By: Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Gothic literature classic
First published in 1938
Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again…
Rebecca is the story of a poor young woman who is working as a paid lady’s companion in Monaco, when she meets a rich older man, Maximiliam “Maxim” de Winter. After their marriage and honey moon, the two move back to his manor home, Manderley. Maxim’s previous wife, Rebecca, drowned about a year before in a boating accident, and her presence still hangs over the house like a shroud.
The story is told in the first person: our protagonist is looking back at her time in Manderley, and how she has changed from those times. The very beginning, that sense of looking back at a lost time, gives a sense of foreboding to the story. What will happen to get the characters to where they are now? The shadow of that knowledge hangs over the reader much like the shadow of Rebecca over the whole novel.
The protagonist is very timid and prone to daydreaming. She doesn’t know how to act with servants or what taking care of a large household entails, because she has not grown in that setting. While her timidness could at times get on my nerves, I tried to remember that she had never been taught to handle this kind of life – although at times her behaviour seemed more suited to a 14 year old than a 20-something (her hiding from servants reached ridiculous levels every now and then).
Our protagonist often daydreams about how the house & Maxim were like in Rebecca’s time. She is sure that Rebecca was much better than her at everything, and that Maxim loved Rebecca more. In a stroke of genius, the protagonist is never given a name, while the name of Rebecca is constantly repeated throughout the novel. This really helped to emphasize the past wife’s presence, and at the same time worked as a reminder of the main character’s feelings of worthlessness when compared to her.
The relationship between the main pair was something suiting a gothic novel; at times quite weird and unhealthy. Maxim tends to treat the main character like a kid, doesn’t tell her about his past life, but then gets angry if she makes a blunder and mentions something that she couldn’t have known was painful. She in turn is afraid of saying the wrong thing, so she watches what she says and feels almost relieved when her husband leaves for a trip. The reader is still supposed to believe that they are in love. So, like I said, weird and unhealthy.
The atmospheric writing in this book was off the charts! It was my favourite thing in the book. I felt like Manderley was a real place, like it was an actual character. Every time du Maurier describes the house, the garden, and the grounds, I could see everything in front of my eyes so clearly. I fell in love with it, a bit.
I give Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 5 out of 5 stars.