Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
Published by Virago Press (UK), 1st January 2003 (first published 1st August 1938)
Genres: Mystery, gothic, classics
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
The young heroine of Rebecca is working as a companion to a rich American woman summering in Monte Carlo. Her future looks bleak until a surprise meeting with Max de Winter changes everything. A handsome widower with a large estate in England would not seem a likely match. However, a relationship of sorts is formed, but his sudden proposal still takes her by surprise. Whisked from Monte Carlo to the brooding house of Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds herself out of her depth, and her new husband a changed man.
The memory of his dead wife is everywhere at Manderley, kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper. Will the new Mrs de Winter be able to find her place, both in the household and her new marriage, or will the constant presence of Rebecca prove too much?
I had no idea what to expect when I opened this book, except that it was a classic, but I really enjoyed it. The descriptions of both main locations, Monte Carlo and Manderley, were very impressive and set the scene of the novel very well. I could picture the characters driving along sunny roads, through small villages in the South of France, but also walking through the misty woods down to the shore at Manderley.
Rebecca is omnipresent throughout the book and her presence was truly palpable. Her things are everywhere and the new Mrs de Winter is constantly compared to her, both by others and herself. What an oppressive and miserable existence that would be! And du Maurier did an incredible job of bringing that to life on the page.
There are lots of hints throughout about what actually happened to Rebecca and I enjoyed trying to work out the mystery for myself. I wasn’t quite right though…
I also particularly enjoyed the character development of the heroine. I found it very interesting that we never actually find out her name. She simply takes on the mantle of being the new Mrs de Winter and that is her whole identity. But she really grows as a character throughout the book and comes into herself by the end.
My rating: 4/5