Susan Hill's 'Mrs de Winter' is a sequel to the extremely popular 'Rebecca' by Daphne Du Maurier. The novel picks up ten years after the original novel leaves us. After a fire completely destroys Manderley, Maxim de Winter and his second wife put as much distance between themselves and England as they can. After an absence of ten years they are forced to return and attempt to live a life of some normality in a new house in a new part of Britain. But the ghost of Rebecca still comes between them and the survivors of Manderley are not about to let her rest.
After reading a dissapointing Sally Beauman's 'Rebecca's Tale' I was a bit apprehensive over reading another attempted sequel to 'Rebecca'. But I am so glad that I did. Susan Hill manages to capture the dark and gloomy mood of Du Maurier's style, a feat for any author I'm sure. Like the original, the story plays out through the eyes of the nameless second Mrs De Winter who is as much of an enigma as she was in 'Rebecca' one minute being thoroughly likeable and the next deserving of a good shake. The characters remain true to Du Maurier's models and continue to act accordingly.
The story itself is very realistic for a sequel and thankfully doesn't make the mistake of trying to draw in every single character from the original back into the same state they occupied then. Frank Crawley, for example, plays a brief role and does not drop everything in his new life to return to Maxim's side as friend and manager. Hill introduces some characters of her own which complement the original cast wonderfully. The second Mrs de Winter finds a friend and confidante in the very likeable and believable 'Bunty' Butterly and it is truly impressive how characters of Hill's creation do not grate or clash with those of Du Maurier's.
The de Winters story is doomed to failure, thanks to the dominating force of Rebecca, something which is not lost in 'Mrs de Winter' if anything the tragic outcome might not be for those who would like to see Maxim and his wife have a happy ending at last.
Out of the fire-wracked ruins of Manderley, could love and renewal rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the embittered past? First published in 1993, this is the story of Maxim and the second Mrs de Winter. After ten years it seemed as if happiness could be theirs, but the vengeful ghost of Rebecca was still there, casting its long shadow over them.