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14 November 2007


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(Aaaaaaaaargh! The Katie Holmes thing! Aaaaaaaaargh! I was having such a NICE DAY!!!)

Sigh. I'm bummed I can't find a copy of this yet. Though I have read it before, it still would be a fun re-read - I'm still looking!

I do agree with you -- most of my struggle with the storyline was with the narrator of the then vs. now -- and definitely people who repeat how young and silly they are? Aren't.


One of the things I'm interested in with this rereading is how this book shapes up as a YA read. Because that's how I first read the book, as a teenager. Certainly, the second Mrs. de Winter, who I'm thinking is maybe 21 (was that actually in the first few chapters or am I just hitting that number on my own) is someone an awkward, uncomfortable teenager can identify with. I do take her at her word about her social discomfort, possibly because I've read on.

I do wonder, though, if today's shy, uncomfortable teenagers can easily relate to a young, unemployable woman who does nothing to make herself employable. I think it was probably appropriate at the time the book was written, but I wonder if young people reading this today wouldn't think, "Why doesn't she get a job and take some art classes?"

I also wonder if the idea of falling in love with a much older man, no matter how good looking and well off, is as attractive to young women today as it was back when this was written. I liked the book when I was a teenager, so I must have at least accepted the situation. As an adult, of course, the age difference is at least uncomfortable. I get the feeling that the second Mrs. de Winter is only a few years removed from being jailbait.


Here's my link for chapters 4-6



In her post at her site, Becky points out that it is Maxim who tells Mrs. Van Hopper of their marriage and that the second Mrs. de Winter will be leaving her. This is, of course, an indication of how much more powerful Maxim is then Mrs.deW2. The equality of relationships in books is important to me. In this first pre-Manderley section, Mrs. deW2 is weak and frail and powerless in her courtship. But does the Mrs. deW2 who is narrating the story from the vantage point of her future life sound all that unequal to her husband? Is she an unreliable narrator as Leila suspects? Or has something happened between the time _of_ the story she is telling and the time _when_ she is telling the story?

(Cue ominous music.)


I completely agree about the ick factor of the whole "despondency of a child whose treat is over" bit. I was even more disturbed by this on p.35: "I was like a little scrubby schoolboy with a passion for a sixth form prefect." Hmm. 'Kay.


Oh, here's the link to my Chapters 4-6.



Like Gail I totally buy her as an awkward, horribly self-conscious kid (and this time around I noticed that not only does she *very obviously* not have a name, but her age is never revealed either--and in a moderately obtrusive way.

(By the way, I think her name must be Philippa--mainly because I always want to spell it with two ll's and one p--despite the Greek: phiLos? hiPPos? duh)

I think what I find most disturbing about her unwillingness to get up off her ass is that she seems to have no real understanding of the concept of time. I mean, even in 1938 or whatever, companions were a dying breed and they'd always been despised and put upon. Is she really going to go on being bullied for the rest of her life?


Her behavior ranges from awkward to erratic to downright bizarre. At one point, she questions his sanity. ("and for a wild moment the idea came to me that perhaps he was not normal, not altogether sane.") But she never questions her own. (Do crazy people question their sanity? Do they recognize their lapses?) I don't think her behavior regarding the poetry book could ever be classified as normal no matter how broadly you define it. This is just one example, of how Maxim isn't the only one with mental instabilities. One thing that keeps coming to mind...is what Dr. Phil would have to say to this narrator. There are places where she needs a definite wake up call.


I've stuck up a few first thoughts at my blog.

I'm so with you on the Katie Holmes vibe, Leila. But I hadn't thought of the narrator as particularly untrustworthy until now. I can see what you're saying about her contradicting herself, but think that retrospective narration is probably the cause - maybe she wasn't so young and naive and awkward but chooses to remember herself that way so as to excuse the choices she made (such as, um, marrying Mr de Winter).

Gail, Mrs deW2 is a great name for the nameless narrator. I'd be interested to know about the YA appeal too. I bet I would have filled in more of the romantic details when I was a teenager, but still, it was all very sudden and I think I would have been noticing that.


Mrs. deW2 is incredibly hard on herself. And it can be hard for a reader to take after a while. Unfortunately, I can't recall what I thought about this when I first read the book. Knowing what I know now, _perhaps_ she is embittered and this bitterness colors her recollections. But that's not the kind of thing a new reader trying to get through her masochism can appreciate. Even assuming I'm right, and she is bitter.


Good call on her name, cc. That would fit perfectly.

Elizabeth: Yes! I almost included the schoolboy quote, too! Even with the hints from her future self about the reversal in the power dynamic between Maxim and herself, I've got myself all worked up about What Happens Next.

After reading these few chapters and responding to them as I read (I've been reading a chapter and writing up my thoughts before moving on to the next one) that I am a ridiculously suspicious person. Part of it may be due to the plethora of unreliable narrator YA novels that have come out in recent years, but I think it's also because I read so many mysteries and crime novels that I'm always looking for (or waiting for) a twist, or for some previously trustworthy person to unmask themself as Something Other Than What They've Appeared. Not sure if that makes too much sense, but yeah. What it boils down to is that as a reader (or a movie-goer*) I seem to tend towards super-suspicion.

That's probably a big part of the reason I've been having such a hard time taking her at her word. I don't dislike her, though -- I'm not even frustrated with her. I'm just... keeping it in mind that this is her version of the story, and (like I said at some point, I forget where) that the story is being filtered through her.

Now I want to re-watch Rashomon.

Gail, I've been feeling the bitterness, definitely -- I think it's coming from her, both past and present. I feel it from narrator/present when she talks about her life currently, but there's a LOT of bitterness and anger directed at Mrs. Van Hopper that I think could certainly have come from narrator/past. At least, that's how I'm reading it at the moment, with the v. little info I have so far.

*Which is probably why I had The Usual Suspects figured out in the first fifteen minutes, and The Sixth Sense figured out after reading the synopsis/advertisment in the paper. I am so lame.

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