rebecca

Book Review: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

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Why This Book

After reading Rebecca several years ago, I placed My Cousin Rachel, another of Daphne du Maurier‘s famed novels, on my To Be Read (TBR) shelf. Earlier this year, a Goodreads buddy, Michael, and I were chatting about various books when we decided to do a buddy read together, selecting this wonderful Gothic edition. We were both interested to see if it lived up to the hype and how it compared to the author’s other words. We agreed on early March and got to it this week. I’ve only started doing buddy reads in the last few months, but they are quite fun… I recommend them.

 

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Approach & Style

I purchased the Kindle Reader version from Amazon to read on my iPad. It contains ~350 pages and took me four days to read. The novel is written in first person point of view and told from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a 24-year-old English man set in a somewhat unknown time, but likely the early/mid twentieth century given some of the details in the background setting. The language is intense and full of amazing imagery and astounding descriptions.

Plot, Characters & Setting

The novel centers around the Ashley family. Philip’s parents die when he is less than a year old, but his cousin Ambrose raises him in their England home. At some point years later, Ambrose unexpectedly marries a widow named Rachel who is half-Italian and grew up in Tuscany. It’s an odd pairing, as she has a bit of a reputation for husband-hunting and spending lots of money. After ~2 years, Ambrose mysteriously dies and Rachel disappears. Philip is distraught, but searches for her in Italy. Rachel eventually shows up in England looking to meet her pseudo-stepson, and that’s when the story really begins to get interesting. There’s an air of darkness concerning Ambrose’s death–was Rachel involved? She has a suitor of sorts who follows her from Tuscany–yet both claim there is nothing but friendship. Philip intends to crucify his cousin Rachel after reading a few letters from his late cousin, Ambrose; however, things take a surprising turn when more secrets are revealed and there’s a bit of romance developing in the background. Add in a few traditional English families, an inheritance upon Philip’s 25th birthday, and a possible proposal to/from a neighboring family… and you’ve got quite a Gothic story unleashing it’s power on you.

Key Thoughts

  1. du Maurier truly engages the reader with lyrical and ethereal descriptions of everything going on in the story. You will feel like you are sitting at a table in the house watching everything occur around you. The super-fine details are what challenge your intellect to decide what is real and what is not.
  2. As a plot, it’s classic — did she or didn’t she kill him? But here’s the interesting part… that question hardly ever comes up in the book. It’s not a mystery in terms of researching the past to see if murder actually happened. It’s entirely psychological in the relationship between Philip and Rachel… where you listen to the words or what isn’t said, think about whether you trust either of them… and in the end, you just wish you could have spoken to Ambrose yourself to get the answer.
  3. I went back and forth multiple times deciding whether I liked Rachel and Philip as characters and as human beings. Humanity and kindness are huge themes in this novel. Attitude and disinterest are also keen to make themselves present within the relationships. Sometimes I wanted to throttle both, other times, the tenderness was admirable. The last few chapters truly push the envelope in terms of engaging more doubt before there is a final reveal.
  4. While reading the first ~75 pages, I was also editing my novel. I had on my ‘writer glasses’ and couldn’t stop analyzing the word choice in du Maurier’s initial chapters. It was disconnected and hard to attach myself, too. I also found a few words that were repeated a couple of times on the same page (a pet peeve for me in my own writing) and after the third or fourth, I slapped myself and realized it wasn’t important. 99 amazing words on every page and 1 every so often that didn’t work. That’s way too high of a percentage to ever get stuck! Stick with it past that initial 15% mark and you’re in for quite an intellectually stimulating ride.
  5. If you love Italy or the quintessential proper English culture and decor, you will enjoy this novel. The only thing that bugged me from time to time was not really knowing enough about Philip prior to meeting Rachel, so I could form a strong enough opinion on who he was as a person, i.e. before he became mesmerized by his cousin Rachel.
  6. My favorite part of the whole book… Philip ALWAYS refers to her as ‘My cousin Rachel’ until a certain event changes their lives… then she simply becomes ‘Rachel.’ The meaning of the novel is hidden in that ever-so-small alteration in their relationship and future.

Summary

du Maurier is quite skilled at creating scenery, characters, and undetermined truth. We really never know who to believe, even in the end. But it works. Whereas Rebecca was a stronger plot, I think My Cousin Rachel pushes the envelope more in terms of who should we believe. Either case, I really enjoyed the read, especially discussing it with Michael, who is an author you might want to take a look at (new book coming out in April ’18).  I plan to review the author’s bibliography this summer to see if there’s another potential novel of hers I’d like to read. Overall, I’d give this 4+ stars as I really enjoyed it, but there was some repetition and missing pieces so I couldn’t quite knock it up to a 5-star rating.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
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Film Review: All About Eve

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4+ of 5 stars to All About Eve, a drama about an aspiring actress and her obsession with a famous star set in NYC in the 1950s, starring many famous actors and actresses of the decade. The film is also highly praised and considered one of the best movies of the 20th century, which makes it a classic everyone must enjoy.

Why This Movie?

Several weeks ago, I began watching “Feud,” Ryan Murphy’s TV series about the famous feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’m a big fan of Ryan’s shows, and I’d also seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” many years ago, enjoying Bette Davis’ performance. And then there’s that time I took a a trip to visit Houmas House, the Louisiana plantation where “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” the follow-up to “Baby Jane” also starring Bette Davis, was filmed.

It was Saturday night, last night, and we had plans for an old movie and some friends. And by friends, I mean drinks. Started with Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale. Later switched over to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon to go with the skirt steak chimichurri I made. I was searching for “Rebecca,” but couldn’t find it, so we settled on continuing the Bette Davis experience; hence, we chose “All About Eve.”

Film Overview

Margo Channing is a famous Broadway actress dating her director, Bill Simpson, and currently starring in “Aged in Wood.” Her playwright, Lloyd Richards, writes the parts for her, but most of the time, the main character is mid-20s, despite Margo recently turning 40. Margo’s best friend, Karen Richards, stumbles upon a beautiful young girl, Eve Harrington, standing outside the theatre, claiming she likes watching Margo leave each evening. Karen likes her and brings her inside to meet Margo, and they all quickly become friends. Eve moves in with Margo as her second personal assistant, as Margo already has right hand woman, Birdie.

Over a few months, Eve becomes an essential part of Margo’s life, handling everything from remembering Bill’s birthday to dealing with all Margo’s fans. Birdie suspects something is funny about Eve, but no one believes her. Soon after, Margo finds Eve starting to get too close to Margo’s life and tries to put up a few road blocks. Margo’s friends, Bill, Lloyd and Karen, start seeing the jealous side of Margo and set up a trap to teach her a lesson. Unfortunately, Eve ends up the winner as a result, suddenly finding herself as Margo’s understudy and starring for Margo one evening when Margo’s stuck in the country. Eve’s popularity quickly rises with the help of a critic, Addison DeWitt, and Addison later catches on to Eve’s tricks.

The movie closes with Eve winning an award for her performance in Lloyd’s newest play, finally starring an “age-appropriate actress” according to DeWitt’s newspaper column. But Eve realizes not everything she’s gone after is worth the trouble it’s caused her, leaving her open to another young ingenue who begins to play the same game with Eve — now in the role of woman blind to someone clearly ready to pounce.

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE (in this movie)
    • Bette Davis plays Margo Channing. Bette was fantastic. Now seeing her in two movies, and Susan Sarandon’s performance of Bette in Feud, it seems like Bette always plays the same roles. She’s fantastic at them, but it makes me wonder if she was typecast. I remember Madonna’s song “Vogue” mentioning Bette Davis, and there was the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” which had a number of popular versions by various singers in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, Bette didn’t win the award for this role, but she was nominated for a Best Lead Actress Oscar. Rumor has it, the results were impacted because her co-star, Anne Baxter, was also in the category and split the votes. I’m gonna have to look that up…

  • OTHERS
    • Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington. She’s really good and I could very easily see the line she toed playing obsessed but sane, loving but a charlatan, coy but venomous. Was nominated for the Lead Actress Oscar.
    • Celeste Holm plays Karen Richards. Good performance. First exposure to her. Was nominated for the Supporting Actress Oscar.
    • Gary Merrill plays Bill Simpson. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • George Sanders plays Addison DeWitt. Good performance. First exposure to him. Won Best Supporting Acting Oscar.
    • Hugh Marlowe plays Lloyd Richards. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • Thelma Ritter plays Birdie. She was funny. I liken her to Joan Crawford’s assistant, Mamacita. Was nominated for the Support Actress Oscar.
    • Marilyn Monroe has a small role — nothing to really comment about.

The Good and The Bad

  • All About Eve is based on a short story, ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, written by American author Mary Orr [1910-2006]. Thanks IMDB!
  • It’s in black and white, so you have a certain amount of charm and imagination.
  • For a film nearly 70 years old, it had tons of drama and caustic dialogue.

  • The plot was very strong, and it had a few side-stories which kept everything moving along. Never felt bored. Had a few moments of “are you serious,” but then I realized it was 70 years old… so it was a bit of a pioneer.
  • The whole “Eve wins an award” plot seemed a little far-fetched, as well as why Addison chose to support her, knowing she was playing a game the whole time. I thought he had more honesty about him.
  • I’d have liked to see what happens to Margo afterwards… did she have more plays? Did she move to a different playwright? Did she and Bill get married? Why was she OK with Bill working on the play with Eve?
  • I thought we should have seen a fight between Margo and Karen, especially since Karen’s the root of all the evil: Karen brought Eve to meet Margo, Karen told everyone to trust Eve and Karen setup the situation which led to Eve starring in Margo’s play.

What’s Next?

  • Since I’m on a Bette Davis kick, I think I’ll take a look at another film she starred in, “Dark Victory.” And of course, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”
  • Anne Baxter’s performance was also really strong. I will probably see what other movies she made…
  • This is a movie with powerful and strong women, especially for the 1950s. I think it’s got lots of chutzpah.
  • It’s not about crying when someone takes something that belongs to you. It’s about standing up and fight for yourself. I like it!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I watch TV A LOT. I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. This site, https://thisismytruthnow.com, is where you’ll find TV & Film reviews, book reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

Review: Abigale Hall

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Abigale Hall
Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars to Lauren A. Forry‘s Abigale Hall, a mystery and suspense novel I received via NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to both for this opportunity, as I enjoyed the book and have posted a review below.


Story

Rebecca, 12, and Eliza, 17, are orphaned sisters in 1940’s London shortly after the end of WWII, their mother dying from the German Blitz and their father committing suicide after several issues post-war. The girls were awarded to their Aunt Bess, who could barely afford to keep herself above water due to a gambling problem. When she can’t take it anymore, Bess sells them to an elderly man in Wales who needs help around his estate. Rebecca seems to suffer from some emotional problems and needs constant supervision, while Eliza was hoping for a proposal from Peter.
Eliza could live on her own, but won’t let her sister be alone; and then they are both forced to leave without any notification to any friends.

When the sisters arrive, they are taken to Mrs. Pollard who runs the estate; however, both girls quickly learn they will be mistreated far worse than they had been by their Aunt Bess. Eliza begins to hear stories about several missing girls over the last 30 years — who once worked at the estate — but vanished under mysterious circumstances. As Eliza looks out for Rebecca, Rebecca begins to grow more sick and is eventually taken away by Mrs. Pollard to the hospital to get better. Eliza finally meets the master, Mr. Brownewell, who comes from a long line of very peculiar men; however, he seems to carry his own tarnish, as the townspeople suspect he killed his fiancee nearly 30 years ago when he thought she was looking at another man in the wrong way.

Eliza tries to keep things status quo as she searches for the answers, but soon discovers she cannot trust anyone. Eliza also begins to hear and see the ghost of Victoria, Mr. Brownewell’s late fiancee, roaming the halls, claiming to have stolen all the missing girls. Meanwhile, Peter realizes that Eliza has been kidnapped and tries to find her, but many people — all caught up in the macabre game being played — stand in his way, nearly killing him a few times. When he finally finds Eliza, he steps right into a trap set by the villain behind the entire Gothic horror. But who is it? And who will survive…


Strengths

The characters are vivid and intense. And there aren’t a tremendous amount of them, which certainly helps make it a good story. You’ve got Eliza and Rebecca who are the sisters dealing with the situation. Their Aunt Bess plays a role in the send off to Wales. Peter is chasing after Eliza. Peter’s got 3 or 4 people he interacts with on his search. And in Abigale Hall, there are 3 or 4 characters who help run the estate. Plus the ghost or not-so-dead Victoria (you will have to read to find out)!

The estate, Thornecroft, is a beautiful setting but has a ruthless charm about it. Abigale Hall is one of the main rooms / areas, well described, but keeps you guessing whether it’s a good or a bad place to be. The concept of ghosts is used intricately and constantly keeps readers wondering whether or not the characters are loopy or really seeing what they think they are seeing. It helps you stay focused and want to keep reading each chapter to figure it out.


Suggestions

I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. It wasn’t repetitive, but at times it felt a little too drawn out. I assume it’s to build the fear factor and the thrill of the chase; however, at times, you want to skim a few sections just to see how far the author was going to take each of the scenes. With a little more editing and focus on key word replacements, I think it could have really put the fear in a few more readers.

All of the characters were just mean. Maybe that’s how it was in the 1940s after the war and in England, but I felt like I just wanted to smack several of them for the way they treated each other; and I’m not even counting the villains in the book. Even the ones who were friends or even just acquaintances felt like they had a bit of a nasty tone about them. It could be totally realistic, but it was a bit of a turn off for me.


Comparisons

At many points in the novel, I kept thinking about the direct comparison to Daphne du Maurier‘s novel Rebecca, and that’s not considering both books have a main character named Rebecca. Both books have sprawling estates with a Gothic haunting ghost; Rebecca has Manderley and Abigale Hall has Plentynunig’s Thornecroft. Both have a very menacing but possibly innocent caretaker. Let’s see a rumble between Mrs. Pollard and Mrs. Danvers!

There are some interesting themes about shoes in this book that made me think of the Wizard of Oz witches… between Dorothy’s shoes and the legs of the witch underneath the home that crashed into Oz, you can’t help but see the comparison when one of the characters in Abigale Hall ends up with a head in the oven and nothing hanging out but a pair of legs.

Plus, both the sisters have trouble with their shoes the entire book. Was a little odd!

Not to mention Hansel and Gretel pushing the witch in the oven. So many re-appropriations of fairy tales could be seen.


Final Thoughts

I’m glad I read the book, and there were definitely parts full of horror the creepy factor. I was hoping for a bit more macabre, and the end certainly brings some intensity and major crazy… but it should have pushed the envelope a bit more to truly be a horror book. It’s a good read, but I didn’t think “wow, this is an awesome and scary book.” I’d read another one by this author as the writing flowed well and created memorable characters. But give me something even more gruesome next time!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Rebecca

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Rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Daphne du Maurier‘s Rebecca. I loved it and may even consider it 4 1/2 stars (but I can’t!).


Story

The second wife of a wealthy widower (you’ll never know her name) tries to figure out how to fit into her new family when it seems there’s now way how. With many twists and turns, both suspense and a bit of romance, this story captures your attention immediately and takes you on a path of great intrigue. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, du Maurier confounds and surprises you — in a good way. I would love to be a fly on the wall in Manderley (name of the estate where the book takes place) to catch all the hidden expressions and conversations.


Strengths

1. Mystery and Intrigue
2. Character Development


Weaknesses

1. Some unanswered questions (small ones).
2. I want more.


Final Thoughts

Read it. Experience it. Don’t just watch the move adaption. You want to make up your own mind about what everyone looks like and acts like.
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