As you may have read yesterday, my first confirmed favorite book was Gone with the Wind. For years if anyone asked me what book I would recommend, Gone with the Wind automatically popped out of my mouth. But, like the weather and my hair color, things change. Gone with the Wind still ranks up there as one of my favorites, but other books have crowded to the top along with it. One that springs quickly to mind is Rebecca.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a classic. It starts with one of the most famous openings: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I read it when I was eighteen years old. When my aunt saw me reading it, she snickered and told me she had read that book when she was just a kid in school. Now, I’m not sure how old she really was. Maybe she was an advanced seven-year-old grabbing the big boys off the library shelves. Maybe she had read War and Peace during her third grade summer break. Or maybe she was talking about the kids’ book Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Regardless, she made me feel stupid for having taken so long to read it. She made me feel as if I was diving into a Dr. Seuss book. I was young and vulnerable back then. In the meantime I’ve learned that many kids’ books are quite entertaining and worth reading even as an adult.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, however, is not a kids’ book. It’s about a widower who marries a young, naïve woman and brings her to his estate called Manderley, where an unfamiliar world of servants and social expectations await her. The new Mrs. de Winter tries to fit in but quickly finds out it is not what she thought it would be. Mrs. Danvers, housekeeper and devotee to the late Rebecca de Winter, does not make her life easy. Eventually we discover more about the mysterious Rebecca and what happened to her.
Just so you know, there is one basic reading policy I try to abide by—I do NOT re-read books, because life is too short and I’m too slow of a reader. There are simply too many books and too little time to read things over and over. So while I cannot part with my books and have shelves and shelves of them, I never re-read them. Well, as my sister taught me, always and never are very strong words. This book broke the mold. I did read it again a couple years ago and loved it even more than the first time! This time I appreciated not only the story, but Daphne Du Maurier’s writing style. Do yourself a favor and read this gem.
Below are a couple of quotes that typify her prose.
(Mrs. Van Hopper, the new Mrs. de Winter’s former employer)
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (Doubleday Doran, 1938; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association Far East Ltd., 1994), 11.
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (Doubleday Doran, 1938; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association Far East Ltd., 1994), 166.
So far, I’ve shared my two classic favorites. You may wonder if any newer books have found a permanent spot in my heart. The answer is—of course! Check back Monday when I flash forward to the current century and we go to the circus—with a rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old then with a great book.
What about you? What’s your all-time favorite old classic book? Enter a comment or email me at Readinginthegarden@gmail.com and I will post your answer.