My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
About the Author:
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning (13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989) was an English author and playwright. Although she is classed as a romantic novelist, her stories have been described as ‘moody and resonant’ with overtones of the paranormal.
Her bestselling works were not taken seriously by critics at first, but have since earned an enduring reputation for a narrative craft. Many have been successfully adapted into films, including the novels ‘Rebecca’, ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and ‘Jamaica Inn’, and the short stories ‘The Birds’ and ‘Don’t Look Now/Not After Midnight.’
Publication Year: 1938
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”
‘Rebecca’ opens with this famous line and follows a nameless protagonist traveling with her husband Maxim de Winter around Europe and switching hotels. She dreams about going back to their beautiful home of Manderley that they were forced to abandon due to a tragic event leading to its destruction. It carries only painful memories of the past now.
The narrative then switches to the past where the protagonist recounts how everything started. While working as a paid companion for a rich and snobby Mrs. Van Hopper in Monte Carlo, she meets Maxim de Winter. She learns that he is mourning the loss of his wife. They start spending a lot of time together and eventually, Maxim proposes to her and she accepts. They get married and spend their honeymoon in Italy.
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind. Of course we have our moments of depression; but there are other moments too, when time, unmeasured by the clock, runs on into eternity.”
But, our narrator’s happiness is short-lived. As she arrives at Manderley with her husband, she has a hard time adjusting to the place. Her presence in the house feels overshadowed by the first dead wife ‘Rebecca’ who left a legacy behind her. She feels out of place as thinks she can’t fill Rebecca’s shoes. Now, she needs to work hard at keeping her marriage or risk losing it to Rebecca.
I enjoyed reading this book immensely! It reminds me of another one of my favorite classics ‘Jane Eyre’. It possesses all the elements to make it a delightful reading treat: young, shy and awkward heroine trying to find her place in the world, a dashing and brooding hero carrying a dark secret, an alluring mystery surrounding a magnificent mansion. One simply can’t resist!
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
From the very beginning, there is foreshadowing and the writer alludes to some tragedy in the future which builds anticipation and suspense. I loved the setting of the novel and reading about the eerily beautiful landscape of Manderley with its labyrinthine interior, the descriptions of different varieties of flowers in the garden, the lonely beach behind the house and the trail leading into the forest.
The presence of Rebecca haunts the house and the book colossally, even after she’s gone; that’s probably why we never learn the name of the narrator. Mrs. Danvers, a creepy housekeeper, who basically worshipped Rebecca, tries her best to create a rift between the married couple. I really felt that Rebecca was actually present there and she was going to rise from the dead to demand her rightful place!
“I could fight with the living but I could not fight the dead.”
Due to the constant remembrance of Rebecca, the narrator becomes so insecure and paranoid that she starts doubting everyone and questioning everything. In the beginning, she is self-conscious and inexperienced and doesn’t know what to do. I felt I could relate to her on many levels.
Over the course of the book, we see her transformation from a meek and submissive girl to an assertive and resolute woman. I found myself cheering for her throughout the novel and hoping she would gather her courage and take a stand which she finally does. We also uncover the mystery surrounding the infamous Rebecca.
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty one. They are so full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.”
I didn’t like the character of Maxim that much. I get that he was battling his own demons but he was so indifferent and distant. He left the narrator to fend for her own which was such an insensitive thing to do. A little honesty in a relationship goes a long way. But, I think I can sort of understand his situation so I can forgive his transgressions. There were some other interesting side characters in the novel.
I found myself totally immersed in Rebecca’s world and I felt like I was present there and experiencing things that she was going through. The mystery builds up slowly and we come across shocking twists which literally gave me chills while reading. I loved the ending; there could not be a more fitting end to this thriller.
If you love a classic, I totally recommend reading this book.