Sunday, November 01, 2009

How Much Do We Want To Know?

Janet Maslin spills all kinds of juicy gossip in The New York Times about J.M. Barrie in For Starters, A Satanic Svengali, a review of J. M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers and the Dark Side of "Peter Pan" by Piers Dudgeon. But the line "But his real evil, in Mr. Dudgeon’s view, was more satanic than sexual, and “Neverland” goes into overdrive when it unveils Barrie’s cloven-hoofed side" left me going, "Which was? What? What was it?"

The monster of Neverland: How JM Barrie did a 'Peter Pan' and stole another couple's children by Tony Renell in The Daily Mail gets into a lot more dirty detail. And guess what--There's a Peter Pan/Rebecca connection.

Two of my favorite obsessions are linked. How marvelous is that?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The Big Rebecca Read Completed

The Big Read of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier finished up at bookshelves of doom last week. A good time was had by all.

I had read Rebecca twice before, once as a teenager. I had two questions in mind with this third read:

1. Is Rebecca a "retelling" of Jane Eyre?

2. Would this book still be of interest to teenagers?

Well, I don't want to go so far as to say that Rebecca is a retelling of Jane Eyre, but the parallels are striking and fascinating. Poor, young orphaned woman who has been kicked around by a female relative/employer becomes involved with an older, wealthy man who is psychologically scarred as the result of having been tricked into a marriage with a "bad wife." Older, wealthy man has a big, I mean, BIG, secret and a big fancy house. Secret revealed, house burns down. There's more. I'm just hitting the high points.

The contrasts are just as interesting. Maxim de Winter and his second wife have very little chemistry, while Mr. Rochester and Jane come close to burning up the page whenever they appear together. All of us at the Big Read agreed that Jane could whip Mrs. deWinter 2's sorry butt. She could probably stand up to Rebecca, too.

None of this means that Rebecca is a bad book or not as good as Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is a very good book about two powerful, flawed people who find each other. Rebecca is a very good book about two weak, bland people who find each other.

Will teenagers like Rebecca? A number of us at the Big Read had read it as teenagers. Most of us recall liking it. In my case, I know it was because of the suspense angle. I think genre books such as suspense or mystery can appeal to a wider range of ages because whatever makes the books suspenseful or mysterious is the big hook, not the characters or the theme. In Rebecca's case, there is a character who is very young and suffers from the kind of insecurity many adolescents can relate to. On the other hand, in addition to the suspense hook, Rebecca has some very strong themes relating to sexual jealousy and the shifts of power in a relationship. Those aren't the themes we traditonally think of as YA. Without the suspense, I don't know if Rebecca could hold a lot of young readers.

Today I bought two copies of Rebecca to give as gifts to family members, neither of whom is a teenager.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Do Teenagers Still Read Rebecca?

A great article in The Scotsman called Manderley Revisited deals with Daphne du Maurier, whose one hundredth birthday is coming up on May 13. The article suggests in a couple of places that Rebecca is a twist on Jane Eyre. I can see that. (Spoilers coming. You've been warned.) In Rebecca the unnamed Jane figure actually marries the Rochester figure and learns the secret of the first wife later. There's a fire, and the Jane figure becomes caretaker to the Rochester figure.

Now that it's been pointed out to me, I can see the parallels.

The writer of the article talks about reading Rebecca as a teenager. (At the time, I liked it more than I liked Jane Eyre.) These days, while I often read about Jane Eyre, I don't hear a lot about Rebecca. Unless, of course, the BBC has done a new production that is scooped up by Masterpiece Theatre.

I don't see the second Mrs. de Winter as being as powerful a figure as Jane Eyre, myself. But for teenage girls of a certain generation (or two or three) that was probably her attraction. We were not powerful figures and were delighted to see someone weak and meek like ourselves get the fellow and come out on top in the end. Though I do remember not envying the second Mrs. de Winter her ending. She seemed to be facing a lot of work to me. I have, I guess, always had a lazy streak.

I wonder if today's girls who are reading things like The Gossip Girl or Kiki Strike need to identify with a heroine so bland she doesn't have a name.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link.

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