Rebecca is a rather odd character in that she doesn’t actually appear in her eponymous novel; she is the first wife of the main character’s husband, who has died before any of the events described. Never-the-less, her presence permeates the novel, leaving a palpable sense of unease, both to the main character (who is never named), and the reader.
At the half-way point, the heroine is increasingly uncomfortable and unsure of herself as she tries to adapt to a grand estate which has been, and continues to be, run to Rebecca’s exacting standards. The heroine feels she will never fully understand the place, nor live up to the legacy of her predecessor. It doesn’t help that the housekeeper (who in some ways rather reminds me of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series) resents her for trying to take Rebecca’s place.
I think anyone would be able to relate to the sense of being thrust into a situation one feels unprepared for, trying vainly to not make a fool of oneself and yet seeming to do exactly that, and being far too worried about what other people are thinking of you when they probably aren’t. We’ve all been young (or in some cases still are). Yet despite all of the heroine’s longing for a time when she is older and has gotten the hang of things, I don’t think it’s a coming-of-age story (or, at least, that’s not the main theme). There’s too much of an underlying sense of tragedy, whether something that has already happened that people are unable to move on from, or something that will happen. The latter is definitely implied by the fact that the heroine is not wanting to think about later events, and prefers to think back to this time when they were newlyweds; one feels that if this time was so awkward, stressful, and unpleasant, something really bad must have happened later.
Still, we shall see. Later events may vindicate me, or prove me a fool. That’s half the fun of this process, after all. 😉