I can say with unshakeable certainty that Rebecca is one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read. It wasn’t an action-packed gore-fest like many books of the same genre, but in my mind that’s what makes it one of the greats.
It’s a British novel positively dripping with atmosphere and dramatic tension with an excellent pay-off.
It’s for this reason that I’ve found many other of Du Maurier’s works to be…less than stellar.
After reading Rebecca, I thought I had discovered an unsung hero of classic literature. Why had I gone so many years without knowing who Daphne Du Maurier is? Why had I been deprived of knowing her name?
I looked farther into her works and rejoiced to find My Cousin Rachel, a novel that promised more atmospheric English countrysides, three-dimensional characters, an intriguing storyline and a gut-punch ending…..
Well, three out of four isn’t bad….
You see, the more you read Daphne Du Maurier, the more it seems that you run into this problem. The woman can write. She is a wonder at creating haunting environments, interesting characters and working up mysteries.
The problem is, more often than not, her endings tend to be woefully underwhelming. And when they aren’t, they’re just frigging weird.
One such example is Don’t Look Now wherein a couple that has just lost their child decide to go on holiday to Italy. While there they meet a pair of elderly twins, one of which purports to be psychic and prophesies doom for John, the main character. Well, the story keeps you on the tips of your toes in true Du Maurier fashion. Red-herring after red-herring is thrown at you, Then…the climax and……!
He’s murdered by a serial-killing midget…..
Kay, that was f*cking weird, but the next ones gotta be….!
Okay, guy is randomly murdered and random weird greek symbolism that doesn’t…really relate to the climax…
Okay, this next one will….! Okay, massive homophobia-
In spite of the many times she’s disappointed me, I just can’t give up on her.
She’s just good enough at what she does that she is able to draw me in again and again. But those endings…man, those endings kill me. And not in a good way.
I just don’t understand how someone could have such a strong character and personality, only to demure when it matters the most. She makes all of these promises and she never keeps them. She beguiles me with gorgeous imagery and diction, only to leave me crumpled on the floor like a used tissue.
Why? Does she feel too much pressure to perform? Am I more invested than she is? Has she just moved on to bigger and better things?
Why, Daphne? Why didn’t Rachel just kill Philip when she had the chance? It doesn’t make sense, Daphne.
I’m currently working on Jamaica Inn and I’m fretful that I’ll drudge through it and experience the same kind of disappointment again. But I’m just so curious….I have to know what happens.
Maybe this time will be different. Maybe she will have that jarring jump-out-of-your-pants ending I’ve been waiting for. I mean, it’s not like all her endings were that, bad right? Maybe I was being too hard on her. Perhaps I’m the one to blame for my high expectations.
I’ll give you another shot, Daphne.
I can’t quit you.