I just re-read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for the first time in a long time and it’s still an amazing read. It made me into a Daphne du Maurier fangirl all over again. Sometimes when I re-read a book I feel differently about it but with this book I was left with so much appreciation of Daphne du Maurier’s skill as a writer. Rebecca is truly a masterful piece of writing. It’s easy to see why this book has become a classic that has never gone out of print.
For those of you who have never read Rebecca, it tells the story of a young woman (the author never reveals her name) who is working as a companion to a rich, older woman in Monte Carlo. She is shy, awkward and terribly self-conscious. Then she meets Maxim de Winter–a handsome, rich older man who is the owner of a renowned estate called Manderley in Cornwall and whose first wife Rebecca died in tragic circumstances. Maxim proposes to her and they return to the famed Manderley where our protagonist feels completely out of her depth dealing with servants and the formidable (and creepy) housekeeper Mrs Danvers.
Over time she becomes obsessed with Maxim’s first wife Rebecca who was beautiful, talented and a social goddess that everyone adored. She feels plain and mouse-like in comparison to the brilliant Rebecca. Her inadequacy and fears build, not helped by Mrs Danvers who keeps the house running the same way it did when Rebecca was alive. Haunted by her imaginings of Rebecca, this new Mrs de Winter becomes more and more unhappy thinking that her husband can never love her like he loved Rebecca. Then an event in the sea near Manderley exposes secrets from the past and brings a twist that you won’t see coming.
Rebecca is a brilliant novel full of suspense. It’s clever how the story is told in the first person by the unnamed second Mrs de Winter and there are pages and pages of her thoughts about Rebecca and scenarios that she imagines but that didn’t actually happen. You think that the book is building to a certain climax and then there is a twist and everything is turned on its head. It’s easy to see why Hitchcock was attracted to this suspenseful story and turned it into a film. It’s the ultimate psychological thriller and the unnamed protagonist is an unreliable narrator. She is also socially awkward, introverted and shy with a whole internal world that the reader gets to witness but other characters in the book have no idea about.
I don’t want to give away anything more but I could talk about this book all day as a fascinating story and a fantastic piece of writing. After finishing Rebecca I wanted to find out more and did a lot of Googling of Daphne du Maurier and the story behind Rebecca. It was interesting to read about the story behind Rebecca and how Daphne du Maurier put so many pieces of her own life in there. If you’re in a book club and looking for a great book to discuss, I highly recommend Rebecca. Or read it by yourself.
Verdict: An amazing, suspenseful novel from a masterful writer.
Have you read Rebecca? Let’s discuss it in the comments.