Saturday, November 8, 2008 by Wendy
She was in the house still as Mrs. Danvers had said, she was in that room in the west wing, she was in the library, in the morning-room, in the gallery above the hall. Even in the little flower-room, where her mackintosh still hung. And in the garden, and in the woods, and down in the stone cottage on the beach. Her footsteps sounded in the corridors, her scent lingered on the stairs. The servants obeyed her orders still, the food we ate was the food she liked. Her favourite flowers filled the rooms. Her clothes were in the wardrobes in her room, her brushes were on the table, her shoes beneath the chair, her nightdress on her bed. Rebecca was still the mistress of Manderley. -From Rebecca, page 237-
Dapne du Maurier published her gothic novel Rebecca in 1938 to wide popularity. Set on the English coast of Cornwell sometime in the 1920s, the novel centers around the isolated estate of Manderley. A young woman meets and quickly marries Maxim de Winter, a recent widower who is apparently struggling to get over the unexpected drowning death of his first wife, Rebecca. The second Mrs. de Winter (who is never identified by her Christian name) narrates the story. When she arrives at Manderley she is confronted by the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death. She meets Mrs. Danvers - the weird and frightening housekeeper of Manderley:
Something, in the expression of her face, gave me a feeling of unrest, and even when she had stepped back, and taken her place amongst the rest, I could see that black figure standing out alone, individual and apart, and for all her silence I knew her eye to be upon me. -From Rebecca, page 68-
As the novel progresses, the secrets of the house and its former mistress are uncovered. Moody, beautifully atmospheric and filled with tension, du Maurier’s magnificent writing immerses the reader in a dark tale of love and hatred. Rebecca’s ghost hides in the shadows and hovers in the minds of all the characters, entwined in the corridors of Manderley.
Rebecca is the definitive gothic novel where the house becomes just as much a character as Max de Winter, Mrs. Danvers, the shifty Favell, and the servants who populate its many rooms. Spooky and convincingly rendered, it is a book which enchants from beginning to end.
Harper Collins has re-published this classic novel in a 2006 volume which includes a note from the Author, an essay by du Maurier whereby she describes the real Manderley, and the original Rebecca Epilogue…all of which add insight and interest into the writing of the book.
Rebecca is one of those novels which everyone should read at some point in his or her life. Highly recommended, especially for readers who love Gothic Fiction and classic literature.