Warning: spoilers in the last paragraph.
A delightful read. Effortlessly creepy, with a couple of genuinely surprising and well-constructed plot twists (I was lucky enough to be spoiler-free), and wonderfully atmospheric – precisely what you’d want from a „haunted mansion“ kind of book. It has echoes of classic Gothic stories like Jane Eyre. The writing style is flowing and elegant, shining especially in the descriptions of dynamic changes in nature, which are a sort of a barometer for the story’s upcoming twists and turns, creating a sense of premonition which keeps you on your toes. My heart actually raced at a few places. No wonder Hitchcock loved du Maurier’s work.
I identified with the narrating main character almost the entire time. I, too, was the bumbling, inelegant, eager to please awkward girl at 21. I share her fascination with the passage of time, which she dwells on beautifully. I was also easily dazzled by splendour and froze whenever someone expressed the tiniest negative feeling around me. I found her vantage point immensely relatable and that helped me experience the thrill, fear, and apprehension of the new bride in the gorgeous but ominous mansion, imbued with the tastes, touch and spirit of its old mistress who seems to have ruled over every room and every soul in it.
I found Rebecca to be infinitely more fascinating before it was revealed Maxim isn’t pining for her but feeling the weight of his crime. I thought it rather frustrating that Maxim has murdered a woman, and one who he thought was pregnant, to boot, and not even a line is dedicated to how that may be wrong – there’s no remorse, fear for his soul, no reckoning with this pretty horrible deed at all. His bride doesn’t seem to have any ambiguous, at least, feelings about it either – like there’s an understanding that it’s not really a bad thing to do. That kind of flattens the character of Rebecca out; she is much better developed before she is revealed, ironically.
I was a bit bummed the narrator’s name is never revealed. At the beginning it’s mentioned as unusual and beautiful and I really wanted to know what it is.