“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Among the most famous opening lines in history, Rebecca’s might be one of the most haunting—and with good reason. The story of the second Mrs. de Winter and the horror she encounters at Manderley, her husband’s enormous estate on the Cornish coast, remains riveting even after almost 80 years due to Daphne du Maurier’s knack both for beautiful prose and nail-biting suspense.
Let me just fangirl here for a second: OMG THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND EVERYONE EVER SHOULD READ IT!!!!1!!!1!!!111!!!
*Ahem.* Okay, I’m done now.
But seriously, I LOVED this book. Everything about it was perfect. Just the right amount of creepy Gothic suspense—Mrs. Danvers scares the pants off me—and lots of good twists. It reminded me a lot of why I liked Flowers in the Attic back in the day, despite it being a cheap romance novel: it had some of the same Gothic influences.
I devoured it in 4 days. If I hadn’t had to go to work, I probably could have finished it in 2. I read it at work during my lunch breaks and (shhhh) ended up taking much longer breaks than I had intended because I couldn’t put it down.
The narrator, who’s never named other than as Mrs. de Winter, was a little bit like Fanny from Mansfield Park—kind of meek, pale, and quiet, and constantly questioning her own feelings and thoughts. She lives constantly in the shadow of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, who was adored by the servants, tenants, and townspeople alike. Mrs. Danvers, the terrifying housekeeper, was especially fond of Rebecca, and she makes that abundantly clear to the new Mrs. de Winter through her reluctance to change anything in Manderley, from the daily menus to the decorations in the “morning room.”
Her husband, Maxim, also seems to still be under Rebecca’s influence: immediately upon returning to Manderley after a long, happy honeymoon in Italy, Maxim seems to fall under a cloud. Rebecca’s name is rarely mentioned in his presence; when it is, he goes white and silent for hours. He seems unable to forget Rebecca, and Mrs. de Winter is reluctant to pry into his thoughts, despite her desire to love and comfort him.
I have to say, out of the three big twists in the book, I really only saw one coming, and that was the one at the very end; the other two had formed vaguely in my mind, but I had crucial details wrong. That didn’t lessen my enjoyment, though—in fact, it made me enjoy it more, because when books are too predictable, they get boring!
This is definitely a new favorite, and I’m so glad I finally read it.
- ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier (kimbofo.typepad.com)
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (gcbooks.wordpress.com)
- Rebecca – Best 100 Mysteries of All Time (bookshopblog.com)
- Revisiting Manderley (merrildsmith.wordpress.com)