Rebecca. This was one of the must read books that I had missed reading during my late teens. For a good reason, I think. I can almost see myself not finishing the book at that time. That was the time when one seeks fast moving plots of mystery, and dreamy tales of romance. I also lacked patience to read through long winding paragraphs of meticulously constructed details of surroundings. But now, in my mid thirties, I relished this book like dark chocolate.
“They are not brave, the days when we are twenty one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day, brush one, but lightly and are soon forgotten…”
For those who like to read for the love of language, this is like a piece of art. Written in a language so powerful and lucid, that it weaves a four dimensional picture in your mind, and one can almost live the experience. In beautifully crafted visuals of the mystical Manderlay, every little detail captured is almost poetry. Powerful, beautiful, dark and melancholic. It is a masterpiece.
This is a book which one shouldn’t read for the suspense in the plot though. It was written in 1938. Since then, we are used to reading too many extremes of suspense, and watching a lot of creepy stuff for story-lines in movies and TV. So, one must not read it with the expectation of getting shocked or thrilled. Although what I found was that even after the turn of the century, the story captures the same human emotions, same insecurities and fears, same quest of the human mind, and we can very easily relate to it, even today.
The author builds the characters well. The unnamed narrator is young, inexperienced and insecure in her own ways, getting overshadowed and feeling dwarfed by the haunting memory of the magnificent Rebecca. Rebecca – a strong, dark and bold character, gets built in her mind, from bits of information and her own imagination. And all the other characters, and places, create a picture of a bygone era and a different world.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It has all the attributes of a typical classic, and this can become one of those books which is discussed with others and each one can interpret it in their own ways. I had never seen the movie adaptations, both in English and Hindi – (The oldie “Kohra” starring Waheeda Rehman was based on this plot, but I havent seen it.) So for those who have seen them, the experience may become diluted.
And yes, what I found amusing was, that the privileged estate owners of early twentieth century England, had a lot of nothing to do, other than to walk the dog, write letters, and have tea under the chestnut tree!