteristics.

Question 3: I do think the character of DW2 was totally believable. I did envy her capability and luck in ending up with the seemingly impenetrable Maxim. She's at the right time, at the right place, although she doesn't very highly of herself. I like her and enjoyed her character in the story.


I'm looking forward to reading the thoughts of others who are also reading this book! :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - the participants can choose to answer the same questions or not. It can be kinda fun to have people answer the same questions, as there can be such different answers.

Alice - It IS a clever way to create intrigue and atmosphere isn't it? As far as the character of DW2, I was surprised she DID get through to Maxim. She certainly gives herself no credit for being clever or beautiful. It makes me want to know what she really looks like!

Just a note to everyone...I will be away from the computer for most of the day, so I probably won't be able to comment until late in the day. So I have not abandoned you! I shall be back!

Paperback Reader said...

I haven't begun to reread it yet but hopefully will have caught up for round 2.

Looking forward to reading through the discussion points.

Matt said...

Maxim is a confusing character at a first glance. He is obviously weighed down by something. And as the readers are ushered into the haunted Manderley, it's for sure that Maxim had a shady past that is yet to be revealed to DW2. The upbringing of DW2 seems irrelevant to me, but that all the servants dislike DW2 and insist on the old ways of Rebecca tell us a lot about Rebecca. It gets me all psyched up to find out about her.

Ana S. said...

I think you're spot on on why the narrator remains nameless. Very interesting questions and answers, Sandy, and I look forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts!

Kaye said...

I think DW2 is believable for that time frame.
The feeling of wistfulness is so prevalent in the first sentence. It's almost as if that was the best part of her life and nothing else will ever compare to it.
This isn't in the questions you posed, Sandy, but I loved the beginning descriptions of Manderly. Did you notice that the vegetation descriptions are almost lifelike? Yet when we meet the housekeeper,Mrs. Danvers, she is described in almost deathlike terms. From Pg 67.."But when she took my hand hers was limp and heavy, deathly cold, and it lay in mine like a lifeless thing. This is Mrs. Danvers, said Maxim, and she began to speak, still leaving that dead hand in mine, her hollow eyes never leaving mine..."
Phew, gives me the shivers. Du Maurier is exceptional at setting the scene.

Molly said...

How I wish I had the time to read this along with all of you. It is like a virtual book club - which is something I would desperately like to join.

I read this book in the spring and thoroughly enjoyed it. This week's questions were thought-provoking, and you did a great job answering them!

Unknown said...

This is a great project. You will soon rule the book blogosphere!!

It's interesting to hear you all talk about how believable DW2 is. It makes me wonder what readers thought back when the book first came out. I read Rebecca many years ago. I thought DW2 was believable but very old fashioned. She seemed like a 19th century heroine, not a 20th century one.

Michele said...

Well first I have to say that this is about my billionth read of this book, but it's been a few years since my last read. And I'm amazed how my perceptions have changed during that time.

What surprised me the most this time is how little patience I had with DW2. Admittedly, I wanted to strangle her most of the time, LOL.

I really thing her lack of name was reflecting how she thought of herself....a nobody. I just wanted her to grow a spine for the love of pete.

Actually, I've got to say, that this time around my favorite characters were the evil Mrs. D and Max's sister, Beatrice. I just enjoyed these characters so much more this time around. Mrs D. because I'm still figuring out her motivations (her love of DW1 just didn't seem enough for me...especially by the second half of the novel). And Beatrice because I just love her, period.

Max's character, I don't think, is really developed until the second half, so I'm curious to hear what you all think of him by the end.

Happy reading!

ds said...

Sandy, I ran on so long that I posted my answers to your questions. I don't think I was as observant a reader as most of the commenters, but I enjoyed reading the book. Thank you for doing this!I'm already looking forward to next week's questions.

The Bumbles said...

Let me preface all of this by saying that I have seen the movie so I was familiar enough with the overall plot going in. However, it has been a LONG time since I saw it so I really don't remember exactly what happened so the twists and turns revealed are still a surprise.

#1 - Having the movie images in my brain I felt like reading the beginning chapters of this book - which were so flowery descriptive - I was watching Hitchcock's images play on a projector in my mind. That was very cool. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much though otherwise - it seems she spent a lot of time in the descriptions and setting the image of the scenery. I was getting antsy for a little action. The opening line is obviously setting the tone for the entire book. She returned to this place again in her dreams. The mystery is why she is no longer there, or why the place is no longer there. By choice? By disaster? She seems to be scared of what it has become while sentimental about its beauty. She misses it but at the same time enjoys the boring routine she has in the vastly different surroundings she resides in currently.

#2 - This no-name DW2 really pissed me off. From the very beginning I noticed we did not know her name and when it became obvious the author was doing this on purpose it started to drive me crazy. Then I started wondering if the movie had done the same thing - and wanted to go rent it to find out her blasted name already!!! But I agree, it seems it is a nod to how little of an individual she feels of herself. What difference does it make who she is? Time is fleeting and constantly changing anyway. That is a theme she revisits often - initially when DW2 and Maxim are driving to the top of the cliff in Monte Carlo.

#3 - She was annoying. But I kept reminding myself she was only in her early 20's and without friends and family thrust into an environment on a whirlwind where she did not feel welcomed and was very naive. I don't think that it was necessarily the way women/girls behaved at the time. Beatrice and Rebecca herself certainly seemed capable of standing up for themselves. DW2 was just so painfully in need of a self-esteem boost.

#4 - My first impression was that of DW2's so I guess I felt he was handsome and debonnaire and although he was obviously rich and important, he didn't act like a pompous ass and preferred the company of DW2 and to know what she thought and felt rather than hang out with annoying busy bodies. So I liked him. He seemed a tortured soul so I was wary for DW2 turning into a rebound gal. The author didn't give us any details about their wedding or honeymoon - the only time it appears they were happy and themselves. So the transition to Manderley was a bit odd. And then Maxim became engrossed in his home life and I think he gave DW2 a bit more credit that she could handle things. I think it was rather stupid of him to think she wouldn't feel uneasy or threatened in an environment created by the woman she and everyone around her felt she was there to replace. DW2's feeling of being like his pet - a la Jasper - I thought was a good comparison. So Maxim started to become annoying to me as well. Geez - everyone seems to be annoying me!!!

Mrs. D was described as a creepy lady and I think the movie presented her that way much better than the book did. In the book I feel she is just this odd servant pulling all the strings. In the movie she made me shiver - like she did to DW2. I knew exactly what she was up to with that dress suggestion so I didn't think that part was all that surprising and felt DW2 was a complete idiot at that point. But as the whole event seems to be pivotal to DW2, I must say that the twists to come are not nearly as obvious. I've just moved on to THE biggie and become completely engrossed with it last night so for those still reading - hang on to your hats!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Paperback Reader - yes, once you get rolling and get momentum, it is hard to stop! If you get halfway in a few days, go ahead and post the questions if you want!

Matt - I had a totally odd feeling about Maxim as well, and didn't trust him! And your point about DW2's background it spot on. It wouldn't have mattered if she had been the queen of a small country, she never could have replaced Rebecca!

Nymeth - the nameless thing didn't bother me so much, but it seems that it really got under some people's skin! I love it!

Kaye - no need to stick to my questions! I agree with you...what descriptions of Manderley, both at the beginning of the book, and when DW2 first arrives. It is incredibly easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself there! Du Maurier is masterful in this way! When she describes Danvers, I got the chills.

Molly - I know, I wish you could join too. Hey, I'm up for doing something like this again, so if you get an idea, let me know! I'm in!

Sandy Nawrot said...

James - rule the book blogosphere! Ha! I just bumble around and hope I don't run into something! Anyway, I guess I know some young women who act like this today. They have no spine, and just really want to be in love with somebody, even if it means selling themselves short. Drives me nuts.

Michele - it is funny how we tend to grow a wee bit more cynical with our old age, huh? There were a few times I just wanted to smack DW2, and tell her to stop prancing around in her imaginary "what if" life and grow up. But she is 21, and as I said to James, some girls that age do act like that. I think that the comment about your favorite character would have been a great question. I would agree with you, I loved Beatrice. She was very entertaining. Danvers, however, evoked an emotion with me that was homicidal. I wanted to smash her face.

ds - yes I saw that! And that is great! I am glad you posted your answers. I thought I would answer everyone first, then come over and chat with you!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Bumbles - I can only imagine what Hitchcock did with this story. It isn't available on Netflix for some reason, but I need to see it! I was the same way...I wanted action. It took me a day or so to get through the preliminaries. (But then at the end, I had to go back and re-read the beginning!) DW2 pissed me off too. And I bet the name is not in the movie. It is just too big an issue in the story to change that. I find it interesting in how you viewed Maxim from the beginning of the book to the midway point. I really never liked him to begin with, and it just got worse as the book went on. (I need to shut up until next week!) As far as Danvers is concerned, I thought she exuded pure evil. I haven't seen the movie though, so that may be the difference between your impression and mine. Great answers Molly!

Kaye said...

If you haven't seen Hitchcock's movie, be aware the ending is totally different than the ending in the book. This is a great discussion Sandy, I hope you do this again. I agree with you about Danvers, you just want to paste her one.

Frances said...

Oh ruler of the book blogosphere,

Just posted and will be around tomorrow to comment everywhere. As for now, I have a date with a very short man and his third grade homework woes. :)

Thanks for the fun! I am really enjoying this.

Susan said...

Well, this is why I don't join book clubs...I've only made it through 7 1/2 chapters so far. The other reason being, I feel like I have nothing to say that hasn't already been well-said by the others.

All I have to offer are a couple of character points. The moment that illustrated DW2's youth for me was when Maxim dropped the "proposal" bombshell. du Maurier is very skilled in letting us see into DW's mind as it races from point to point, just as, I'm sure, any one of us would react to such an announcement. Her mind was obviously pinging around ninety miles a minute.

The other point is that Maxim is cat to DW2's insipid mouse. You can almost see the hint of a smile as he bats her around playfully, but with genuine affection. No, she may not be the love of his life, but her youth and lack of sophistication is bringing him back to life.

Also, Manderley is as much a character of the book as are the people, maybe the main character.

Donna said...

I'm going to answer the questions on my blog

Sandy Nawrot said...

Susan - you certainly do have something to add! I love the cat and mouse analogy. He does play with her, and is entertained by her youthfulness. I'm not sure if there is much love there...maybe more of a self-serving fondness.

I like the idea that Manderley is, by itself, a character. It is larger than life! Kathleen at Boarding in My Forties made that comment too, and I never thought of it that way. In fact, I didn't pay a huge amount of detailed attention to Manderley descriptions at first, and had to go back and re-read once I'd finished the book!

kathleen said...

Hi Sandy, Thanks again for organizing this. It has been fantastic to read everyone's answers and to discover a few new blogs that I didn't already have in my reader! I was a bit long winded in my answers but to keep things simple for people I have copied and pasted them here. If they want to read them in my blog they can go to

Question 1
When I read this line and the subsequent description of Manderly I knew that Manderly was going to be a character in the novel. The narrator of the story is dreaming and longing for the life they had at Manderly but like all dreams they are not connected to how things really are or how they were. Manderly is abandoned, overgrown, dark, foreboding. As a reader you know that you will eventually learn how Manderly came to be this way and that it will be a major plot point in the story. I tried to pay attention to all of the descriptions of Manderly after this because I knew it would be important to the story and would foreshadow things to come.

Question 2
DuMaurier wants us to see DW2 as not having a strong identity of her own. Her character is introduced as young, insecure, lacking confidence, not wise to the ways of the world. She is unsophisticated and no match for the first Mrs. DeWinter, Rebecca. The shadow cast by Rebecca is so long that it doesn't allow the new Mrs. DeWinter to even be named. Based on this my perception was that she was weak and possibly not even that important in the story. As you read more you realize there is more to DW2 also but it will take something significant to bring out her strengths.

Question 3
She's 21 years old and doesn't come from a wealthy family. She has to work as a companion in order to make a living. She takes the path of least resistance. She could stand up for herself more but she chooses not to. It isn't because she is unaware of how her employer slights her or Mrs. Danvers treats her, she just doesn't have the confidence to be assertive. I could definitely believe that a 21 year old young woman with very little life experience could be swept up in the romantic notion of being Mrs. DeWinter and living at Manderly. I could also believe that she would be completely ill-equipped to deal with the servants, Maxim, and Mrs. Danvers. She's in way over her head and that is obvious from the very beginning.

Question 4
I thought he was lonely, troubled, and a bit dangerous. When he takes DW2 for a ride and is driving really fast and goes right up to the edge of the cliff and almost goes over, I knew something was not right about him. On the surface he's sophisticated, rich, handsome, and somewhat regal. But underneath he's dark and dangerous. Bottom line for me was that Maxim is not all he seems on the surface and I knew that DuMaurier would be peeling back the layers of his character throughout the novel. I also felt he was only thinking of himself when he married DW2. He didn't think about what she wanted only about what he needed. I guess I didn't really like him much but I was intrigued by him and wanted to read more!

Andreea said...

I can't wait to read Rebecca:)

Hazra said...

I read the book in eighth grade, and when I read your discussion, I realized that there was so much that I missed. I really need to read this again!

April (BooksandWine) said...

I'm not as far as I should be on this read-a-long (only at Chapter 10)!

I'm hoping to post my discussion answers tomorrow (after a readathon to the 16th chapter of course!)

Unknown said...

I've just got to the half way point! I don't think it will take me very long to get to the end as I am loving it! Thank you for hosting this read along!

1. I'm afraid that I must have been living in a cave, because I haven't heard these words before - I didn't even recognise Manderley! Now I've started to read the book I don't think I'll ever forget. It is a great opening line - the first chapter is full of mystery and foreboding. I loved it!

2. I am used to nameless characters in books, so this didn't stand out for me. I guess that is gives more power to the name Rebecca, but I don't think it had any affect on my perception of DW2. I loved her character from the beginning. She is packed with genuine emotion and is honest and caring - I want to pick her up and give her a big hug!

3. Yes! I think the majority of young girls would react in the same way. I think they care about the feelings they have at that one point in time and fail to think of the long term.

4. Initially I loved him, but as time as gone on I like him less and less! He comes across as someone who is still greiving for his wife and I'd like to think that is all there is to him. I hope there is nothing more sinister going on.

Heidenkind said...

Hey, Sandy, sorry it took me so long to respond, but it's been a busy month. I made a vlog response to your questions while I was at work:

The sound is pretty low; I hope you can hear it.