The Second Mrs. de Winter

From The Paris Review:

“The sexiness of [Rebecca] is maybe the most unsettling part, since it centers on the narrator’s being simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the memory and the mystery of her new husband’s dead wife.” —Emily Alford, Jezebel

NB: This essay contains all of the spoilers for Rebecca.

Rebecca had good taste—or maybe she just had the same taste as me, and that’s why I thought it was good. She loved a particular shade of vintage minty turquoise. The kitchen cabinets were all this color. As were the plates inside. The cups and bowls were white with dainty black dots on them. Not polka dots—a smaller, more charming print.

I loved them. I might have picked them out myself. It made me feel sick that I loved them.

I imagined Rebecca had picked out these cups and plates when she moved into this house, but the cupboards I was investigating, and the very lovely dishes inside them, now belonged to her ex-husband, my boyfriend. Rebecca lived fifteen minutes away.

Of course, her name wasn’t really Rebecca. But grant me a theme. We’ll call him Maxim.

. . . .

Every once in a while, a book will pass through my writers’ group, all of us swept up in reading the same novel. In the early days of my dating Maxim, that book was Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. My friend Emily was rereading it to write an essay for Jezebel called “The Nihilistic Horniness of a Good Gothic Read: Ranking the Genre’s Sexiest and Scariest Secrets.” Rebecca ranks number one. Emily’s love for the novel was so persuasive the rest of us soon joined in.

The basic premise of Rebecca is that our narrator, a naive young woman, marries an older, brooding widower and goes to live in his strange and beautiful house, where it rapidly becomes clear that the legacy of his dead wife, the titular Rebecca, is … potent. The narrator constantly worries over whether she can run the house as well as Rebecca did.

At one point, Emily was in the bathtub with a scotch and the novel and somehow still had enough hands to text us:  THIS WOMAN’S ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT THE SERVANTS ARE MEAN TO HER AND I WANT THAT LIFE.

The servants do not like the narrator for the very good reason that she is not Rebecca. Beyond the servants, of course, the narrator is also concerned that she’ll never live up to Rebecca in Maxim’s heart, that in the wake of his great and tragic love, she stands no chance.

Again, from Emily’s bath: EVEN THE DOGS DON’T LIKE HER.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

3 thoughts on “The Second Mrs. de Winter”

  1. I liked the book and the movie, with Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. I gather Olivier was angry that his girlfriend, Vivien Leigh, wasn’t cast in the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter. But I think Fontaine did a good job, and I can’t really picture Leigh playing someone like TSMdW.

    (This comment is mostly a test).

    • I also like both book and movie but was a bit disappointed that the film cheated on the cause of Rebecca’s death: I guess that the production code did not approve of Max getting away with murder?

      (This is also a (second) comment test – the only problem I’ve noticed this time is that the system no longer remembers who I am and posting as anonymous is going to be too easy.)

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