Tara Calaby

writer & editor

Tag: gothic

Review: Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca book coverRebecca is one of those classic novels that somehow invade your consciousness long before you pick them up for the first time. There are allusions to it in all manner of modern books and television programs and I, personally, saw the Comic Strip’s “Consuela” well over a decade before I finally read the original. None of this, however, dulls the power of Daphne du Maurier’s rich prose and the overwhelming feeling of discomfort that catches hold of you the moment you start turning the pages of this book.

Anger, sadness and joy are all familiar emotions to feel while reading, but never before have I felt so intensely uncomfortable as I made my way through a book. Sometimes it’s extremely hard to read Rebecca, so enormous are the sensations of inadequacy, ineptitude and uncertainty that flood from du Maurier’s text. Anyone who has experienced being second best or a rebound partner will find that the thoughts and emotions of the second Mrs. de Winter resonate far too clearly. There were times that it almost hurt to read this novel – times that were reminiscent of burying my head in a pillow to avoid someone else’s embarrassment on TV. But even when the uncomfortable truth of the text is at its most painful, the suspense of the plot ensures that the reader can’t quite turn away.

There are few likeable characters in Rebecca. Maxim de Winter is appallingly paternalistic by today’s standards, and it is hard to understand his place in literature as a fictional heart-throb when he treats his second wife so very much like a child (and wishes to keep her forever in that childlike state). She herself is too weak to be admired, particularly if the reader is able to see anything of their own weakness in her! It somehow doesn’t matter, though. The book is just so artfully constructed and written that one is able to adore it even while caring little for its main characters.

And adore it I did. It’s clever and engrossing and so prettily written that it’s no surprise that it’s considered a modern classic. A wonderful read.

Review: Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

Loved it.

It’s funny, really. I adore books like this, when if they were modernised, I wouldn’t even dream of reading them. Essentially, Jane Eyre is a melodramatic romance novel, complete with implausible turns of fortune and a love interest who’s so obviously written by a woman for women. But the language and the artistry make it so much more than that.

Review: The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

I loved this. It’s made its way straight into my top ten. It certainly hit all the right buttons for me, in that it has all of the elegance and literary merit of classic British literature, yet manages to be an enthralling page-turner at the same time.

I really couldn’t recommend this book more highly, both for fans of the classics and those who generally stay away from them.

Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting to, actually. I’d assumed it was mostly about the picnic itself and then a search for the missing people, when really it was a more psychological account of the way that such a mystery/tragedy affects the people caught up in it, which is far more my kind of novel.

The writing style is a little cumbersome, but I found I stopped noticing it after the first paragraph or two of a reading session.

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