Family of Origin: A Novel

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CJ Hauser on Gothic Literature’s Life Lessons

At the Paris Review, CJ Hauser reads Rebecca for the first time and is unsettled to recognize herself in the story. “Do you know what thrills me in so many of those gothic novels? When a woman sets fire to a house. Sometimes a house feels too haunted, too complicated, to live in anymore. Imagine the cleansing relief of burning the whole thing down. I’ve been there. I get it,” she writes. By the end of the essay, the Family of Origin author realizes that to avoid the second Mrs. de Winter’s fate, she has to allow the past and present to coexist. “Probably only a very troubled person would learn things of a personal or moral nature from du Maurier. But I did. Du Maurier showed me that promising a new partner that they will eclipse your past is an act of violence against the meaningful loves that existed before. It’s a fucking bloodbath, and we are the murderers, and we forgive ourselves for it, every time.”

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