* Prices may differ from that shownMore Offers
Guarantee Spoiler Free Review!
About the author:
The granddaughter of artist George du Maurier, Daphne Du Maurier was born in 1907, she grew up in a creative atmosphere as her father was the actor/manager Gerald du Maurier. Daphne's first novel The Loving Spirit was published in 1931when she was 24 years old. Rebecca published in 1938 was her fifth novel and like so much of her work took its inspiration from Du Maurier's beloved Cornwall.
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again". So begins one of Du Maurier's most famous novels.
Told in the first person, we only ever see the viewpoint of the narrator, our naive protagonist is a young impressionable lady's companion who is whisked off her feet by the dashing much older Max De Winter. When he proposes marriage, she accepts and returns home with him to his country house Manderley. The novel is as much about the house as it is about Rebecca, de Winter's first wife who is kept alive by the housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who clearly worshiped the first Mrs de Winter. As you begin this novel, the reader can be forgiven for believing they have stumbled across a simple love story. Yet do not be deterred if love and romance is not strictly your thing, the novel builds and broods as the house continues to belong to Rebecca, gradually the story is told, every misunderstanding, every discovery of the truth is told in retrospect from the beginning when the novel begins with the famous paragraph:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 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 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".
The story is built on the awakening of our protagonist, her discoveries, often frightening and confusing, often continue to lead to misunderstandings and as the story unfolds we can see with the benefit of hindsight were we might have acted differently. At times Max seems to adore her, at others he seems distant and cold, certainly early on when she is consumed with jealousy of Rebecca our hearts go out to her, at times we can see her mistakes and we desperately want to help her, to tell her not to go down that path. Because in the same way an perhaps metaphorically, the path down to the beach is beautiful one day and brooding and full of danger another.
That du Maurier took her inspiration from Cornwall is clearly apparent, that she wrote most of the novel whilst in Egypt, which she hated perhaps adds to the strength of the brooding Cornish atmosphere.
Rebecca is a psychological novel that starts slowly and builds to twists and turns the masochistic nature of the
This novel will stay with you for a long time after you have turned the last page and set the book down with a sigh. The power of Du Maurier's penmanship is at its best in this novel and there are a couple of poignant moments in the text where you suddenly get it. Realisation hits you right between the eyes and you so desperately want our protagonist to realise it too.
I visited a number of National Trust properties whilst in Cornwall a few years ago and I have found my own Manderley, a beautiful house, with its own cove that almost fits the actual house depicted in the novel. I realised that if I put bits of all the houses and gardens I visited together I could indeed, recreate Du Maurier's house.
If you read this book as a teenager, read it again as an adult. Perhaps do as I do with Du Maurier and read it whilst in Cornwall!
I had the pleasure of giving away copies of this novel a couple of years ago for World Book Night.
Available from Amazon, all good book shops, eBay or to borrow from your local library. Also on Kindle. Paperback from Amazon is £6.47 or Kindle £4.80.
Thak you for reading!
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
Just that one sentence is enough to strike fear and suspense into me but still make me want to read one of my favourite books again!
That opening sentence is the first line to the book Rebecca written by Daphne Du Maurier in 1938. It is considered a modern classic. Unlike many other classic books I find this one so easy to ready with a brilliant plot and some amazingly well developed characters.
Rebecca is actually deceased but her spirit is all throughout this book and her presence is felt so much. Her husband has married again and the book is narrated by the new Mrs de Winter who goes back to the family home Manderely with her husband. Here she finds memories of Rebecca everywhere. They are paintings of her on the wall and she really is a haunting figure. it also doesn't help that the housemaid Mrs Danvers loved the old Mrs de Winter and tells the new wife that she will never measure up and is constantly putting her down.
I find this a really frightening book to read. It's very suspenseful and subtle in its scariness but its very effective. Definitely not a book to read when you are home alone with no one around.
There are many twists and turns in this book and just when you think you have figured out what is going on, think again, you will be surprised and scared at the same time.
This book has been published many times so you can pick up a copy relatively cheap nowadays. My copy has 448 pages and an ISBN of 978-1844080380.
This was the first Du Maurier book I have read and I was hooked from early on. There is suspense all the way through the book and it is very cleverly set out as the book starts at the end of the story before jumping back in time to explain how the present had come about. The imagery in the book is also very powerful as everything seems to relate back to Rebecca making her feel very much alive still. The book also makes you question wrong or right as you understand and sympathise with what would generally be considered as morally wrong. Over all I would say the book really stays with you and is well worth a read.
I decided to read this novel after TV presenters and literature lovers 'Richard and Judy' recommended it on World Book Day. In an article promoting reading they suggested that this was one of the best novels you could choose to read. I liked the sound of the novel as it sounded mysterious and captivating so I got hold of a copy as soon as I could.
I bought a Virago Modern Classics version of this which contains an introduction by author Sally Beauman. The description on the back of the book tells us how the heroine of the novel meets a "handsome widower" called Max de Winter who quickly proposes marriage. After accepting and becoming his wife the heroine finds herself living at the "ominous and brooding Manderley" where the memory of De Winter's dead wife is alive and burning thanks to the "fobidding" housekeeper Mrs Danvers.
When I first started reading 'Rebecca' I was a bit dissapointed and annoyed. The writing style is very feminine and romantic whilst the descriptive terms are often completely over the top. This is not the sort of writing I usually enjoy so I found it quite difficult to get past the first few chapters. If you are a patient and slow reader you may enjoy the poetic dreamlike descriptions of the Manderley house but I felt frustrated by them.
I also found the protagonist rather difficult to like even though I could identify with her position. She is an unnamed young woman who narrates her experiences and at times I felt like I was hearing the summer holiday journals of a socially inadequate fifteen year old. I found her shyness and subservience rather annoying and the relationship with the much older Max De Winter was a bit off in my mind, especially as he seems to treat her like a child for a lot of the time. It's only later in the story that I could justify the relationship as being valid and understandable.
As I progressed through the book I started to feel much more interested in the story. My interest was especially stirred once the just married heroine arrives at her new home in Manderley. Here the ghost of Rebecca emerges - not literally her ghost but the idea of the dead woman, of her imprint and her force. Rebecca's presence is everywhere in the house and she is also kept alive by the staff of the household. I began to get a deep sense of Rebecca and feel intimidated and entranced by her, much the same as our wimpering heroine does.
A great sense of suspense builds up in the story as you start to realise there are hidden elements to the story that are about to be uncovered. I loved the twists and turns in the plot and towards the end of the book could simply not put it down. There are many shocking and unforgettable moments in the story. I found all of the characters coming to life so vividly especially that of Rebecca, whom I imagined as a sort of Vivien Leigh/Scarlet O'Hara type. I also was surprised that Ms Danvers, who I imagined would be written as a monster of a woman, could be identified with and is very human and real.
I absolutely loved the very ending of the book as at the last moment everything we think has come to a conclusion is turned on it's head. I actually found myself laughing at the end. I found myself analysing things that had happened and reading certain situations one way or another. It's a novel that certainly makes you think. As soon as I'd finished the novel I went online to find cinematic adaptations of the novel but none that I've watched so far compare to reading the book. So, like Richard and Judy say, go and read the thing!
This is quite simply one of the best books I've ever read.
From the very beginning, the plot was gripping and the characterisation believable. Mrs Davenport makes a believable vilain as she is cunning and twisted, but never ridiculously so. It is very easy to see how she has manipulated a young innocent girl who has no wordly experience. The "girl" in the book is interesting as she is never refered to by name, and even gets confused when she is called by her married name. This furthers the idea that the book is about the deceased Rebecca, rather than any of the current living characters.
The plot twist is very well crafted and sets the rest of the plot in a totally different direction and pace. I'm not sure that such a drastic change in characterisaion is entierely believable, but it is very cleverly done and makes for an exciting ending.
I would recommend this book to anybody that I know.
The opening line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" and the superlative descriptive passage that follows are perhaps one of the most memorable beginnings among novels.
'Rebecca' is an intriguing and evocative gothic creation: on the surface a romance, a love story, but with sinister horror underpinnings and a way of throwing the reader off balance. It is told in flashback from the point of view of the unnamed protagonist.
She is a naive young woman who is swept into an unfamiliar world by her sudden marriage to Maxim, the owner of the great house Manderley. It's a "whirlwind romance" that is strangely lacking in romance, which leads to their marriage, although her love for him is desperate, infatuated and puppy-like. When they return to England and his stately home, the untried heroine is a fish out of water and feels herself under the shadow of the deceased first wife.
This growing obsession is fed by the malicious influence of Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, and leads our protagonist into a dark tangled world.
It's a text that can be read on several levels, simply as a romance or a mystery, but there is definitely something else going on as well. Immersed in the lead character's narrative, it can be difficult not to solely identify with her struggles but it's also a novel that raises questions about what love is and what would you do to keep it, and are there any happy ever afters - or should there be?
Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and I'm gradually reading all her books. 'Rebecca' was her fifth novel, first published in 1938, and it is arguably the most famous of her works. Some of her novels have been turned into films, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock, whose 'Rebecca' won him an Oscar.
Du Maurier wrote brilliantly. 'Rebecca' is a great book, with parallels with 'Jane Eyre' but is very much its own story, and I recommend it whole-heartedly. It's available new from Amazon at £4.91, although you'll be able to pick it up cheaper from other sellers or second-hand. I bought my copy from a charity shop for 50p.
Product details (as available from Amazon):
# Paperback: 448 pages
# Publisher: Virago Press Ltd; New edition edition (30 Jan 2003)
# Language English
# ISBN-10: 1844080382
# ISBN-13: 978-1844080380
# Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 3 cm
(This review appears elsewhere under this user-name but has been lovingly revamped for DooYoo :)). Thanks for reading.
Like many people, I had seen TV and film adaptartions of this fantastic story without reading the actual book. I was inspired to read it after seeing a TV show on the BBC where they were trying to find the nation's favourite book. Famous people gave a short piece to camera about why their particular book should be chosen. Alan Titchmarch gave such an enthusiastic review of Rebecca, that I was compelled to go to the library the following day to borrow a copy.
Rebecca is my favourite book, written by the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier. In fact I think the success of the book was a problem for Du Maurier, as it completely eclipsed her subsequent works, and all the public ever wanted to ask her about was Rebecca.
The story is set in Cornwall, which is a place that Du Maurier lived herself and had a great passion for, as reflected in her writing. The main character in the story is a young, rather unassuming woman, and interestingly, her name is not mentioned anywhere in the book. This is a fantastic plot device used by Du Maurier, because the whole story is about the "other woman" Rebecca.
The young protagonist starts the story as a paid companion for an overbearing woman, who is taking a holiday in Monte Carlo. There they meet the mysterious Maxim De Winter, who is a rich widower, having lost his wife Rebecca in a boating accident. Maxim and the young girl strike up a friendship, and the girl is shocked, when after a short time, Maxim asks her to marry him. This will make her mistress of Manderley, a huge stately residence in Cornwall, with a huge estate and many servants. Naturally, she finds the thought of this intimidating.
They marry and return to Manderly, to be met at the gate by a line of servants standing to attention, and of course, the housekeeper, the formidable Mrs Danvers. It soon becomes apparent that although the previous lady of the house is dead, her influence is very much alive in the house, with everything being kept as it was before she died, even her room and her clothes. Mrs Danvers adored Rebecca, and resents this young newcomer who can never take Rebecca's place.
Daphne Du Maurier is brilliant at showing the feelings of the young woman, who is completely overwhelmed by her new situation. Rather than feeling mistress of the house, she feels like an intruder. When the phone rings and someone asks for Mrs De Winter, her new married name, she replies sheepishly that Mrs De Winter died in a boating accident. When she breaks an ornament, she hides it in a drawer as if she were a naughty child. Gradually events unfold to an amazing climax, as the woman gets more paranoid, thinking that Max loved Rebecca and can never love her. But did he? In an amazing plot twist everything is turned on its head.....
I love the way Du Maurier describes in detail the surroundings of Cornwall and the house. It makes the story come alive in your mind in a way that no TV adaptation can. Her writing pulls you into the story and consumes you as a reader, the sights the smells and the atmosphere.
I would recommend this book to anyone, male or female, as it has a huge appeal to a wide range of people. This is a true classic, and one that can be read with fresh eyes time and time again, because you always see something new in the detail that you didn't notice before.
What a gem! Once I'd finished this book, I couldn't believe I hadn't read it before! I was drawn in from the very first page, where the first person narrator talks of losing Manderley, a house and estate.
The storyline moves on apace, but with time for necessary and atmospheric description and thought trails which help to set the scene and develop the character of the narrator. We never actually learn the narrator's name, other than the fact that she is the second Mrs. de Winter, and I sometimes found myself thinking of her as the eponymous 'Rebecca', which turns out to be a haunting error to make, as the real Rebecca pushes her way into the reader's consciouness.
I empathised with the second Mrs. De Winter, as she describes herself as 'gauche', and we see her struggling to run her new home following her marriage to Mr. De Winter with the poise and glamour which she feels is expected of her. She constantly listens out for mentions of his previous wife, Rebecca, which haunt her every move and decision. As Mrs. De WInter believes that her new husband, and indeed everyone, loved Rebecca, she compares herself with her and falls far short.
It's so hard to write about this book anymore without giving anything away, but if you choose to read it, you won't be disappointed.
This is such a well known book that I was surprised, when I recently received this book through a book swap, that I had never actuallyread it and had little idea what it was about.
And so I began..."Last night I dreamt I went again to Manerley" such a famous opening, and it did conjure distant memories of a film half seen in the distant years. Initially the book took a while to grip me, but soon I was drawn in. I found the character really well portraid ,and you found yourself agonising with her in her life of tedium as companion to the wealthy,snobby,Mrs.Van Hopper.
And then Maxim De Winter appears on the scene,and the course of the narrator's life becomes altered forever. The way the novel is told in the first person, by the nameless narrator who goes on to become Maxim De Winter's second wife, works wonderfully for drawing you into the novel and helping you to identify with her. As her character develops throughout the book this is made apparent by the way she acts and thinks and speaks. The many discoveries and twists of the story are all seen through her eyes, adding to the element of shock and surprise .
There is a lot of underlying commentary about the class strucrue and etiquette of the time. You can't help but feel sorry for the narrator and the way she is viewed and treated by members of the upper classes.
The ending of the story is fairly abrupt, and leaves you reflecting on various elements of the tragic story. It is interesting though that the story does seem to go and full circle,and going back to re-read the begining ofthe story again after finishing it does seem to tie up a lot of loose ends.
All in all I thought this was a wonderful book. Engaging, with wonderful vivid characters that flow and develop wonderfully throughout the novel.
An interesting comment on the ettiquette and class structure of the time.
Though 'Rebecca' is often marketed as a Romance, it is worth noting that the author herself thought it was rather a dark tale of jealousy and envy, with an unconventional ending. I was struck by the strong elements of the nineteenth century sensation novel, intertwined with gothic pieces, which continues until we learn of Maxim's true relationship to the dead Rebecca, at which point the tale takes a strong turn into detective fiction, though the twists and turns are still occasionally sensational. This is perhaps a long-winded way of saying that 'Rebecca' is not a traditional romance and has anything but the traditional happy ending, so don't read it expecting a touching love story, regardless of the blurb on the jacket.
The next important thing to note is that though Rebecca, the first wife of Maxim de Winter, is dead before the novel is gone, she haunts the text to a degree that means she is much easier to remember than the nameless narrator, the second wife. This is not to say that she literally haunts the couple, though the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, would like to think she does! Instead, her apparently wonderful reputation and ability to manage the house have left an impression so deep that she gradually takes over much of the narrator's thoughts. The new Mrs de Winter reflects that she is sitting in Rebecca's chair, drinking from Rebecca's mug. This subtle haunting is much more interesting than a few chairs thrown around poltergeist style, I think!
A big preoccupation of the novel is with class, but it is not so dominant that it undermines your enjoyment in the novel. However, it is noticeable that a large part of why the new Mrs de Winter cannot escape her sense of her predecessor is the class gap between herself and her husband. Maxim does not instruct her in her role, assuming she will fill it, but she does not know how and many of the most amusing moments in the novel come when the new mistress of the house is found hiding behind a door or fleeing down a corridor to escape guests!
I think my favourite episode in the entire novel is the chapter in which the narrator tells only Clarice, her maid, what she will be wearing to the ball and, knowing that Clarice is the only person the narrator could have chosen to confide in who is as new to Manderley (the estate) as the narrator herself is, and wouldn't realise if there was a problem with the outfit, I knew there was trouble ahead! The suspense was marvellous.
Personally, I found the narrator's attitude highly irritating at times, (she reminded me in places of the incredibly passive Laura Fairlie in 'The Woman in White', an archetypal sensation novel,) but it works as part of the beautifully melded whole.This is a wonderful story, not to digest unthinkingly, but to ponder over and re-read in hopes of answering burning questions. Is Maxim's account of the late Rebecca true? Given the narrator's continual lapses into fantasy, how reliable is her narration? What was the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs Danvers? What exactly do we think of Maxim's patronising attitude to the narrator? Can the new Mrs de Winter be happy once the novel ends?
As with 'Jane Eyre', in which one might want to think about Bertha's account of her life with Rochester, I would love to hear Rebecca's version of her life with Maxim. Which leads to the biggests question of them all - who is the heroine in the novel? The instantly forgettable, incredibly passive narrator or the haunting, dominant Rebecca?
The enigma of the dark character of Rebecca pervades this rich story of love in a large house with an overbearing past....
Rebecca's dark character it seems, catches up with the narrator, a helpless, inexperienced woman of the times, caught up in the attraction to an older man. This dynamic is a frustrating problem until the faults of the man finally emerge and - like Rochester in Jane Eyre - he is revealed to be as helpless as she.
It is a now-famous tale told deftly, but is is also a period piece, with victims of its time, who depend totally upon one other. Also, it is a clever 'real-life' traditional ghost story, where no actual ghost needs obviously to appear, and yet it is as haunting....In fact it is especially so, with reference to universal independence and freedom. And always Manderley, the great house in South West England, the third character, the structure of life going on upon the turbulence of emotion.
"Rebecca" is one of my favourite books, I first read it when I was in my early teens when I was given a copy by an elderly relative. I still have this but have now bought this newer edition and it is a book which I read over and over again.
The storyline leads us through the life of a young girl who is working as a lady's companion for an obnoxious American woman, Mrs Van Hopper, who insists on intruding into the holiday of a gentleman, Max De Winter, who she has heard about after tragedy occurred in his life.
The girl is embarrassed by the actions of her employer but eventually the gentleman befriends her and marries her. The story then takes us to her new lifestyle as Mrs De Winter where she becomes the Lady of the Manor "Manderley".
You cannot help but feel sorry for this poor girl as she is thrust into an aristocratic life. Trying her best to adapt, she makes many mistakes much to the delight of the horrid housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who resents the new Mrs De Winter taking the place of the late Rebecca.
We are never told the name of the heroine in the story, other than Mrs De Winter, but in true Du Maurier style the characters come alive and you can almost imagine the scenes.
There is a macabre thread running through the story, which I won't divulge, but do read it for yourself to find out why the title means so much to the storyline.
I first read this novel some years ago, but was prompted to re-read it recently by the fact that we have tickets for an upcoming theatrical performance of "Rebecca", and I thought this would be a good time to remind myself of the story.
"Rebecca", first published in 1938 and never out of print since then, is narrated by a young woman whose name we never learn, although we are told it is a "lovely and unusual" one. Most frustrating, and the cause of a few difficulties for the reviewer!
The novel opens with probably one of fiction's most famous opening lines, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again". After a brief and unrevealing glimpse of her present day life and a few intriguing hints about the past, the story quickly moves on to our nameless narrator's recollections of where it all began. A shy, naïve girl of twenty-one, low in confidence and much given to romantic daydreams, she is staying in a Monte Carlo hotel where she is acting as paid companion to the appalling, social-climbing Mrs Van Hopper. Upon learning that the enigmatic Maxim de Winter, owner of Manderley - a well-known stately home - and recent widower of the eponymous Rebecca, who died in a sailing accident - is staying in the hotel, Mrs Van Hopper immediately sets out to make his acquaintance and hopefully wangle an invitation to Manderley. The narrator, hideously embarrassed by her employer's behaviour but unable to say anything, is reluctant witness to this. Mrs Van Hopper is fortuitously struck down by the flu, and with her confined to bed in her hotel room and hence off the scene, the narrator is surprised to find Maxim seeking out her own company, taking her out for drives in his car and accompanying her to meals in the hotel restaurant.
Naturally the young girl immediately falls madly in love with this attractively mysterious older man with a tragic past, although she never dreams for a second that her feelings might be reciprocated. She is astounded and disbelieving when, learning that Mrs Van Hopper plans an imminent departure for New York with her companion in tow- something which the narrator dreads - Maxim asks her (rather unromantically, it has to be said) to marry him. Once over the shock, she happily agrees, despite the fact that Maxim is twice her age.
However, her romantic fantasies about life at Manderley with Maxim are rapidly disappointed when she first arrives at the house as a bride of seven weeks. Maxim is preoccupied with business, leaving her to find her own way around the geography and daily life of a house which, though beautiful, she finds in many ways unwelcoming and intimidating - as indeed she finds the staff, particularly the terrifying housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. I think it's worth quoting du Maurier's description of Mrs Danvers as she appears to the younger woman on their first meeting: "someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull's face, parchment white, set on a skeleton's frame". Nice!
Furthermore, it quickly becomes apparent that the narrator's presence at Manderley, as Maxim's wife, appears very much secondary to that of Rebecca - beautiful, vibrant, talented Rebecca, who although dead, continues to exert a powerful influence with which the narrator, shy and awkward, feels she cannot compete. Mrs Danvers in particular has an almost obsessive devotion to her late employer and loses no opportunity to make the narrator feel small, unnecessary and inadequate, continually referring to Rebecca, rather than her, as "Mrs de Winter". The narrator quickly becomes convinced that Maxim does not really love her and is unable to forget his first wife . she finds evidence for this in the fact that Maxim alone seems to find it impossible to speak of Rebecca, while most other people seem able to talk of little else. Eventually, the truth about Rebecca and Maxim is revealed.
"Rebecca" has been described as the first major gothic romance in the 20th century, which is probably a fair description, although just describing it as a "romance" misses out a great deal. The gothic elements are certainly there: the vast imposing mansion, the menacing presence of the housekeeper, the general sense of threat and of sinister secrets yet to be uncovered. Above all though du Maurier is an excellent storyteller, weaving a plot which keeps you gripped from the outset and providing an unexpected denouement.
Manderley is, apparently, a combination of two houses which Daphne du Maurier knew in her youth. One was a house called Milton, near Peterborough, where she stayed as a child; a very grand house with a vast entrance hall, many rooms and a commanding housekeeper. The other was Menabilly, the home of the Rashleigh family, located just outside Fowey in Cornwall - a large house hidden away at the end of a long driveway with huge grounds surrounded by woodland, and a pathway which led down to a cottage nestled beside the sea, with two beaches sheltered in a little cove. The house was empty and neglected but Daphne paid frequent visits to the grounds and loved it there. Later in life Daphne actually lived at Menabilly and did much of her writing there. Readers of "Rebecca" will see many similarities between these two houses and the fictional Manderley.
Du Maurier's choice not to name the narrator, the second Mrs de Winter, is an interesting one. The author claimed that she simply could not think of a name, and it became a challenge in technique to write the whole story without giving her a name. In practice this proved to be a highly effective way of making the character appear to be a lesser person than Rebecca - she is not even significant enough to be named, while her predecessor is important enough to have the whole book named after her. As Mrs Danvers says at one point, "She's the real Mrs de Winter, not you - It's you who are the shadow and the ghost".
Although it is easy to sympathise with the narrator, I also found her to be a frustrating character at times and wished she would assert herself, even a little bit! For instance, on one occasion she requests a servant to place a vase of flowers in a particular place - he responds by saying that Mrs de Winter always had them in a different location, and she quickly acquiesces to this. It's impossible not to think that there isn't much hope for someone who can't even stand her ground over the placement of a bunch of flowers! Overwhelmed by the pervasive presence of Rebecca's memory, she seems to make little attempt to combat this by stamping her own personality on Manderley, at least until circumstances change ..
The novel left me with some interesting questions, most of which I can't reveal here without giving away too much of the plot! However, readers may well find themselves pondering the nature of justice - is justice done in the end, or not? What is the price of love?
Generally, an excellent read which I highly recommend - I'm looking forward to the theatrical production, and can't wait to see how they will approach it!
Cover price of the paperback edition £7.99 - available from Amazon for £3.99, or used from £1.99. My copy is an old one and I haven't read the Virago edition which is currently available, but one Amazon reviewer suggests avoiding reading the introduction to that edition, as apparently it gives away too much of the plot! If so, it's probably good advice, as the twists and turns of the plot are one of the novel's main pleasures.
First published in 1938, Rebecca has never been out of print. It has been called the first major gothic romance of the 20th century, and was placed 14th in the BBCs Big Read vote for the nations favourite novel in 2003. It was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock and had been adapted twice for television in recent years. It has even inspired two unofficial recent sequels, Mrs de Winter by Susan Hill, and Rebeccas Tale by Sally Beauman. Can it really be that good?
In my view, it can and it is. Its a powerful, exciting tale that has several unusual features. Firstly, the narrator and heroine is a pathologically shy, self-effacing, almost pallid figure, hardly the stuff heroines are made of but she is a survivor against the odds. Secondly, we never learn her name. This was a deliberate ploy by the author, who regarded it as a challenge to tell the story from her point of view without naming her. Thirdly, the other central character, Rebecca herself, is dead by the time the story begins.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. As the story opens with that sentence, the narrator (lets call her She) dreams of the magnificent house by the Cornish coast, where she and her husband lived. Sadly the house is now no more than a ruin
She is eking out a comfortable but soul-destroying existence as the paid companion of the domineering Mrs Van Hopper, a bored and boring American socialite staying in Monte Carlo. Suddenly Mrs V learns that Max de Winter is staying at the same hotel. An aura of mystery has surrounded this unapproachable, withdrawn man since the death of his wife Rebecca, and she wants to get to know him. Ironically She meets Max, and is astonished when he proposes to her. Much older and more worldly-wise than her, She just cannot understand why and how he has fallen in love with her or whether he is just taking pity on her and rescuing her.
The offer is too good to refuse, they marry, and he takes her back to Manderley. Though the house is magnificent, and beautifully situated in idyllic surroundings, She is overwhelmed with her new responsibilities of running the house. The housekeeper Mrs Danvers is a forbidding, ice-cold woman who never ceases to dwell on the beauty and sophistication of Rebecca, and what a tragedy her death was. From Maxims sister Beatrice, she learns that Mrs Danvers worshipped Rebecca and, as She has guessed, she deeply resents the appearance of a second Mrs de Winter, regarding her as a mere child if not actually an imposter.
Despite the friendship of the outspoken but kindly Beatrice, her husband Giles, and the estate manager Frank Crawley, all is not well. A walk along the cliffs and down to the beach with Jasper the dog leads her to an old boathouse, and Maxim is angry when she goes there while looking for Jasper, who has run on ahead. There is evidently some dark secret lurking in the background, but nobody is in a hurry to tell her anything about the past not yet. Later Maxim has to go to London on business for a few days. Almost as soon as he has gone, Jack Favell takes advantage of his absence to call; he introduces himself as Rebeccas cousin, and is anxious that nobody should say a word to Maxim about his visit.
Thats about as far as I dare take the plot. It promises excitement, and one of the ingredients of an exciting tale is a twist or two in the tail. This book is no exception. However, theres more to it than a rattling good plot and extraordinary ending. Daphne du Mauriers evocative descriptions of the Cornish countryside and coast colour the story vividly, and the air of menace, the brooding, accelerating mood of menace draw the reader in.
Above all, the characters are very lifelike. You instantly sympathise for Mrs de Winter, a withdrawn young woman drawn into this web of intrigue and suspense, who just wants security in hr marriage but is unable to find it, and for Maxim, still under the spell of his long-dead wife who was clearly not a lot of fun. You cordially dislike the insufferable Jack Favell, and as for the loathsome Mrs Danvers, maybe no fate seems bad enough for her. Sometimes I wonder, she says coldly to her employers young wife, if she comes back here to Manderley and watches you and Mr de Winter together. Spiteful or what?
I saw both TV adaptations before I read the book, so in a sense it was (slightly) spoilt for me. Though I knew the story, I was still enthralled by reading, by the authors style and building of atmosphere. Whether you know the outcome of events or not, Id still recommend this book without reservation.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 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.” This, has to be, the most well known opening to a book, and it belongs to ‘Rebecca’, a romantic novel by Daphne du Maurier. **A little bit about the Author. Daphne du Maurier was born in 1907 in London, to Sir Gerald du Maurier, the famous actor-manager. Her first novel, ‘The loving Spirit’, was published in 1931, and in 1938, ‘Rebecca’ was first published by Victor Gollancz LTD, which probably made her one of the most popular Authors ever. In 1932, she married Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Browning and had three children (I doubt all in the same year!) In 1969, du Maurier was made a DBE and she died in 1989. **The story. The story is set, looking back on the past, of a girl’s marriage and her life at her husband’s home in Cornwall. The girl is anonymous except for her name after she is married, Mrs. de Winter. The reader doesn’t know much about the girl, but the book describes her feelings and her love. The book’s written in the first person style and starts in Monte Carlo, where the girl is being paid to be a “companion” to a Mrs. Van Hopper, a rather nosy, snobbish lady. They meet Mr. de Winter, who is in Monte recovering from the death of his first wife, Rebecca. Mrs. Van Hopper catches Influenza, and the girl becomes ‘acquainted’ with Mr. de Winter. When Mrs. Van Hopper decides to leave to see her daughter in New York, the young girl is supposed to go with her, except de Winter proposes to her that morning at breakfast: “I’m
being rather a brute to you, aren’t I? This isn’t your idea of a proposal. We ought to be in a conservatory, you in a white frock with a rose in your hand, and a violin playing a waltz in the distance. And I should make violent love to you behind a Palm Tree. You would feel then you were getting your money’s worth.” And the story continues. The girl becomes Mrs. de Winter, and is taken to Mr. de Winter’s home, a large family estate, Manderley. There isn’t much more I can say without giving the whole story away, except that everywhere she goes, Mrs. de Winter feels she is being compared to the late Mrs. de Winter, especially by the chief maid, Mrs. Danvers, who really is quite a scary character. **Characters. Each character in Rebecca, certainly has an original personality, and du Maurier is very good at fitting personalities. Maximilian de Winter, known as Maxim to his close friends and family, seems to be a very vague and mysterious man, who is perhaps not entirely ‘there’, if you get my meaning, at times. Beatrice and Giles are Maxim’s sister and her husband. Beatrice is portrayed as the sort of person who will speak her mind, and doesn’t give a damn about what other people think of her. Giles is the perfect match for Bee, very obedient and although is thought of as dull by Beatrice, is a very interesting character. Frank Crawley is Maxim’s accountant and good friend. He’s very quiet and shy, and the best way to describe him would be how Mrs. de Winter does; “The sort of person who will always call me Mrs. de Winter, even though I call him Frank”. Mrs. Danvers, is the evil or baddie of the book, although this isn’t always apparent. She’s a scary, very scary, always dressed in black, thin pinched lips, eyes that could bore a hole right through you type of person. She’s the house maid at Manderley, as I
’ve already said, a very controlling woman, who you wouldn’t want to mess with, let alone meet. **Conclusion. There are some truly horrible (though meaning to be horrible) parts in this novel, such as the description of Mrs. Danvers at the annual Manderley fancy dress ball, but these are the things that build up the novel to be what it is: truly excellent. The main plot of the story comes towards the middle, and it really is unexpected. The story really has only one way to describe it; thrilling. I first read Rebecca when I was around fifteen or sixteen, and even though I found the first couple of pages extremely hard to get through, I honestly did not put the book down once the story got going. As I’ve said, the characters in the book are all built up very well, especially that of Rebecca, who is dead, and whilst reading you get the feeling that her presence is everywhere at Manderley, and I know this may sound extremely stupid, but once of twice I thought she may be around, lurking behind me, because the book is that gripping. The book is written beautifully, it explains itself very well, and the descriptions are wonderful. I have read a couple of opinions about Rebecca before writing this, and many said they first read Rebecca for exam/essay text when they were at school. I was lucky enough not to do so, and got to explore the book with my own mind, not with my teacher’s analysis. Rebecca was made into a very successful film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which I understand is very good. I however, have not seen the film, and I don’t wish to, as I’d rather keep books like this to my imagination. I would recommend the book to anyone, and if you haven’t read it, then do, you have no idea what you’re missing out on… Noodle.