Other Rebecca the

Maureen Freely, Author
Maureen Freely, Author Academy Chicago Publishers $23 (280p) ISBN 978-0-89733-477-8
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Freely lends humor, insight and a wry postfeminist twist to Daphne du Maurier's melodrama of love, obsession and jealousy in this cleverly evocative, modern-day riff on the 1938 classic. The wealthy Maxim de Winter has become Max Midwinter, a minor poet and independent publisher dwarfed by the greater success of his wife, Rebecca, and by her posthumously published revenge novel, The Marriage Hearse, an indictment of Max and his calculating relatives who, she claims, drove her to suicide. In Rebecca's narrative, he's been transformed in the eyes of readers everywhere from breezy playboy to boozing, criminally misogynist monster, and his personal life has been under public scrutiny ever since. The second Mrs. Midwinter, a literary aspirant with one slim volume of short fiction to her credit, has long been a fan of Rebecca's poetry, which she can quote endlessly, but she does not recognize the portrait in The Marriage Hearse until she's already fallen for Max and has entered into the life Rebecca described with such accurate vitriol. In the house (changed from Manderley to Beckfield), she writes in Rebecca's study, sleeps in her bed and raises her children, all the time hearing her warnings from beyond the grave. Only slightly more assertive than her du Maurier model by virtue of her 1960s coming-of-age, she is manipulated by Rebecca's agents, among them Danny (Danvers), who is no longer just the housekeeper but Rebecca's self-appointed literary executor as well; and by Aunt Bea, whose motives are just one of the many mysteries that gradually unfold. Even those unfamiliar with the original will enjoy Freely's (Mother's Helper) sharply drawn, socially updated and suspenseful version of the male-female battle. (Feb.) FYI: The Other Rebecca was published by Bloomsbury in England in 1996.
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