Rebecca
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Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier, Sally Beauman

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…

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

Review

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ It has been almost 20 years since I first read that opening line of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and it still gives me goosebumps. I remember reading the novel late into the night, under my bed covers, pausing only when I was overwhelmed and in horror of what might happen next.

Working as a lady’s maid in Monte Carlo, our unnamed protagonist is romanced by the mysterious widower Maxim de Winter. After a whirlwind fortnight of courtship, she becomes the second Mrs de Winter, leaving her life of servitude. After the wedding and honeymoon, she is whisked away from the south of France to Maxim’s country estate in Cornwall: Manderley.

But all is not well. The memory of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca, haunts Manderley. Maxim is a different man in this environment and our heroine is constantly found wanting by his forbidding housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who idolises the deceased Rebecca.

Rebecca blends elements of psychological thriller, romance, and gothic horror. In many ways it is a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but with stranger and more fascinating twists. So rarely do ‘classics’ qualify as page-turners, but Du Maurier’s novel fits the bill. It’s compelling and compulsively readable. Be forewarned, there are some questionable gender politics in the novel – this was published in 1938 after all – but they don’t detract from the sheer pleasure that reading it brings. Do yourself a favour, give the 2020 movie a miss and curl up with the book – maybe just leave all the lights on.


Tristen Brudy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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