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THE OTHER REBECCA by Maureen Freely


by Maureen Freely

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-89733-477-9
Publisher: Academy Chicago

From an American writer (My Year with the Stork Club, 1993, etc.) yet published first in Britain: a wickedly clever and

witty reworking of Du Maurier's famous novel, a takeoff that falters only when Rebecca herself appears.

The richly allusive story narrated by Amy, a writer and widow of a young man who committed suicide, not only reinterprets

the familiar narrative but offers as an engaging subtext a sharp-eyed satire of British literary and country-house life. Freely's

beginning echoes the original as Amy relates the dream in which she returns to the now burned-down Beckfield and is prompted

to tell her tale. She describes how on Mallorca she met the famous writer and critic Max Midwinter, while acting as rich Mrs.

Van Hopper's companion. Max, as handsome and moody as his predecessor, soon proposes marriage, and the smitten Amy

accepts. The two fly back to England to meet Max's family. This wealthy family and household, however, are not quite the same

as Manderley's. Nor is the late Rebecca, Max’s first wife. Max has two children, and the housekeeper, Danny, unlike the

sinister Mrs. Danvers, is relentlessly perky and into analysis and tarot cards. She is also the keeper of the flame—that is, the

late Rebecca's literary flame: Freely's Rebecca was an American poet famous for her novel The Marriage Hearse, which made

her a feminist icon. Amy regarded it then as the thinly disguised autobiography of a sensitive woman "driven to the edge by

her husband and his powerful family"; soon after its publication Rebecca disappeared in Caribbean waters, an apparent suicide.

While Amy struggles to adjust to Max's eccentric family, his children's hostility, and his own destructive behavior, she also

tries to learn the truth about Rebecca. Which she does, though the denouement is neither as chilling nor convincing as Du Maurier's.

A delicious but sometimes disappointing retelling of the legendary page-turner.