Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I chose this book for our book club to read, because it was one of those books I’ve long felt like I should have read. And I’m happy to report: I picked a winner! There’s a reason this one has stood the test of time. (Or— maybe I’ve just realized I’m a fan of the gothic novel?!) From the famous first sentence of the book (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”), the reader knows that the narrator and her husband have been cast out of the garden… but the reasons are not yet clear. The narrator, a naïve young woman whose name we never learn (except that she becomes Mrs. de Winter), makes some shocking choices in the face of some appalling circumstances. (Good for discussion, people!) Her new husband, Maxim, is mysterious and brooding. Their housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is straight from the devil himself. Mrs. Danvers still mourns the death of Rebecca, Maxim de Winter’s first wife— a woman who, by all accounts, was darn near perfect. Rebecca was beautiful, she rode horses and sailed with abandon, she threw remarkable parties, and she could decorate a house with the best of them. And then she died in a tragic sailing accident. In Rebecca’s shadow, our narrator feels inferior and unwanted because she has realized that her husband is still in love with his first wife. Then, halfway through the story, everything is turned upside down. The final sentence of one of the chapters made my eyes go wide with surprise. (I love it when this happens.) Wow. Good story.