A classic mystery (and some alternatives)

rebecca1Rebecca, the classic mystery by Daphne Du Maurier, is billed as the best mystery book of the 20th century, but…eh. ┬áIt’s fine as mysteries go, but it didn’t really grab me or strike me as terribly important. The book suffers from two-dimensional characters and it was hard for me to get past that.

As I read, I was reminded of two other books: Jane Eyre and The Little Stranger.

Rebecca borrows certain imagery and plot elements from Jane Eyre, but overlooks the likeable heroine and character development that make Jane Eyre a great novel (and one of my favorites).

If you’ve read The Little Stranger you’ll notice some parallels there too. I looked it up and Sarah Waters did list Daphne Du Maurier among her influences. The Little Stranger uses some of the same setting details and narrator qualities found in Rebecca, but boasts a better story line and more complex mystery (although a similarly disappointing ending).

If your time is limited and you don’t have much of an interest in the classic status of Rebecca but you still want a good mystery, I’d recommend Kate Morton’s books instead.

Have you read Rebecca? What did you think of it?


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4 thoughts on “A classic mystery (and some alternatives)

  1. I read Rebecca on my mother’s recommendation when I was eleven or so, and loved it. I’ve reread it many times since, but not in more than ten years. It was a required summer reading book for one of my high school classes and I remember it sparking some interesting discussion. It’s one of my favorites so I’m disappointed you didn’t enjoy it, but as I said, it’s been many years since I’ve reread it and maybe it doesn’t hold up well as an adult. It makes such a difference when you first read a book!

    1. I definitely agree that when you first read a book matters! In a weird way, I think the fact that I have read Jane Eyre innumerable times, plus the fact that I read The Little Stranger, made me enjoy Rebecca less. Had I not been familiar with the other books, I might have liked the plot more. And I think if I had read it sooner in life the character problems wouldn’t have jumped out at me so much.

      1. Yes, that happens with a lot of books. I don’t remember if I read Rebecca for the first time before or after the first time I read Jane Eyre, but I’ve never read The Little Stranger. And since I read it for the first time as a younger reader, I had fewer examples to compare it to, and it was the first time I had encountered most of the conceits of the novel (like the narrator never being named; I remember that completely astounded me at the time). Then, once you’ve read something and liked it, it gets firmly seated in that pleasant nostalgia camp and you don’t tend to read it with the same critical eye later.

        Plus, I didn’t realize it was a “classic” or well-known or anything; to me it was just a (grown-up!) book my mom enjoyed and thought I would like. So I went into it with completely different expectations.

        I find it interesting how much really goes into one’s experience of a book, and the sorts of things that can make people disagree on a book even when they have similar tastes.

        1. Me too! That’s why I’m always glad when people post detailed reviews on blogs or Good Reads. The unnamed narrator is one piece that Sara Waters borrowed for The Little Stranger. I loved that, but then it didn’t seem fresh to me in Rebecca, even though Du Maurier came up with it first!

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