August 1st, 2007


Monday I got a voicemail from my favorite editor.


“Hey,” she said in her chipper voice. “Give me a call if you’re interested in going to Australia.”


Now that’s a way to start a week.


Of course I’m interested in going to Australia, and equally of course my editor was not at her desk when I called back. “Of course I’m interested in going to Australia,” I told her voicemail. “What kind of enticing message is that?


When I called her back again later in the afternoon, she sounded pleasantly surprised to hear from me. “Hey!” she said. “And why are you calling?”


Hilarious, she is.


So the Australia gig is not a definite. There’s a movie being made there—a movie this publication was planning to cover anyway—and the movie people really really (at least, at this point it’s really really) want to fly a writer out to visit the set. My editor was going to go—but she travels so much, and from her office on the East Coast, the 18-hour flight gets an extra seven hours. (I totally reap the benefits when she’s tired of traveling! That’s how I ended up going to Sonoma to interview the cool filmmaker kid.)


So basically I would arrive in Australia two days after I left (two days because of travel time plus time difference), spend two days there, and then fly back. If you think it sounds almost like not worth going… well, you’re not alone in that. But what kind of doorknob would I be if I turned down a free trip to a continent I’ve never visited before?


While we’re on the subject of unexpected surprises (are there any other kind?): I recently re-read Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, a book I read just once before, when I was about 12. I remembered the general storyline, but I was surprised by two things this time around:


  1. How melodramatic it all seems (for God’s sake—just build a new house, people!)


  1. How hilarious it is in some spots.


DuMaurier is not, I think, exactly known for her humorous writing. But in this novel, where a 21-year-old, utterly naïve, quite sheltered girl falls in love with a 42-year-old widowed man-of-the-world with a tragic secret (wow—maybe I should write copy for bookcovers! What do you think?), the narrator’s remarks were just too funny. Take this, the first passage that made me laugh out loud:


(Let’s set the scene first: the “hero” has just proposed to the heroine thusly: “Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.” Oddly, the heroine does not recognize this as a proposal, so he kindly explains: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.” When she hesitates to respond, because she believes he is teasing her, he snaps, “I’m sorry. I rather thought you loved me.” Ah, romance.)


“‘I do love you,’ I said. ‘I love you dreadfully. You’ve made me very unhappy and I’ve been crying all night because I thought I should never seen you again.’ When I said this I remember he laughed…. I was ashamed already, and angry with him for laughing. So women did not make those confessions to men. I had a lot to learn.”


She’s not the only one. Maxim is in a hurry to marry her, as evidenced by his later remarks: “You don’t want a trousseau, do you, or any of that nonsense? Because the whole thing can so easily be arranged in a few days.” When the heroine—who is never named, although at one point Maxim comments on her lovely and unusual name—says, what, no church? No bridesmaids? No family? he answers very simply. “You forget—I had that sort of wedding before.”




No wonder that throughout the course of the story, the heroine believes her husband is still in love with his dead wife; after all, he never confided in her how horrible his first marriage was. (Talk about doorknobs! Maxim de Winter is the consummate oblivious man.) If he hadn’t been in such a hurry, they could have gone to Engaged Encounter and learned how to communicate before they got married, and then the whole novel wouldn’t have even taken place. Maybe they could have gone to group counseling with Mrs. Danvers, and after she resolved her feelings for Rebecca and the new Mrs. de Winter, she could have found a job at some nice orphanage where she could terrorize the children.


Hmmm—I guess my irritation with the story is probably pretty evident. But overall, I enjoyed reading it and observing that, despite the minimal action that takes place before the reader’s eyes (so to speak), and the long, introspective passages through which we come to identify with the poor lovelorn and befuddled heroine, it is a very suspenseful novel—and utterly different from contemporary suspense novels. I recommend it—especially if you’re in the throes of falling in love (or have been, ever). Funny stuff!

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