Monday, January 31, 2011

Mrs de Winter - Susan Hill

In addition to reading hella du Maurier, I am also reading Rebecca's literary legacy which includes the surprisingly awful Rebecca's Tale and now this, which was even more fantastically bad.

Ok so.  The novel Rebecca ended ten years ago, the Second Mrs de Winter (hereafter SMdW) and Maxim return to England for Beatrice's funeral.  And then...they are in England for a bit.  Um.  And, as my sister says, the story part already happened, why would you want to read all this garbage?  You do not, friend.  They poke around in England for, like two hundred pages, and literally ONE suspicious thing happens (someone leaves a white wreath on Beatrice's grave with a tall, dark sloping 'R' written on the card.  Admittedly, this is pretty creepy since Rebecca is DEAD.  It's creepiness is totally not capitalized on).  SMdW conveniently runs into both Jack Favell and Mrs Danvers, but you knew she was going to because everyone else from Rebecca is also dead and there were no other toys for this plot to play with.  The next paragraph is all SPOILERS but you aren't going to read the book anyway, so spoiler away, me hearties.

Shit-all happens, the end of the book is nigh, SMdW and Maxim throw a party.  Mrs Danvers shows up and is all They used to live at Manderley, these two and everyone is all, Why did she say that so ominously?  Danny leaves not having said anything super-incriminating, the party goes off without a hitch.  Jack Favell shows up afterwards all, Damn, I missed the chance to totally humiliate you in front of all your friends and I'm like YES YOU DID!  You have scuttled a decently dramatic if not totally unforseeable climax.  Instead Jack is all *crazy words* and Maxim is all *cool dismissal* and it is exceedingly not unlike that exact same scene in Rebecca except that afterwards Maxim is like, Even though I sort of totally won that round, they will clearly torment me forever unless I give them justice.  *vehicular suicide*


seriously?

On the level of the story, then, thumbs down.  But the WRITING, ha HOO ha.  Rebecca is all about suspense and delayed information.  Hill tries to replicate this effect in Mrs de Winter with just...fucking...asking you things.  'There.  I got out of the car and took a step or two forward.  Looked ahead - there, oh, there, so near, I could go.  Just beyond the rise.  Why did I not?  Why?'  Or 'The questions that had chanted inside my head still ran on, but in whispers.  Who?  How?  Why?  Where had the wreath come from?  Who had sent it?  Or had it been brought and left?  What did they want?  They?  Who?  And why?  Why?  Why?'  Your questions are not suspense-making, they are just chapping my ass.
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And you can't say something like 'after that the nightmare began' and have the nightmare be that you thought you were going to get to stay in England and now you won't. That's not a nightmare; that is Too Damn Bad.
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And then there are little bits that aren't strictly speaking incorrect, but that are awkward.  'I remembered so little of that time - I never had' or 'But it had been I he had married, I he had wanted' or 'I was like a child who is a victim.'  Those are all, except for perhaps the first, grammatically correct, but how ungainly
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Enormous, put-upon sigh, my friends.  Only riff on excellent books if your riff is going to also be excellent.  Consider that my PSA for the day.

Three caterpillars.

11 comments:

Tikabelle said...

I always thought that Maxim would be FAR too egotistical to commit suicide. I mean, I know he's tormented by the crazy of the FMdW, but really? And also, the beginning (and end) of the original is all, "I look back on those times from lo these many years and still I miss Manderley." Last time I checked, "lo these many years" did not top out at ten. Sloppy seconds, indeed!

Bybee said...

Poor brave Raych! What lameness...does the book come with a pair of little book-sized crutches?

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think we all you...something really wonderful, for reading this book for us. Not that I would have even considered it, because it is sacrilege to ride on the coat tails of a classic. Leave Rebecca alone! Leave Gone With the Wind alone! Leave Jane Austen alone!

Ellen said...

and one way to guarantee your riff is terrible is to write a "fake sequel" to a book in an attempt to trick its readers into purchasing your newer and terrible-er version of the characters. +, i echo everything sandy wrote.

Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

I love the cover....and that is the reason they have that saying about the book and the cover and the judging. Thanks for the warning review!

heidenkind said...

Wait, what? WTF?

WHY.

christina said...

*gah* So glad that I anticipated skipping this.

Christy said...

urgh, excessive interrogative thoughts are a pet peeve of mine.

Jenners said...

I was actually going to consider reading this after having read Rebecca last year but now I shall look elsewhere ... like in your next two posts for Rebecca inspired books that don't suck.

Hannah said...

I met Susan Hill earlier this year while working at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, and she was charming and lovely and all the things someone should be, except I got the general feeling that she didn't really know what the hell she was doing...

Muireann O'Higgins said...

I like Susan Hill. But this book really irritated . Slow, ponderous and self pitying. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. Give it a skip