Teen Volunteer Review: Rebecca

Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Today Elizabeth Choi, a student at Boston Latin School, shares her thoughts on Rebecca, a book that has inspired numerous film adaptations.

The combination of a bookworm older sister and cinephile parents meant that from a young age I was exposed to spoilers in literature through the silver screen. My sister would read a book, and when she finished, the whole family would watch the film adaptation. I knew about Gollum’s plummet into the fires of Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, Jean Valjean’s redemption story in Les Misérables, and Anna Karenina’s train ride before I had ever laid my eyes on the novels. So I ignored the many books on my to-read list and read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier instead. I was determined to not let anything spoil the “classic tale of romantic suspense,” as my edition advertised itself.

I was really excited to read Rebecca. It is often compared to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which is my favorite book. But Rebecca didn’t have many of the aspects that make Jane Eyre a masterpiece. Yes, both had an insecure and orphaned protagonist, a wealthy older man with secrets, and a mansion to which something happens (no spoilers here). But that's about it. There’s not much I can say without revealing the mystery in Rebecca, but if you liked Jane because she made tough but principled choices and knew her self-worth, you won’t like the main character in Rebecca. I was also disappointed by Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. She’s a bit unsettling, but I was expecting to be terrified of her.

I appreciated the ending (and how it was hinted at in the beginning), the beautiful descriptions, and how Rebecca’s presence was felt everywhere at Manderly. I also liked the general plot and pacing. However, I was underwhelmed by the characterization and lack of horror. I tried to tone down my enthusiasm before reading, but maybe I couldn’t totally suppress it. Despite this, I would recommend Rebecca to anyone who likes Gothic mysteries -- it is not a romance novel (or at least it shouldn’t be considered one). If you don’t read the blurb on the back of the book and go in blind, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.