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Over the next few weeks, I will be slowly revealing to you the handful of books that I read again and again and again.  I will not so much post reviews, as a series of bookish memories.

There are many books I’ve read twice, but if I read a book thrice or more, I feel like the book has somehow become part of me.  The few books I’ve read time and again are eclectic, and I re-read them each for different reasons and at different times.  I will reveal them in no particular order, as they are each so ingrained in my life that I can hardly place which came to my life first or last.

See that copy of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in the middle?  It is beautiful, printed in 1938, deckle-edged, and just smells of time.  I purchased it just under a decade ago, in a second-hand book shop, for 50 cents.

I did not know it at the time, but this was destined to become one of my very favorite books.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

So goes the famous first line.

“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.  There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate.  I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.”

Those lines, the first time I read them, did not have the haunting effect they do now.  I longed to know the name of main character, which du Maurier never reveals.  It was years later when I realized that it doesn’t matter.  She was a nobody until she met Max de Winter.  Afterwards, she was Mrs. de Winter.  Those are her identities.  We are not given her name because it is unimportant.

Mrs. Danvers chilled me, and still does.  I can’t quite recall how I pictured her throughout the first reading, but these days she is a formidable, terse version of the Mrs. Danvers in the Hitchcock film version of Rebecca.

The lady who owned the second-hand book shop where I purchased this copy and I were great friends (or so my 16-year-old self thought).  We leant books back and forth, shared recommendations.  She would not give me my copy of Catch-22 back until she had found her own.  I would never have read Heinlein had it not been for her thrusting a copy of Job: A Comedy of Justice in my hands.

Her shop only stayed in town for a few years.  That small, southern town had few residents who would go out of their way to frequent it.

It was small, and the front room was filled with mysteries and a small section of mass-market contemporary fiction.  Past that, a similarly-sized room had a section of horrors (mostly King), a hodge-podge shelf of fantasy and sci-fi, two shelves of classics below eye level, and farthest back.. a towering bookcase of red Harlequin romance novels.

Every once in a while, I still find a bookmark from that shop shoved between the pages of one of my books.

Over the years, I gathered 5 other du Maurier books from second-hand shops, all printed around the same time, none as beautiful as Rebecca.  And I’ve read two of them.  None have the staying power of Rebecca either.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve turned to this book; perhaps once a year since I first purchased it.  I’ve not purchased a newer copy, and so this old, yellowed book has become quite familiar to me.  The front board could use a bit of glue.

But each time I open it, inhale it, finger it’s uneven pages, I am carried far away to a place I relish.  A place the 16-year-old me finds comfort.  Manderley, and an old bookshop.

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