What to Read After You Watch Rebecca

I have taught high school off and on for a while, and when a student asks me to recommend a book, I almost always include Rebecca in the list. I first read it when I was 16 and was immediately swept away. This tale of mystery and deception gathers elements from Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Bronte, and Wilkie Collins into a delicious read.

Additionally and to add import, I would argue that DuMaurier was a huge contributor to (if not originator of) the domestic psychological suspense genre - and she is certainly the dark side of Jane Austen. If Austen explores how women can succeed in society through marriage and virtue, DuMaurier offers a darker argument: how can women manipulate and subvert socially-acceptable behaviors to get anything they want -  and do these pursuits make them monsters or emancipated? 

Hitchcock was intrigued by Rebecca and it's unexpected conclusions, and it is clear that this novel was perfect for his vision of film: a creepy, suspense-riddled drama that kept watchers on the rim of their seats.

It's hard to improve on this film and Netflix doesn't, but it's still very much worth the watch. Netflix's version lacks the supernatural atmospherics - Rebecca's haunting is far more psychological than paranormal - and Mrs. Danvers is not as queer or as creepy - and easier to understand, which is not a benefit. Yet, the intrigue of the story is the same and well-worth the viewing. (Actually, and this may be me after 8 months of sitting in my house, but the scenes in the south of France make the whole thing worth viewing.) 

After you've watched the movie, you may want to give these books a go: 

The Lake House - Kate Morton
The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
Kate Morton can be viewed as the inheritor of Daphne DuMaurier, although her books mostly lack the psychological darkness that fringe DuMaurier's books. (The Clockmaker's Daughter is an exception.) Both of these are wonderful. Big country houses. Lots of secrets. I'm a HUGE Kate Morton fan. When is her new book coming out? 

Fiercombe Manor - Kate Riordan
Why this book isn't more well-known is a mystery to me and a huge condemnation of the Amazon bots. Everyone who searches for Kate Morton should know about this book. This one is Gothic and dark and creepy and sad and redemptive. Atmospheric and wonderful. Very well written. A gold standard of modern Gothic tales. 

My Cousin Rachel - Daphne DuMaurier
Many say this is actually better than Rebecca. I might agree if Rebecca hadn't gotten my allegiance very early. And this is a delicious forehead-scratcher for sure. Is Rachel a demon or an angel? You could certainly go either way. (Read this before watching the movie. The movie takes too much of a side, in my view. The beauty of this story is in its ambiguity.)

The Fate of Mercy Alban - Wendy Webb
I listened to this on Audible and it was deliciously creepy. Also, I had no idea that half of the plot twists were coming - well, the big plot twist, so that was a win. I recently discovered Wendy Webb and am excited to read/listen to her other books. 

Lady Audley's Secret - Mary Elizabeth Braddon 
This one is a throwback, so take the style in stride. It came out in 1862 and is considered a sensation novel, probably because Lady Audley is such a unique case. The estimation of this novel has changed as society's view of women has changed, which works to make the book more interesting. DuMaurier's exploration of women's subversion of social norms to achieve individual aims is anticipated by this book.

The House of Brides - Jane Cormack
Reading this now and super thrilled with it. This novel echoes Rebecca: creepy house on the western English coast, owner is named Max, something is definitely up with the housekeeper, and family secrets abound. So far, it is a refreshing take on the Gothic genre and the main character has some interesting challenges.


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