• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,081,386 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

27/30 Day Book Meme: Twist and Turn

Day 27: The most surprising plot twist or ending

Sarah Waters is known for her convoluted plot and surprised endings. Also highly suspenseful, The Woman in White nourishes a surprised ending except that Wilkie Collins adroitly creates “blindspots” in everyone involved so that one is often led to court suspicion that is wrong for the sake of diverting himself from other suspicion that is right. The one ending that I didn’t see it coming was Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. The worst, or the most disappointing rather, unexpected ending is Bel Canto, which was before the time of the blog and I never reviewed it. I call it the nose-dive into disaster. After that book I’m through with Ann Patchett. The best book in this category is Rebecca. Many twists and turns, convolutions, and suspense fuel the mystery of Rebecca. Daphane du Maurier furnishes one of the best unexpected endings in my reading. On top of the surprise, the book also gives you creep with a chilling atmosphere. Did he or did he not (kill her)? It’s the perfect book to read under the cover in bed, or to barricade yourself at home with the lights off. The room is dark except for the cold glare of a lamp on my night table. I would sink deep within the covers, only my head poking out from the blanket. Everything is quiet. (Too quiet.) There is only the sound of pages turning, and the heart beating, hammering, echoing in the ears until you turn the last pages. The surreal setting and the presentiment of Rebecca’s possible appearance at the beginning of the novel somehow gives the impression that the newly-wed couple would perish at the evil power of the dead.

[318] Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

” She looked up at Jamaica Inn, sinister and grey in the approaching dusk, the windows barred; she thought of the horrors the house had witnessed, the secrets now embedded in its walls, side by side with the outer old memories of feasting and firelight and laughter before her uncle cast his shadow upon it . . . ” [13:227]

Mary Yellan is brought up on a farm in Helford. After her mother dies, she is forced to go and live with her aunt Patience, the wife of the keeper of Jamaica Inn, Joss Merlyn. Upon arrival, Mary is appalled by the sight of Patience, who has transformed from the beautiful woman in her memory to a nervy, shattered creature. The miserable woman living under the thumb of Joss, whom Mary thinks in incarnation of evil, does not dare to breathe the evil things that have taken place in Jamaica Inn. Locals have steered clear of the place, leaving it to stink of neglect.

For answer came sickness, and poverty, and death. She was alone now, caught in a mesh of brutality and crime, living beneath a roof she loathed, amongst people she despised; and she was walking out across a barren, friendless moor to meet a horse thief and a murderer of men. [9:141]

Against her wills, Mary warms up to the brother of the inn master, Jem Merlyn, who stands for everything that she fears, hates, and despises. Despite his being a thief, Mary believes that he has never committed murder, nor is he in complicity with his brother. In this backdrop of gothic romance spun a story of a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal their loot. Unbefit to the spooky mood that builds up during the first half of the book, Jamaica Inn is not creepy at all. The whodunit surprise at the end doesn’t live up to all the effort of suspense du Maurier has ramped up. Compared to Rebecca, she falthers in her effort to prolong the suspense. The mystery of Jamaica Inn and the crimes it hides are just too simplistic.

302 pp. Mass paperback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

Twilight Zone

After a magical realism spree (3 books), it’s time to shake things up. In keeping with the seasonal sentiment, how about some spook? DuMaurier, Poe, and Christie. These authors often use power of association to induce fear. You don’t just see a corpse. What scares the most is when it doesn’t show anything explicit. Terror shows a white sheet over something that might be a body or could be something else. Rather than focus on the shock factor, terror fiction forces you to approach problems logically.

After Rebecca, I have become a huge fan of Daphne du Maurier. While Jamaica Inn (which was written before Rebecca) is not quite on par with her later works, it’s the suspense, which du Maurier ramps up from start to finish, that got me to buy the book at the first place. Aside from this, I’m also reading Poe’s short stories. The required readings back in high school didn’t make me appreciate him. I explore him on my own.

Berenice. “There came a light tap at the library door, and pale as the tenant of a tomb, a menial entered upon tiptoe. His looks were wild with terror, and he spoke to me in a voice tremulous, husky, and very low…” This horror story about teeth sounds very creepy.

The Black Cat. Probably his best-known short story, a drunk man kills his cat and it comes back to haunt him. In Poe’s usual style, the narrator of the story is the killer and we see things through his eyes. Quite a horrific tale.

The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s murder announced. “I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; — just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.”

The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s the tale of a creepy guy living in a haunted house.

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. A man dying from tuberculosis asks his friend, the narrator of the story, to hypnotize him just before death. The event is witnessed by two doctors and a medical student. The results are interesting to say the least.

For me, no Halloween is complete without reading Agatha Christie. She’s just clever. I love that you never know what you’re going to get until you’re smack in the middle of the story and even then you might be in for a surprise. Even with knowing the ending before I read the book I still found And Then There Were None to be the scariest of her novels.

[226] Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca

“I knew then that I was no longer afraid of Rebecca. I did not hate her anymore. Now that I knew her to have been evil and vicious and rotten I did not hate her any more. She could not hurt me. I could go to the morning-room and sit down at her desk and touch her pen and look at her writing on the pigeon-holes, and I should not mind. I could go to her room in the west wing, stand by the window even as I had done this morning, and I should not be afraid.” [289]

Other than the eerily surreal landscape of the isolated gray stone mansion whose atmosphere is charged with the memory of the late Rebecca du Winter, Rebecca is not so much a ghost story as a literary thriller. Daphne Du Maurier ushers readers into the nightmare of Mrs. du Winter, successor of Rebecca, who recalls the events that uncover the darkest secrets and truths about Rebecca’s death. The novel opens at a vacation resort in Monte Carlo, where the morose Maxim de Winter meets the young woman who will become his second wife. The couple’s happiness seems to exhaust after their honeymoon in Venice, as Maxim brings his young bride back to Manderley, where in every corner in every room are vestiges and testimonies of a time dead but not forgotten.

Fuels the mystery of Rebecca, whom everyone—from Maxim’s friends, social elites, to house servants—describe as beautiful, talented, is a past so devotedly and punctiliously preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. A motherly figure to her former mistress, Mrs. Danvers keeps Rebecca’s suite immaculate and untouched since she was drowned a year ago. She treats the new Mrs. du Winter like an intruder, with an undercurrent of resentment. As the new Mrs. du Winter strives to expunge the past that is redolent of Rebecca, Maxim is trapped in it that a barrier exists between them. Her meager knowledge of her husband and Maxim’s paranoia transpire into a tension that separates them. Whereas the tension roots in Maxim’s lack of tenderness for her, Maxim’s own suffering is that of his soul, the scruple. Through the servants’ devotion, Maxim’s suffering, and the new Mrs. du Winter’s fear, Rebecca is made alive.

The fact is that empty house got on his nerves to such an extent he nearly went off his head. He admitted as much before you came into the room. He just can’t go on living there alone . . . [61]

Little things, meaningless and stupid in themselves, but they were there for me to see, for me to hear, for me to feel. Dear God, I did not want to think about Rebecca. [140]

As the events that lead to the resolution takes its ominous course with much twist and turns, Du Maurier masters one surprise after another before letting on the truth. The surreal setting and the presentiment of Rebecca’s possible appearance at the beginning of the novel somehow gives the impression that the newly-wed couple would perish at the evil power of the dead. But Rebecca asserts more than just a suspense thriller. The novel explores the meaning of love and the extent of mutual understanding in a relationship. Beneath the mystery of the death are deeper faults that are all too human: pride, vanity, and self-absorption.

Her shadow between us all the time . . . I remembered her eyes as she looked at me before she died. I remembered that slow treacherous smile. She knew this would happen even then. She knew she would win in the end. [270]

386 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

Rebecca Notes

Rebecca

High school English taught the elements of a novel: setting, characters, tone, and so forth. While some of these elements are not always so clear-cut and conspicuous, Rebecca has lived up to how the ominous setting, which resonates and recurs persistently into the narrative, constantly reminding readers of the alarming, almost diabolical secrets to be uncovered, as the new Mrs. de Winters lives in the shadow of her deceased predecessor, Rebecca.

Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and unkempt . . . Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers. The woods, always a menace even in the past, had triumphed in the end. [1]

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the book, at least the first two chapters, probing and acclimatizing into the nebulous line between reality and dream, between the past and presence. Du Maurier has no intention to lighten up the creepy mood by diverting from her descriptive landscape of the Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, as the new Mrs. de Winters takes up the new quarters.

The trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws. Scattered here and again amongst this jungle growth I would recognise shrubs that had been land-marks in our time, things of culture and of grace, hydrangeas whose blue heads had been famous. [2]

Once readers acclimatize to the darkness of the book as if one is walking into the dark cavity of a house from the midday sun, the book will would be as grabbing and confining as vines.

It’s Max de Winters, the man who owns Manderley. You’ve heard of it, of course. He looks ill, doesn’t he? They say he can’t get over his wife’s death. [11]

The surreal landscape continues to reinforce what is to be revealed about the past of Max de Winters and his deceased wife. I hope the book will live up to the hype and book bloggers’ raves.

We were amongst thest the rhododendrons. There was something bewildering, even shocking, about the suddenness of their discovery. The woods had not prepared me for them. They startled me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion, showing no leaf, no twig, nothing but the slaughterous, red, luscious and fantastic, unlike any rhododendron plant I had seen before. [66]

It’s very discomforting and foreboding.

More Acquisitions

Rebecca

I continued my scouring of the bookstore where I picked up two more books for summer. Recently in a Booking Through Thursday discussion on books that stick with you, many bloggers have selected Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, an author whom I have never read.

Rebecca is a novel by British author Daphne du Maurier. When Rebecca was first published in 1938, du Maurier became – to her great surprise – one of the most popular authors of the day. Rebecca is considered to be one of her best works. Some observers have noted parallels with Jane Eyre.

I propped open the new trade paperback edition and read the opening line, which immediately seized my attention:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me.

Angel

The other new book is the much anticipated The Angel’s Game by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Having read The Shadow of the Wind, which the publisher is engaging in a campaign to push the sale in light of the release of his new book, I have been itching for his latest work.

The Angel’s Game has many games inside, one of them with the reader. It is a book designed to make you step into the storytelling process and become a part of it. In other words, the wicked, gothic chick wants your blood. Beware. Maybe, without realizing, I ended up writing a monster book after all… Don’t say I didn’t warn you, courageous reader. I’ll see you on the other side. -Carlos Ruiz Zafon