Books: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

They say there is a "moment" for bibliophiles and authors . . . Something—a book, usually—sparks something within them, and it is a moment they always remember, a kind of literary turning point, I suppose. What it accomplishes is a personal matter; some say, "That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer" and some say, "That was when my world view changed" or something of that ilk. For me, it's very difficult to articulate—and that's saying something given my job is to articulate. I'm not sure what exactly shifted, but something did.

I've been reading and writing since I was three. I taught myself out of sheer boredom. My parents are both avid readers themselves, and I'm an only child; there simply wasn't much to do besides read or write and draw. Well, and listen to the stereo. I did a lot of that, too.

And I loved to read, and I loved to write. I don't know that I thought I would be "a writer," but I was pretty sure I would always write, even just for my own amusement or to share stories with my friends.

But anyway, my sophomore year of high school I got very, very ill. This was right before the mid-term break. And I was home in bed, drifting in and out of drug-induced delirium. Seriously, I was pretty damn sick. (That's me; I'm healthy as a horse until I'm not, but when I'm sick, I'm really sick.)

I was determined to try and keep up with some of my schoolwork though. Exams were coming and I didn't want to have to make up a bunch of stuff. And for Lit class we had a reading list; we could choose books from it and then we'd take a test on whichever book we'd chosen to read. Rebecca was on that list.

I'd enjoyed a lot of Victoria Holt's gothic stuff, and reading the description of Rebecca, I thought it was much the same kind of thing. I'm not even sure where I got the copy of the book I ended up reading; it was a yellowed paperback with a pinkish cover. It might have come from the used bookstore my mother and I frequented, or maybe from the library—they had a section in the back corner filled with donated old paperbacks that were free for people to just take, no need to return them. A kind of lending library or swap or something. Many of my paperbacks came from there.

If you don't know the story of Rebecca, well, there are lots of sites that can summarize it for you. In short, it's a gothic novel about a woman who becomes Maxim de Winter's second wife and is haunted by his first wife, the titular Rebecca, who died tragically. It's a fantastic book in its own right, but read it while very ill and hopped up on goofballs, and it's amazing.

So while I can't say Rebecca made me want to become a writer or anything . . . It left a definite impression on me. Maybe because of my age at the time (I was 15), maybe because I was semi-delusional and living on crackers and Sprite (toast when I was feeling adventurous), maybe just the weird cycle of reading a bit, falling asleep, waking up and reading some more . . . The fog in my head matched the fog in the protagonist's mind, and in some strange way it was like living in the book.

I now own a really nice hardbound copy of Rebecca, but I do still wonder where that tattered old paperback ever got to. And I never did read it again, either. I've wanted to, but something in me refuses to taint my original experience. So when in a Gothic Lit class at uni we were required to read Rebecca, I did not. I simply worked to remember what I could of the story and that served.

It's a great book, though. For anyone who hasn't read it, I highly recommend it.

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