A lot of readers discover Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca as teenagers, but I was fully grown and reading books inspired by browsing the local feminist bookshop, writers like Audre Lorde and Marilyn Frye, bell hooks and Gloria Alzandúa.
In my stacks that year, 87% of the books were by women writers, many of them vocal about their pursuit of equality and openly political—like Margaret Atwood, Rebecca West, Nadine Gordimer, and Ursula K. LeGuin.
Two of my woman-friends, who outwardly identified as feminists, recommended Rebecca to me, so I went into it expecting…expecting what? Something else. There were things I liked about it, but I didn’t love it, not like my friends loved it.
They’d both been younger when they first read Rebecca, but each of them had reread it as an adult, too. This rereading is the kind of detail that makes me rush for a recommended read, even now, but especially in that reading year (when I was feverishly filling gaps in my reading experience, with George Eliot, Marguerite Duras, Jean Rhys, and Miles Franklin).
Based on my other reading back then, I was probably expecting self-assurance, daring and determination. And the narrator of Rebecca is anxious and insecure, dedicated to a single pursuit: being a “good wife” to Mr. de Winter (whose first wife, Rebecca, died).