Author: Daphne du Maurier
Publication: 1938 by International Collectors Library
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.
What I Thought About It . . .
Is it a crime that I haven’t read this book before now? Sometimes one gets that feeling in the book world. I suppose it may have been something I meant to read over the years, but somehow never found the time to get around to it. However, I found a pretty little hardcover, the kind with a ribbon bookmark, for four dollars at a bookstore that I visit on a nearly weekly basis so I figured I’d add it to my collection and then I could read it at my leisure. Although I confess it was not in my possession long before I cracked it open.
I found myself rather enthralled by the narrative pretty much as soon as I started reading. Still an elegant prose cannot carry a story because other elements must come into play. Perhaps I have been starving for a classic. I find it kind of interesting how we never know the name of the narrator, our heroine of this tale regarding dark secrets. She is only known as “Mrs. de Winter” when formally addressed.
Rebecca may not be physically present in the story, but in many ways she is a powerful ghost that our heroine must contend with every day she lives in Manderly. Her handwriting, her accustomed places, and her lingering effect on the people who had known her before the tragic accident. However, many of Mrs. de Winter’s anxieties are of her own doing because she chooses not to do anything about them. In some ways I liked the narrator, but at times she annoyed me about how she handled situations. She complained of her circumstances, but she fails to change them. Leaving Manderley the way it is would invite feelings of an other presence. And she fails to act like an adult so it’s really no wonder that her husband treats her as a child. I think I would have enjoyed it better if she had grown a spine sooner. I was starting to wish that Mrs. Danvers would push her out of the window in that one scene.
The beginning started off well enough, but by the middle of the book I felt myself becoming less eager to see how things would turn out. Yet I pressed on and around page 250 or thereabouts things begin to get interesting again as the heroine (and the reader) discovers that everything you thought was true turns out to be a horrible lie. I confess that I skimmed the last few pages because I was tired of the whole ordeal and wanted the book to be over. Actually I think the ending might have the best part . . .