Anticipation for Rebecca, a blog by Suzi Bamblett
In February 2019 retired teacher, creative writing graduate and blogger Suzi Bamblett contributed an article to our website's About Daphne du Maurier page entitled An Imagined Dialogue between Daphne du Maurier and Susan Bamblett. This beautiful piece of creative writing is undoubtedly worthy of another look, so do click on this link which will take you through to Suzi's article. https://www.dumaurier.org/menu_page.php?id=146
Now, as we await the screening of the new Netflix adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's beautiful novel Rebecca, Suzi has sent us her latest blog called Anticipation for Rebecca. It will shortly appear on her new website www.broodleroo.com, but she is sharing it with us first.
ANTICIPATION FOR REBECCA
Rebecca was the book that made me want to write. Since first reading it, aged thirteen, Daphne du Maurier has been part of my life. She shapes me as a writer. Daphne's Cornish novels inspired the location for my first novel, 'The Changeling'; The House on the Strand piqued a life-long interest in time travel, as exemplified in my novel, 'The Travelling Philanthropist'; Don't Look Now and The Scapegoat fed my fascination with the uncanny, siblings and doubles, which led to my novels, 'Three Faced Doll' and 'Prescient Spirit'.
I feel my life sometimes mirrors Daphne's. Like me, she was a 'daddy's girl' and found social roles hard to play, selfishly pursued her own interests whilst relishing moments to be alone. When Daphne read Wuthering Heights aged twelve, she became as obsessed with the Brontes as I've become with her. We're both intrigued by things strange, unexplained, and macabre, and we both play at imagining.
Daphne du Maurier's work can be revisited time and time again. Like Rebecca, she haunts my life. Can I know the real Daphne from her writing? The biographer Claire Tomalin says you become obsessed with your subject, their life so bound up with your own, that you've gone in too deep to cast them aside. I walk in Daphne's footsteps, reading everything I can find about her - novels, short stories, autobiographical works, and biographies.
The Netflix film, Rebecca - What I shall be looking for:
The Nameless Narrator. From the trailer, Lily James looks as if she might be believable. The first time I read Rebecca, I was immersed so fully that I failed to notice the protagonist had no name - she was me, and I was her. Although she may not know it at the start, to me, she's on a quest to discover her identity.
In her biography, Margaret Forster said Daphne felt inferior in social situations and didn't know how to interact with servants. This feeling 'out of place' is perhaps why teenage readers connect so immediately with the new Mrs de Winter. Like her, they know what it's like to feel out of place and out of their depth. It's easy to empathise with flushing scarlet, dropping your gloves, not wanting to bother servants to light a fire and hiding a broken ornament at the back of a drawer.
Manderley. I'm sure the filmography – scenery and house will look stunning, but I hope there's an atmospheric dream sequence at the beginning. One where we travel through time, like The House on the Strand, but with portent death images, like The Birds, conveying true gothic promise.
Rebecca. She haunts the story like a ghost. The morning room – 'this was a woman's room, graceful, fragile.' Frank – 'she was the most beautiful creature I ever saw in my life.' Danvers – 'She's the real Mrs de Winter, not you.'
Maxim. I hope Armie Hammer's old enough. (I found Matthew Macfadyen too young as Mr Darcy). For the Rebecca film to be authentic, I want to feel an uncomfortable, almost father/daughter relationship with hints of incest.
Daphne's relationship with her father Gerald was complicated. There has been much written about its inappropriateness, and incestual themes creep into several of her novels and short stories.
In Rebecca, there are many such hints from Maxim. 'A husband is not so very different from a father after all. […] And now eat up your peaches, and don't ask me any more questions, or I shall put you in the corner.' 'Put a ribbon round your hair and be Alice in Wonderland.' 'That innocence, it's gone forever, that funny, young, lost look that I loved.'
Mrs Danvers. Kirsten Scott Thomas should be perfect, but will the film include lesbian undertones? The way Mrs Danvers talks about Rebecca's clothes. 'Feel it, hold it, I haven't washed it since she wore it for the last time.' 'Put it against your face, it's soft isn't it? You can feel it, can't you? The scent is still fresh, isn't it? You could almost imagine she had only just taken it off.'
Daphne. The gothic double. I believe Rebecca and the nameless narrator reflect two sides of Daphne. Justine Picardie conveys this well in her contemporary novel, Daphne. 'Go away' said Daphne, 'Leave me alone.' But Rebecca just laughed. 'Leave you alone? She whispered, 'Why that would be leaving myself.'
The nameless narrator is naïve and good, but Rebecca is the dark side, the monstrous one, as in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
At the end of Rebecca, the narrator dreams about looking into a mirror. 'A face stared back at me that was not my own.'
Netflix, you have lots to live up to, but I can't wait.
© Suzi Bamblett October 2020.