Romantic Display: Daphne Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' by Ceri Williams | Gladstone's Library

Romantic Display: Daphne Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' by Ceri Williams

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‘Love and Other Disasters’ is our annual Museums at Night event, an opportunity to explore hundreds of Britain’s best cultural institutions after hours. Our event will be a chance to hear readings of short extracts from favourite tales of love, both fiction and non-fiction, poetry or prose. Our interns and staff will be blogging about the pieces they will read out; if you would like to volunteer to read something, or have a piece read out for you, get in touch before Friday (see details below). In this piece, Ceri Williams, one of our library interns, discusses one of her favourite books about being in love, from which she will read an extract on Friday night…

On Friday 16 May, Gladstone’s Library will be hosting an after hours romantic rendezvous in association with the annual festival “Museums at Night”, which seeks to encourage visitors into museums, galleries and heritage sites. Following our May writer in residence Lesley McDowell’s talk regarding her current novel Between the Sheets, the Library will be hosting readings and discussions of your favourite romantic literary texts in the aptly titled, Love and Other Disasters

In preparation for this event, I have been thinking about which passage I would share during the evening. When I thought about literary romance conveyed in the novel, the act of romantic display came to mind, in which literary characters often seem to make grand gestures as proof of their love (and often worth) to their love interest. A romantic literary encounter also, I believe, thrives on the lack of certainty of the other’s affection; twinned with a reluctance to carry out a face-threatening act in confessing ones true feelings, in the fear that those feelings will not be reciprocated.

When re-calling an instance in which a romantic gesture is performed in order to prove ones worth, it’s a scene within Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca which incessantly haunts me. Mrs Danvers’ expression: “loathsome, triumphant” chills me when I reflect on the unfortunate Caroline de Winter’s romantic boldness; an instance in which an act of devotion is hideously distorted.

As she immerses herself within her lavish ball costume Caroline de Winter feels that she is no longer “hampered” by her own appearance, and as she looks in the mirror she muses on how she does not recognise this new self looking back at her, and in response smiles, “a new, slow smile”. With a new vigour she prepares to make her grand entrance, complete with drum-roll, into the hall where she believed she has successfully masked her own meek self with this new commanding and feisty disguise; only to be exposed as a mere impostor, once more cast back into the engulfing shadow of Max de Winter’s late wife Rebecca.

This scene for me is the ultimate demonstration of love through romantic display and subsequently its disastrous conclusion.

Tickets for our Museums at Night event, ‘Love and Other Disasters’, on Friday 16th May at 10p.m. are £5 each, and can be purchased in person at Reception, or by calling 01244 532 350. If you would like to do a reading at the event, or provide an extract to be read out on your behalf please email louisa.yates@gladlib.org to be added to the list.