Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier — Reviewed by Guy Portman
Our young, unnamed narrator is working as an assistant for a rich American woman in Monte Carlo. It is here that she meets recently widowed, forty-two-year-old Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter. Maxim is the proprietor of Manderley, a stately home on England’s Cornish coast. The pair soon marry, and after a honeymoon in Europe, they go to Manderley.
The new Mrs de Winter soon discovers that Maxim’s dead wife Rebecca continues to dominate the house. Rebecca’s bedroom is as she left it — her bed linen untouched, her combs and brushes still laid out on her dressing table. It is as if Rebecca were still alive, so gushing are visitors and relatives in their praise of her incomparable beauty, unparalleled abilities, charm and the social gatherings she organised so impeccably, particularly the annual fancy dress ball. The insecure and inexperienced new Mrs de Winter’s situation is exacerbated by the caustic presence of Mrs Danvers, Manderley’s housekeeper and Rebecca’s childhood nurse. Will our nameless narrator survive, or is her destiny to be consumed by Rebecca’s ghost?
Imbibed with a sense of impending doom, Rebecca is a slow-moving, haunting and atmospheric literary masterpiece, boasting an expertly woven plot and an abrupt ending. There seems little doubt that the two women in this secretive and personal novel embody du Maurier’s own duality.
This reader was impressed by the author’s ability to instil life in the dead Rebecca. The character will remain entrenched in his mind.