Roll and thunder and hiss

Other people’s words about … the sea (again)

I could see the sea from the terrace, and the lawns. It looked grey and uninviting, great rollers sweeping in to the bay past the beacon on the headland. I pictured them surging into the little cove and breaking with a roar upon the rocks, then running swift and strong to the shelving beach. If I stood on the terrace and listened I could hear the murmur of the sea below me, low and sullen. A dull, persistent sound that never ceased. And the gulls flew inland too, driven by the weather. They hovered above the house in circles, wheeling and crying, flapping their spread wings. I began to understand why some people could not bear the clamour of the sea. It has a mournful harping noise sometimes, and the very persistence of it, that eternal roll and thunder and hiss, plays a jagged tune upon the nerves.

From Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve quoted from Rebecca before. It’s one of my favourite books. The unnamed narrator’s character — shy, very English, young, terribly lacking in confidence — is exquisitely drawn. The plot is an absolute cracker. And if you want to find out how to use short sentences to build suspense (and I mean short! sentences), read the last half of the book. I have never seen them used so effectively. Stop reading at your peril.

The sea looked grey and uninviting
The sea looked grey and uninviting

And then there is the sea. It’s almost a character in itself in Rebecca. Here in this quote, and elsewhere, the sea is a dark, brooding presence. We’re not talking sunshine and sun tans and happy childhood memories here. This is a sea that threatens and menaces, that fills the reader with a terrible sense of foreboding.

You know me by now. These won’t be the last words I quote about the sea. But honestly? I think they will always be, for me, up there with the best.

Rebecca and the sea

Other people’s words about … the sea

You could hear the sea from here. You might imagine, in the winter, it would creep up on to those green lawns and threaten the house itself, for even now, because of the high wind, there was a mist upon the window-glass, as though someone had breathed upon it. A mist salt-laden, borne upwards from the sea. A hurrying cloud hid the sun for a moment as I watched, and the sea changed colour instantly, becoming black, and the white crests with them very pitiless suddenly, and cruel, not the gay sparkling sea I had looked on first.

from Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier

The sea in Rebecca is a hidden menace — sometimes beautiful, more often ominous.
I think it’s a wonderful book.