Author: Daphne du Maurier
Published: Virago Press, 2003 (first published 1938)
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…
A haunting tale of love, and living in someone’s shadow.
Our heroine first meets Max de Winter when she is working as a companion to a social-climbing busy body. She is wowed by him, and, it appears, he by her. They get married, and the difficulties in her life begin. Mrs Danvers… Oh lord. Everyone at Manderley seems to want to make life difficult for her, and to slowly chip away at her self-worth, and confidence that Max loves her. The house – and everyone in it – is filled with secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, and aren’t afraid of stepping on Mrs de Winter. And the whole book… totally creepy. I felt haunted by Rebecca myself! Didn’t help that everyone other than Max seemed to be doing their best to keep her alive.
This is a dark and heavy book, and I’m totally not sure I completely absorbed it. I feel like this one is best savoured, and read over and over to really experience it. When reading, I could feel there were twists coming. Though I’m not sure I’d even say twists, it felt more like secrets slowly being unearthed. You feel the depth of the characters and the plot. There is so much beneath the surface of this book. The house is a character all of its own, and the writing – I felt like I was there. The chill drafts of a huge old mansion (not that I have ANY experience in ancient mansions, but you know. I was transported and all that.) The sea. The fear of being overshadowed by your predecessor. The fear you’ll be found lacking. Or worse, found out as an imposter. du Maurier had me there, experiencing it all, totally absorbed.
The ending, well more the resolution of questions rather than the actual end of the book, I have to say I didn’t expect. I anticipated it going in a very different direction. Though possibly that’s more me being a product of the times, and obviously, being written in the 1930s, the times were very different.
This is the only book by Daphne du Maurier that I’ve read, and to be honest I loved it so much that I’m not sure I want to read any more of hers. Total fear of being let down! Have you experienced that? A book you found so brilliant that the thought of reading another of the authors’ books just might shatter you?
Absolutely. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this one. Sad, dark, haunting, brilliant.