I am going to make a total dog’s breakfast of explaining. Freely’s Rebecca was a poetess who wrote a book about a girl who marries a Rich Man named Max, and his family Oppresses her and she wears the Wrong Dress and it is Disastrous and if this is sounding like du Maurier’s Rebecca you get a gold star. But then Freely’s Rebecca commits suicide (or drowns, or something) and we walk into the story just as the Second Mrs de Winter (hereafter SMdW, as per usual) who is a Rebecca-the-poetess-devotee accidentally meets and falls in love with Max who, in Rebecca’s BOOK is Horrible but in real life is Not That Bad (Yet). They go down to Max’s stately manor home and SMdW knows all the people and all of the things because she has read Rebecca’s book which was exceedingly autobiographical and the effect is uncanny.
And then, like, mysterious doings for the rest of the book.
And, ok. Bea is there, but she’s Max’s aunt, not his sister. Danvers is there, but she’s petulant and nutty, not ominous. It’s Funhouse Mirror Rebecca. Max is the same, only worse – equally as paternalistic, equally as unwittingly cruel, but sometimes wittingly cruel as well. But it is this particular iteration of SMdW who is the most same-same but different, with a spousal suicide under her belt, as well as a published book, and a mouth on her. But she is the same character at the bones and it is both eerie and delightful.
Because the focus shifts, as a focus should (otherwise, why are we redo-ing the thing?), and now we are not talking about just living in someone’s romantic shadow, but their artistic void, and about the consuming nature of creation, the way reality and reputation and myth-making and art-making are wretchedly entangled. The blurbs are all ‘A romantic thriller in the truest and finest sense’ and blurbers, you are doing it wrong. Rebecca was no ‘romance in the grand tradition’ and The Other Rebecca is no ‘romantic thriller,’ unless by ‘romantic’ you mean ‘malicious and vengeful.’ You will cut yourself on the tension, kiddos.
For those who are not steeped in their du Maurier, I’m 90% sure this could be read on its own merits. I mean, there’s winking, but there’s no WINK GOES HERE so if you aren’t looking for it you won’t miss it.
Eight caterpillars, breadlings. And color me relieved.