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Book Reviews: Rebecca + Brat Farrar +Say Her Name

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This novel is a ‘classic’ but I HATED it. The unnamed heroine lives in miserable exile with her stiff, older, non-gallant husband Maxim de Winter. She recalls how they met: she was a gauche, spineless moron and he an emotionally abusive ass full of calculation and defensiveness who derides her. She naturally marries him and goes to live with him in Manderley, the family estate, where she feels unwelcome and ambivalent. For the memory of Maxim’s dead, desirous first wife Rebecca hangs over them like a pall.

The ’heroine’ is afraid of the servants, of the staunch housekeeper, of Rebecca’s memory and of her outwardly respectable vile bullying abusive husband. The mysterious death of her predecessor comes to light and it is ’resolved’ in disagreeable fashion. This is an awful tale of an unreasonable abuser operating with impunity, a woman othered and disposed of for her sexuality and an overwhelmed ignorant steadfast twit accepting all this as her lot. This travesty might be useful for landfill but nothing else.

Best Lines:
“The rocks had battered her to bits you know.”

“An awful woman.”

“I feel her everywhere. You do too, don’t you?”

“The real Mrs de Winter, lying dead and cold and forgotten in the church crypt.”

“You. You take my lady’s place.”

“He was jealous while she lived, and now he’s jealous when she’s dead,”

“I shall live as I please,”

“She’s the real Mrs de Winter, not you. It’s you that’s the shadow and the ghost. It’s you that’s forgotten and not wanted and pushed aside. Well why don’t you leave Manderley to her? Why don’t you go?”

“We none of us want you.”

“She was vicious, damnable, rotten through and through...incapable of love, of tenderness, of decency. She was not even normal.”

“You’re not like the other one.”

“She gave you the feeling of a snake.”

“What I had done, what I had married.”

“I don’t think communists go ramming holes in boats, what would be the use?”

“A communist perhaps. There are heaps of them about. Just the sort of thing a communist would do.”

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
This classic mystery was originally published in 1949. Brat Farrar is an orphaned drifter with no prospects. By chance he meets Alex a dissolute impoverished aristocrat grifter. Alex reveals that Brat bears an uncanny resemblance to his long lost childhood friend Patrick Ashby who disappeared mysteriously years ago. The day of Patrick’s 21st birthday is approaching when Patrick’s twin brother Simon will inherit the estate and fortune that would have been Patrick’s. Alex has an offer; he will teach Brat everything he needs to masquerade as Patrick and all he wants in return is a regular handout from the Ashby fortune.

The lure of money, family and horses tempts Brat and after much tutoring he succeeds in fooling the Ashby solicitors, most of the Ashby family and the local community into accepting him as the prodigal son returned. Brat is almost content, but the chilly Simon knows he isn’t Patrick prompting Brat to look into what really happened years ago. This was very good, a wonderful tale of genteel post war middle England with something decidedly rotten lurking beneath the mannered, class conscious surface. As this is from 1949 long before the advent of DNA testing, Brat’s charade is plausible. This was adapted into an insipid 1986 BBC miniseries.

Say Her Name by James Dawson
The author of the excellent ‘Cruel Summer’ takes on the Bloody Mary legend in this bloodless tale which can be compared to subpart Christopher Pike. After the funny and clever subversion of ‘Cruel Summer’, this shoddily constructed tale has no vigour. This is set at a remote girl’s boarding school populated by idiots who don’t seem to have the aptitude to cross the road by themselves. Some idiots do the Bloody Mary ritual and the inevitable ramifications kick in. Is it hysteria or the synergistic effects of hysteria? The mystery of Bloody Mary and the plot resolution is a plethora of undue happenstance that is resolved peremptorily. This was a massive letdown.

Best Lines:
“She may well have snoozed through physics, but she was pretty certain that wasn’t possible.”

“Sort of like the Masons, but with lip gloss.”

“It looked like some sort of sugar-fuelled, miniskirt anorexia cult.”

“She was social roadkill.”

“Bloody Mary is one thing, state schooling is another.”

“Maybe we could go hover outside the off-licence and see if we can lure men into buying us drinks with the promise of sexual favours like slutty booze sirens?”

“My mum left my dad for my uncle and then my dad tried to stab ‘em both.”

“Do I mind not going to a mental asylum to ask about ghosts?”

“There’s no way you could have a secret passage behind your mirror and not know about it.”

“If a terrifying mirror ghost comes for me, I wanna be able to outrun her.”

“Even their own mothers were wary of them.”

"No one missed her, look at it that way.”

“No one cared enough to find out.”

“At school she was a queen, and then...nothing. The rest of the world had plenty of pretty schoolgirls, thank you very much, and she was surplus to requirements.”

“Let me know how that works out for you.”

“A dead girl who climbs out of Hell via a mirror.”

“We let her out?”
Tags: 2nd hand book store find, book review, brat farrar

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