Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim 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 Mrs Danvers...

Genre: Fiction, Modern Classic, Gothic
Publisher: Virago Press
Year: 1938
Rating: 5/5

Rebecca follows the story of the new Mrs de Winter, a young, shy woman who finds herself whisked away from her employment as a lady's companion, to the impressive Manderley, to be wife to the rich and aloof, Mr Maxim de Winter.

At first, this seems like a dream come true. Inexperienced in love and life, and totally smitten with Maxim , she wants nothing more than to please him. But this isn't an easy task. Once the newlyweds return from their carefree honeymoon to Manderley, Maxim seems to change. He no longer seems happy with her, or comfortable in their home. A place that was once home to him and his late wife, Rebecca.

Remnants of his life with Rebecca seem to be everywhere. Rebecca seems to reach out from the grave and her presence permeates throughout the house. Mrs Danvers, Rebecca's faithful maid does all she can to keep Rebecca's memory alive and the new Mrs de Winter can not seem to escape her influence.

Will the memory of Rebecca come between Maxim and the new Mrs de Winter? What is Mrs Danvers up to? And what is the dark secret that Manderley is hiding? Are things really as they seem?

What did I think?

I loved this novel. Talk about a great gothic mystery! Du Maurier has taken a relatviely "normal" situation, and added an air of suspense, menace and foreboding the makes for great reading.

This is the ultimate "other woman" story. We have a young, naive girl trying to not only figure out who she is as a person, and how to be a wife, but then having to juggle this with the feeling of a third person intruding in her marriage. For someone ill-equipped, this is a hard task. 

The new Mrs de Winter feels as if she just can't match up to the beautiful, worldly and sophistication Rebecca. Everywhere she turns, she is faced with the sort of competition that is impossible to fight – a dead woman. And a "perfect" one at that. But things aren't always as they seem. Everyone has secrets.

Just when I thought I had this novel all figured out, Du Maurier threw me a curve ball that took me by surprise! Oh what a twist it is!

Du Maurier's prose is elegant and insightful. Her descriptions of places, people, thoughts and feelings realistic and engrossing. I couldn't put this novel down.

I also love it how Du Maurier never gives our heroine a name, she is only known as Mrs de Winter. Never forming her own identity, but continually being defined by others perceptions. This lack of a name is effective in the characterisation of our heroine and allowing us to sympathise with her. We can understand why she won't take control of the household, and feels like she lives in Rebecca's shadow. She never really comes into herself until the events that transpire at Manderley.

I also love how the decisions she makes are questionable. Her morality debatable... yet understandable. What would you do in that situation? It's easy to hypothesise but who really knows until they are faced with a similar dilemma?

I'd recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good gothic novel or mystery. This novel is extremely well written (so much so that the implausible seems plausible!) and I can see why this novel is considered a modern classic. I can't wait to devour more books by Du Maurier!

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