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Today, I give thanks for a special book. I chose not the best book I’ve ever read (even though it’s great), but a book that marked me before I even considered writing as a profession. A book I could only appreciate fully after I’ve become a writer.
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Rebecca is the story of the young, submissive Ms. De Winter. After a quick marriage to an older, widowed man, she’s brought to his estate. And there’ she has to face one of the weirdest antagonists of all time—the memory of Rebecca. Rebecca, the first Ms. De Winter is the deceased former wife of her husband. She’s revered by all, especially her former housekeeper, Ms. Danvers.
The obstacle we’re talking about is not a ghost, but the seemingly omnipresence of Rebecca. How strong is the deceased’s power? The main character is never referred by her first name or maiden name (by any character, not even herself), since she’s only “the second Ms. De Winter.” The book is atmospheric, suffocating, and brilliant.
It’s also one of the books that made me fall in love with England, with its precise and lyrical descriptions of the English countryside. Manderley is an estate like Downton Abbey, and running it is a full-time, demanding job. A job the new Ms. De Winter is ill-prepared to take, as Ms. Danvers never fails to remind her.
Despite a very slow pace, the mystery about Rebecca’s death (and life) gets more and more interesting, with missing pieces being methodically added to the puzzle.
As a writer
So, why does a YA writer admire a book like Rebecca? Because, in my mind, Rebecca is a precursor of YA.
A fragile girl faces circumstances beyond her control. At first weak-willed, she starts to unravel a complex story of deceit while being dragged into a power struggle. She lives in a recognizable but strange place (for me, Manderley, the Cornish region, and its costumes are as alien as Pandora). Baptized by fire, she rises to the occasion, learns the truth, and becomes a strong young woman. I’ve just read Divergent and re-read The Hunger Games, and I can see Ms. De Winter as a template for Katniss or Tris.
Stylistically, the book blends suspense, romance, and a story of survival told from first-person POV. It has some (but not excessive) cursing, sex, and violence. The protagonist is a young woman in search of love and purpose.
That’s YA before YA
Rebecca is a favorite book of mine, and I’m thankful to have read it.
What about you? Is there a book that marked you as a reader or writer? Please share!
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