Du Maurier December: ‘The Other Rebecca’ by Maureen Freely *

I first read Maureen Freely’s The Other Rebecca a few years ago, and was not at all impressed with it.  I gave it two stars the first time around, as I found a lot of flaws within its plot and really did not like it very much.  I had been so blown away by Rebecca at that point, that such a retelling just couldn’t compare for me.  I decided to try and re-read it objectively for my project, beginning the novel with a completely open mind and seeing if – and how – my perceptions of it had altered in the meantime.

The Other Rebecca was first published in 1996, and is ‘neither a sequel nor a prequel’ to the original.  Instead, it finds itself in a different category, that of the retelling.  Whilst I am all for retellings of fairytales and the like, I do not believe that a novel as captivating and compelling as Rebecca really needs one.

The Independent says that in this novel, ‘Maureen Freely has lifted the plot of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and constructed her own updated, alternative text which knocks spots off the 1938 original’.  Contrary to this, however, a quick Internet search leads me to believe that The Other Rebecca has not been at all well-received, particularly with regard to fans of the original novel; its general rating online is between 2.5 to 2.8 out of 5 stars.

As with Rebecca, The Other Rebecca is told from the perspective of the unnamed narrator, the second wife of Maxim de Winter.  Rather than continue with du Maurier’s well-gauged voice, however, Freely manages to render the narrative flat and dull.  The first person voice and phrasing which have been used both feel far too modern to fit with the period, and the narrator consequently feels like an entirely different character to du Maurier’s creation.  In conversations between the characters, things are said – most prominently those of a sexual nature – which would never have been uttered at the time.  Freely’s descriptions are informative enough, but that is all they reall are; there is nothing beautiful or memorable about them.  Facts are also baldly stated.

The premise of The Other Rebecca is quite odd; in the first chapter, the narrator says, rather cryptically, ‘Here’s how I found out I fell in love with a man, only to find myself in a book written by another woman’.  Many of the events within Rebecca are reiterated, without adding anything of worth.  Many elements in the novel simply do not sit right, and I could not get on at all with it.  The novel is at once uninspiring and quite underdeveloped.  I did not have the patience this time around to finish The Other Rebecca, and shall be taking my copy of the novel to Oxfam immediately.

Purchase from The Book Depository

2 thoughts on “Du Maurier December: ‘The Other Rebecca’ by Maureen Freely *

  1. Too many authors piggy-back on another author’s work, and certainly Rebecca seems to have caused many to do so! Well done on abandoning something that wasn’t working for you! 🙂

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