Recommendation: It’s a classic for a reason
Where to read: Give yourself a couple of days on a quiet weekend
Read with: Sherry, I assume
In brief: So much literature, so very, very many shitty men.
I know this is billed as a gothic romance but I think you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment if you approach it that way. If you had to put a genre on it, I’d be tempted to call it a psychological thriller but even that is overly reductive.
The fundamental issue with the characterisation of Rebecca as a romance is that Max is not actually that romantic. In fact, he’s downright obnoxious at points and, it’s strongly hinted, not that interested in his husbandly duties in the bedroom. By the end, the narrator has swapped her duties as companion to a fairly awful old lady for duties as companion to a crotchety, tyrannical older man.
A common theme in the critique of this novel is the ambivalence towards Rebecca herself and the strange contrast between her vivacity and force of character, even dead, and the colourlessness of the unnamed second wife. Said wife isn’t a particularly attractive character either – she’s irritatingly neurotic, frequently dense and debilitatingly spineless (maybe that’s just me). Many readers do, and perhaps should, find Rebecca repugnant and yet it is easily possible to feel a great deal of sympathy for her.
This was the Our Shared Shelf pick for September/October, another book influenced by Jane Eyre and a return to Cornwall.
**Spoiler alert** an excellent discussion can be found here.