Somehow I always assume that these books will equal their predecessors in quality. Silly me. Scarlett is no Gone With the Wind, however Margaret-Mitchell-estate-sanctioned it may be. As good as Rebecca is, Rebecca’s Tale is kind of appallingly bad.
Ok so, it’s 20 years later. Colonel Julyan, who you may (but probably don’t) remember as the magistrate who investigated and ultimately exonerated Maxim re: Rebecca’s mysterious death, has SUDDENLY decided to Figure This Shit Out. He does this after an unlabelled package arrives, but before he opens said package, which contains a blank notebook enscribed ‘Rebecca’s Tale.’ Coincidence, thy name is lazy storytelling. (Har, I’d forgotten this: later Ellie walks into an empty cottage that is not hers just as the phone is ringing, and is all, Hello important telephone call.)
Y’anyways, Julyan sleuths but also he is old and has a stroke, so he passes the sleuthing buck to Terrance Gray, who you don’t remember because he isn’t in Rebecca. POV SHIFT! Gray continues sleuthing and there are many instances of [suspense here] or [unanswered question] and eventually another notebook turns up, this time full of WORDS. Rebecca’s words.
POV SHIFT AGAIN! Rebecca speaks! And it’s pretty disappointing. She is a perfect caricature of the wild, untameable wife with the spine of steel and the tragic upbringing that she carefully conceals behind her arresting eyes. Anyway, blah blah Rebecca’s journal blah up until she goes to see the lady-doctor, and you know what happens after that.
POV SHIFT ONCE MORE to Julyan’s daughter Ellie, who continues the sleuthing and discovers in the process that she will not be tamed by the menz! Oh you modern parallel, you. Rebecca’s spirit lives on, the end.
If you like answers, here are all of the answers. To everything. Here are the histories of all the characters ever, even the ones you don’t know or care about. Like Julyan’s old professor, who was also a drunk. You know, just fyi. And while I love me some answers, when you drag all the delicious uncertainty of Rebecca into the light of day it just looks tawdry and salacious.
But Raych, you love tawdry and salacious. Indeed, but I like it with a bit of finesse. Rebecca’s Tale is riddled with As You Know, Bobs. As you know, it’s the anniversary of Rebecca’s death. As you know, that always affects you, daddy. If you show me these things, you will not have to tell them so ham-handedly.
Likewise, I prefer to hear the dialogue myself rather than have the POVist paraphrase conversations for me, especially since Beauman insists on dialogue-tagging every sentence, paraphrase or no. Like, I’m telling you about a chat with my sister and I’m all, Blah blah, my sister says. She insists that yada yada. Then another thing, my sister claims. If you haven’t changed speakers, I’m going to assume the same person is still talking, yes?
Still more likewise, I resent the hell out of being told character traits by a narrator rather than being shown them, especially if that narrator is first person. ‘once I’ve finally resolved on something, I act.’ ‘my habitual objectivity’ (emphasis mine). Even if the traits are negative, it still sounds braggy.
Speaking of braggy, I am a gleeful activist for proper punctuation and while the following is technically correct – ‘It was still only ten o’clock (I rise early; Ellie and I breakfast early); the invitation could wait.’ – two semi-colons in one sentence seems both excessive and smug. Also excessive? The amount of adjectives in the phrase ‘thick hard black cake.’ Also excessive? Saying things like ‘réclame’ or ‘dossing down’ all. the. time. I have a thesaurus too, and I am not impressed.
Technical nit pickery aside, Rebecca’s Tale tries with all its vigor to be a forward-thinking somewhatorother. Julyan is broadly painted with the Old-Boy Chauvanist brush to the point where he may as well be wearing a sign saying ‘I Have Out-Moded Ideas About Women,’ while Ellie’s says ‘Unconventionally Powerful Gal, Hear Me Roar (Quietly).’ And you guys know how much I love teh gays walking into books with roles other than ‘Gay Friend’ or ‘Struggling Gay Protagonist’ like they might be real people with other shit to contribute, but here it feels sneakingly like a Some of my best friends are gay move. To increase street cred, at a quarter-cup of impliedboyskissing.
So. A neater style might have saved it for a fun romp, but it ultimately fails in its attempts to be Progressive and Subversive.