Exactly one month today we get to enjoy the new adaptation of Rebecca so this seemed a good time to share an excerpt from Du Maurier's The Rebecca Notebook. I've become kinda obsessed by it over the years. One glance at the picture above will, I hope, explain why.
First, Rebecca itself. Yes, the parallels with Jane Eyre are often cited and easy to draw, but Rebecca, a masterfully written psychological thriller, deserves its place in the canon on its own merits, as does My Cousin Rachel, a novel I always think of as Rebecca's even-more-sinister step-sister. There's no arguing with the quality of the prose or the skill of execution in either book; you could make a case for asserting that its only Du Maurier's popularity - and possibly her gender - that prevent her from being more widely studied.
What I love about the notebook is the glimpse we get into a great writer's planning process. It starts with the small stuff. Look: she plans in actual chapters. And look; Max was called Henry.
Then other qualities emerge. The notes are sometimes brief summaries of potential action, but we get possible lines of dialogue ("lying in fifteen fathom water, sir...") and in some entries (chapters 22, 23 and 24) longhand rehearsals of entire scenes. She's also specific about the potential colour and atmosphere of scenes; we have "At any rate, strike the peaceful note..." or "Sense of foreboding." And there are reminders to fix potential problems - "Must separate these two chapters by a more intimate depressing reaction..." as if Du Maurier is recognising pitfalls even as she plans.
And all this the work of a storyteller not even at the top of her game yet. Incredible, and not a little depressing given this particular writer's current struggles.
Anyway, roll on October 21st. Let's hope this new adaptation does justice to its wonderful source material.