What I’m Reading | Fall 2014

Today is the official beginning of my favorite season, Autumn. As such, I thought it would be appropriate to let you guys know what is on my To-Read List for the next few months.

I’ve always felt that there are certain books that were meant to be read in the cooler months, which is what has inspired all of the books on this list (although I’m always open to impulsive reads too!).

My Cousin Rachel

The first ‘autumn’ read I’ve chosen is My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne DuMaurier. Last year I read Rebecca, and I loved it so much I wanted to reread it this year, until I found My Cousin Rachel at the bookstore last month (how did I not know this existed before?!). What I loved about Rebecca was the suspense, the mystery/plot twists, the writing style, and the gothic elements of the story, and so far I’ve not been disappointed by this book either. DuMaurier seems to have a thing for beginnings that make you beg for more, while maintaining stylistic perfection. I’m hooked, and I can’t wait to sit down with it this weekend and read as much as I can.

Dracula

I’ve also started Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to reading this and simply chose it because it is ‘classic Halloween’, but even after only the first few pages, I knew my pre-conceived notions about this novel were dead wrong. This is a prime example of why you should not judge a book by its reputation! More about this to come in the ‘official’ review.

The Woman in White The Haunting of Hill House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other books I have on order and should be here this week: The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, and The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. I don’t know much about either of these books, but they both sound interesting and I think they’ll fit right into my autumn/spooky theme.

I’m hoping to finish these four novels before Halloween, so I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me, but I’m up for the challenge!

In case you’re looking for some ideas for fall reading, here are some other seasonal favorites I’ve read in years past::

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier

Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Loch, by Steve Alten

The Loch, by Steve Alten

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

 

Thanks for reading,
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Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier

If you didn’t catch my Currently Reading post, then you don’t know the interesting circumstances surrounding my beginning to read this book.

So there we were, boy trying to make me watch sprint car videos on YouTube – when I struck a deal with him: I will watch your videos, if you pick a book for me to read. I was really hoping he’d peruse them for awhile, pulling certain volumes out and reading about them, or at least look at the covers, but no, he looked from a few feet away for about 38 seconds and settled on Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.

I usually tell him to pick what movie we’ll watch, and then I’ll refuse to watch what he picked and we’ll watch what I want after all, so I had to read this book – especially because I instigated the whole thing. And luckily, I did.

I was struck by the writing right away. The beginning dream sequence is really exquisite. I didn’t read anything about this novel before I started reading, so I didn’t know what to expect at all. I didn’t know that the first line of this novel is considered one of the greatest in classic literature, and actually, even now I’m not sure it is – I only saw that in one place, but I have to agree:

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’

Its pretty mesmerizing in itself. Where is Manderley? What kind of dream was it? How many times has she dreamt it? Does it occur every night? Is it a special place to her, is that why she’s dreaming of it? It’s a sentence that makes you beg for more – a fine example of du Maurier’s skillful and suspenseful writing throughout the novel.

I’m not sure why I’m so often surprised at how good classic literature is. Mesmerized is a good word, so I’ll use it again – it’s how I felt when reading this book. I don’t usually read books that are so…suspenseful. It’s hard to say what created the suspense here, after all, there’s not terribly much action – it’s set in high class England around the 30s (I assume), which is a period where high class English women didn’t really do a whole lot besides plan parties and keep their husband company when that was convenient. It was the beginning dream sequence, the description of the absolute abandonment of this place she apparently cherished…what could have happened to make them leave so completely and so abruptly? Was it terribly traumatic? What could it have been? I spent the duration of the novel waiting for any clues as to what it could have been – a small spark that festered…or something sudden and catastrophic? It created quite a bit of suspense that carried most of the way through the novel on its own.

Prepare yourself, Spoilers follow throughout the end of this post::

Our narrator, a ‘young’ girl, nearly a child still who marries Maxim de Winter – she is nameless and ageless. She is an introvert, like me, and harbors deep insecurities about her marriage because she is her husband’s second wife, and she knows very well that he was very happy with his first one before her sudden death the previous year. She is haunted by the thought of this woman, someone much older than her with the confidence and training of someone in the upper class. Her thoughts fill up with imaginations of what Rebecca, the first wife, would have done in every situation; what she smelled like, how she moved across a room, how she would have given orders to the servants, how she would have acted with Maxim…the thoughts often tormented her, and yet, her curiosity and insecurity drove them on. I believe it made her unhappy in her marriage, in which she would have been much more care-free, and Maxim would have been much more likely to fall in love with her. It was really quite sad to ‘hear’ the narrator’s thoughts as she was looking forward to their wedding, how she continually thought Maxim was ‘forgetting’ to mention that he loved her, that they would be terribly happy. I would continually wonder why this girl just let the house maids and women around town control her. She is the new Mrs. de Winter! She is now on equal status to Rebecca. I wanted to shout at her to rearrange the house, to throw out the old coats, to tell her husband, ‘Yes, I broke the Cupid figurine! It was an accident but I didn’t like it anyway. I would rather have my art books on the morning-room desk!’ The girl seriously needs to grow a backbone. How she sat and let people talk around her when at tea, whether she way calling on them or the other way round. She seems so nearly pathetic.

And then…

At the turning point in the novel, and I won’t spoil it for you, in case you’re still reading and haven’t read the book yet…the narrator really impresses me. It’s not because what she had felt was justified, or that her reaction to her husband’s confession was ‘right’ or even admirable, but because I’m a woman, and I’ve been insecure in love. I suddenly understood her. In fact, our unnamed narrator and I seem to have quite a bit in common. My only complaint about the whole thing is the beginning, which is supposed to be the end. She still sounds unhappy, although all of her fears are supposed to have been abolished, in the end. I can’t understand it.

Maxim himself is quite a mystery. To me, he was unpredictable. For someone so miserable, why does he even want to marry someone new? It seems like everyone was quite upset about Rebecca with him, and wouldn’t have minded if he died a widower. It’s not like he needed someone to spend his money for him, right? But then it is said that the pervious year he was close to break-down, and now that he’s married he looks much healthier – perhaps he married her to simply take his mind off of the past quite more than he was able to by himself? It baffles me that the narrator is objective enough to realize that he treats her in the same manor as the dog, Jasper; something to consider almost absent-mindedly, who at times it is inconvenient to be around, and at best can only offer a sense of companionship, nothing like equality or could possibly have something to teach him. It made me sad to read.

And then…

Everything changed in that one paragraph, didn’t it? I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that had such a twist before (Except perhaps the last page of Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult). Maxim turned out to be both much more sinister, more passionate, and more respectable all with one little word. I can understand people comparing him to Edward Fairfax de Rochester, and yet, it doesn’t fit with me. Rochester was more compassionate – less impulsive – more manipulative. But both he and Maxim de Winter are driven by the same mistake: marrying the wrong woman, and it leads them both to do dangerous and disastrous things. I am kind of repulsed by Maxim though, as much as I want to like him. How he had to lie and deceive for those ten months, to everyone around him. He went the opposite route, because of circumstances of course, Rochester had gone to his wife’s land, and Rebecca had gone to de Winter’s; it’s not as if he could have just fled his ancestor’s property that he had loved…

I literally gasped at the end of chapter 19 – the revelation frankly shocked me, and yet, as the narrator was, I was relieved.

Ah, the feeling you have after reading a good book. I haven’t compulsively read anything like that since Jane Eyre, and technically that was an audiobook. Good choice, my love.

See ya next time,
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Jane Eyre VS Rebecca – A Comparative Review

Today is the day, after reading two excellent books, that I bend my brain comparing the two to see what sort of connections I can draw between them. I should be honest and say that I haven’t read or heard really anything comparing the two, except simply that they often are. I’ve never done something like this, really, so I’m not sure where I’ll end up by the end of this…but hopefully for those of you who’ve read them both will find this interesting, and perhaps have some further insight on some points.

Jane Eyre VS Rebecca

Published 91 years apart, both are told through the eyes of a young and inexperienced woman in the first person. Although both novels are both technically ‘Gothic’, Rebecca had a much darker tone throughout. Because of the bleak opening describing an abandoned and desolate mansion, the tone was bleak straight away. Although many of the first events should have been happy, exciting moments, they were overshadowed by a future gloom. In Jane Eyre there is no such foreshadowing; we start in her childhood and only later find out she’s telling the story after the fact. Although Jane is faced with much cruelty and hardship in her young years, it is nothing compared to the looming shadow over the beginning of Rebecca.

To me, there are more differences than similarities between these two novels – the only major similarities I noticed on my first reading of Rebecca, is between Rochester and Maxim de Winter:

1) They both married the wrong woman first.

2) They both own glorious estates which they cherish, and then lose.

Rochester and de Winter have very different circumstances in their young adulthood::
Both are filthy rich; Rochester has to marry in order to maintain his status, because he has an older brother who inherits all the family fortune. His father finds a suitable woman for him to marry in the West Indies, and Rochester is sent off straight away. Wooed mostly by the woman’s family, not getting much alone time with the wife-to-be, he hastily proposes and the consequences soon become apparent.

de Winter is an only son in his family, and always knew he would inherit the family fortune and estate, and is only expected to marry a woman of high stature, is not in need of the match. Rebecca is incredibly popular and well loved by all who she meets, but after Maxim marries her, she shows him her true sinister qualities, and he is instantly and forever horrified by his mistake.

Edward was betrayed by his own family to marry someone they knew was insane, while Maxim came to Rebecca on his own with the support of his family, throughout his lifetime. With these things in mind, it is easy to see how the men end up when met by their new love interests; Rochester incredibly moody and grim when he meets Jane, and de Winter distracted and seemingly indifferent when he meets the unnamed narrator.

Jane and Rebecca’s narrator are also differ greatly::
Jane knows her own mind, she discovered her spirit when she was 10 years old, and never lost the confidence it gave her. Though she knew her place in the world and acted accordingly, she never let anyone push her around, nor anyone she loved.

Rebecca’s narrator had no backbone whatsoever. She, also coming from very bleak prospects, she has no self-confidence whatsoever, and is constantly pushed around and bullied by those around her.

The courtships themselves are vastly different as well::
When Rochester returns home, he finds that Jane is now a resident in his household, as the tutor to the child who has become his responsibility, Adele. Their relationship starts out conventionally, as a master and governess should be aquatinted, and then it grows in their hearts, slowly and torturously until neither one can deny it from themselves any longer. Although Rochester is a very confident fellow, he plays love games with his dear Jane, testing her admiration and quite how far she will go for his love without outright declaring it (as she could never do). As no one knows Rochester is married (besides perhaps a select few in his own house), there is nothing, memory or guilty conscience, to plague her mind – although if it was widely known that he was married and his wife yet alive, I’m sure Jane would not have fallen in love with him, at least not to the full extent she ends up doing. As in Rebecca, the proposal happens much earlier in the book as you might expect, although Jane Eyre is not quite as early as Rebecca. The proposal also doesn’t go quite as you’d expect – on Rochester’s part, he is entirely romantic – swoon worthy, really – and yet Jane can’t get out of her mind the other woman he tricked her into thinking he would marry. Some of my favorite lines in the book come from that scene :-)

The narrator and Maxim de Winter’s courtship wasn’t much of one, in my opinion. Basically they meet by chance because of the manipulation of the narrator’s employer for her own benefit. It is awkward then, as it was awkward on nearly every car ride we’re able to ‘see’ in the pages, and the proposal comes only because the shortness of time makes it necessary. Honestly I thought he did more to save the girl from an undesirable fate, as she would have had if she’d stayed with her employer, and it isn’t until nearly the end of the book that we find out that he really did love her. He makes almost no sign of it whatsoever – he is distracted and a little bit rude for most of the book, and although that is explained later on, it still doesn’t fully make up for it in my opinion. The innocence of the narrator alone would have let her love him despite himself.

Antagonists::
While Jane Eyre has several antagonists, non are quite so terrible as Mrs. Danvers, who is an absolutely wicked and haunting character in Rebecca. Jane Eyre faced a lot of hardships and social blockades (Mr. Brocklehurst, Aunt Reed, Blanch Ingram), but the narrator in Rebecca had someone who was really out to get her in revenge of her former mistress in Mrs. Danvers. Really, that book is quite dramatic – a perfect spooky read for October.

I absolutely loved both novels in different ways, and continue recommending them to everyone in sight, and although they’re not very similar at all, they’re both worth their weight in gold. If you’ve not read either or neither, then I suggest you get reading ;-)

Emma