“I was following a phantom in my mind, whose shadowy form had taken shape at last. Her features were blurred, her coloring indistinct, the setting of her eyes and the texture of her hair was still uncertain, still to be revealed. She had beauty that endured, and a smile that was not forgotten. Somewhere her voice still lingered, and the memory of her words.“
TITLE & AUTHOR: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
GENRE: Gothic/Mystery/Historical Fiction
FIRST PUBLISHED : August 1938
MY RATING: 5/5
On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower. Although his proposal comes as a surprise, she happily agrees to marry him. But as they arrive at her husband’s home, Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realises that she barely knows him. In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs de Winter walks in her shadow.
Hello dear readers, long time no see! After almost four months, I’m happy to say I’m finally coming back to writing reviews, though I’m not yet sure for the other content on my blog. Please bear with me while I slowly resurrect Books of Magic once again.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
I have quite a few books due for a review, but I will start with the most recent one, one I actually finished today – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you know I love a good mystery and that I adore Gothic novels, and Rebecca is just that. It is a staple of what a Gothic mystery should be, and it left a permanent impression with me, which I cannot say for 95% of the books I usually read.
On its surface, Rebecca is a classic Gothic story – a quiet, plain and unsuspecting heroine falls for a brooding, older but handsome man who whisks her away to an ancient, imposing manor which emanates secrets through its quiet hallways and drafty windows, and especially through the reserved and malicious housekeeper. Deeper down, this is quite a unique story with layers of dread and symbolism haunting the halls of Manderley.
The main character remains unnamed and is only sometimes referred to as Mrs de Winter, and I believe this greatly reflects her self-deprecation and insecurities, and since she’s the narrator, this fact allows the reader to relate to her and to understand some of her thoughts and actions better, no matter how stupid and simple they might seem at first. She is a very young girl who falls in love for the first time, with a much older widower – Maxim de Winter. They have something like a summer fling in Monte Carlo, where he’s vacationing, and she is chaperoning a rich, obtuse socialite. Maxim rips her out of the boring life of servitude and poverty, and his promise of a huge British manor and comfortable, rich life seems like a no-brainer for our simple heroine, so she accepts his rash proposal of marriage.
Of course, she gets way more than she bargained for, starting with the unwelcome help led by the evil housekeeper Mrs Danvers, then the huge responsibilities a manor of this size entails, and an even bigger social life that comes with it, and lastly, but nowhere in the least, the enormous footsteps she cannot fill in her wildest dreams, belonging to the beyond perfect Rebecca. Maxim’s first wife was tragically lost at sea, but never forgotten. The imprint she left on Manderley oozes out of its every pore, nook and cranny. The flowers in the garden were chosen by her, the furniture and decorations, scattered all over the manor were chosen by her. The everyday duties of our heroine are constantly compared to how Rebecca did them, and she did everything better and smarter. And of course, the vicious housekeeper was a huge fan of Rebecca and her closest confidante.
All of this casts a shadow so palpable, which follows the new Mrs de Winter through her daily activities, her thoughts and dreams and starts haunting her and slowly drives her mad. The secrets in this house are heavily buried and they don’t choose whose bones they crush on their way to surface, but it is the weakest who first come to harm.
As I said before, many of Mrs de Winter’s decisions and actions throughout this novel may seem dumb and vain, especially in the first part, but she’s basically just a poor kid over encumbered with her own deeply rooted insecurities. I’ve read a few reviews where readers gave up on Rebecca early on because of these very actions and decisions, so I feel the need to emphasize that she’s just an imperfect character, not a badly written one. In fact, this novel is written fantastically, starting with the very flawed but layered characters, the magnificent descriptions of Manderley and the wild nature surrounding it, and in the end, the huge plot twist I never expected and the brilliant last paragraph, which makes even more sense if you draw a full circle and read the first two chapters again.
I loved this novel beyond words and the only possible remark I might have is the Serbian translation which didn’t flow as much as it should have, so I plan to reread Rebecca in English when I get the chance. In the meantime, I’ll probably get my hands on My Cousin Rachel, since I want to experience more of du Maurier’s amazing writing.