Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

You could not find a more perfect beginning to a novel. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Such a simple sentence, but it fills the minds of curious readers with so many questions. What is Manderley? Where is Manderley? Manderely – such a romantic sounding place, followed by a beautiful description of the dream. A walk up a long driveway, surrounded by exotic, overgrown plants and trees. It is a magical opening to a truly magnificent book.

After reading Jamaica Inn, I could not bring myself to put my big book of du Maurier’s “Four Great Cornish Novels” to one side. I had to keep reading, and the next novel in the collection was Rebecca. I read this brilliant book a few years ago, and it is still as creepy, suspenseful and beautifully written as I remember.

Rebecca is not actually the name of our young protagonist – whose first name remains unknown throughout the book – it is the name of the popular, elegant and dead first wife of Maxim de Winter, owner of the famous Manderley.

The protagonist, who is also the narrator, is an inexperienced and awkward girl, training to be a ‘companion’, when widower Maxim de Winter meets her in Monte Carlo. While her employer, the awful Mrs. Van Hopper, is in bed for a week with the flu, Maxim de Winter takes his new friend out everyday in his car. The girl falls head over heels in love, and it seems that all of her dreams have come true when at the end of the holiday, Maxim de Winter asks for her hand in marriage.

After a small, whirlwind wedding and honeymoon, the newly married couple arrives at Manderley. The young bride, with a husband old enough to be her father, is nervous in this large and elegant house. She is intimidated by the servants, shy when meeting visitors and as everyone keeps telling her; “so very different from Rebecca“. There is one servant in particular, the menacing, skeleton faced Mrs. Danvers, who frightens the second Mrs. de Winter more than anything else. At first Mrs. Danvers makes her feel uncomfortable, but as time goes on, her unease grows until she feels like an intruder in her own home.

And then there is Rebecca – the woman who the book is named after. Everywhere she turns there are signs of Rebecca; in the choice of furniture, the arrangement of the ornaments and the smell of azaleas. The ghost of the first Mrs. de Winter watches over Manderley, haunting the bride that has taken her place.

As the protagonist hears more about the much loved Rebecca, she is suffocated with insecurities. Her husband is different from the man she walked hand in hand with in Venice and is distracted and moody. Is it that he misses his beloved dead wife, or is there something else bothering him?

This book is such a pleasure to read. du Maurier has created a tension filled novel by reflecting the mood with the oppressive weather and wild sea of the Cornish coast. The character of Mrs. Danvers is also a fantastic creation. I don’t think I have ever found a character so creepy and so horrible.

Rebecca is a must-read, but make sure you take the time to truly enjoy it, because when you read it for the first time, with fresh eyes, it will be breathtaking. Once you know all the secrets of the novel, reading it a second time will not be the same.

Please click here for more posts about Daphne du Maurier.

16 thoughts on “Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

  1. I read Rebecca as a kid and really enjoyed it. When I decided to read it again last year I was afraid it may not hold the same old magic for me. This time too I enjoyed the book albeit for different reasons. This is why books like Rebecca are classics. Every time you read them you find something new to enjoy.


    • Yes, I agree! Sometimes, I do feel that it’s a shame that you can’t forget certain things about the book, but it’s still such a good read. You can’t take away the creepiness of Mrs. Danvers, or the tension that builds up throughout the book!


  2. I think it’s about time I read this. Years ago, my senior literature teacher quoted its first line as an example of a fabulous hook. And its words still rattle around in my head. If it’s that evocative this many years later and I haven’t even read it, it’s definitely time!


    • I remember reading the first line many years ago in a library and the words did haunt me until I finally got my own copy! You will not feel at all let down by the rest of the book! Enjoy! And let me know what you think!


  3. I just ordered “rebecca”. So glad I came across your blog. I am always wishing for a new recommendation when I finish reading a book! And thanks always for visiting my blog!


    • That’s OK! I’m glad it’s helping you choose books! Let me know what you think of Rebecca. I really like your blog too. I like to take a look every couple of weeks and catch up with your amazing photos!


  4. […] My Cousin Rachel, the last story in Du Maurier’s ‘Four Great Cornish Novels’ collection and a brilliant one to finish on. After reading Frenchman’s Creek, I was slightly apprehensive about the final book in the collection. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turns out there was no need to worry. My Cousin Rachel brought back that shiver-down-my-spine feeling that kept me on edge all through Rebecca. […]


  5. Rebecca is the only Du Maurier novel I’ve ever read, and that’s only because it was a set text when I was studying for my degree. It was one of a module that asked us to debate between popular and high culture and the class was rather divided on how they viewed it.
    I was unable to put it down, and was drawn in by the writer’s descriptions and dream like qualities. I was impressed by her characterisations, and the insecurities conveyed by the unnamed narrator, but rather unsettled by the way in which she stood by her man, despite learning more about him over the period of the novel. I can see how Du Maurier possibly took inspiration from Charlotte Bronte, although Jane Eyre (the character not the novel) was far more spirited and liberated than Du Maurier’s creation.


    • Thanks for the comment! Normally I would have found the unnamed narrator slightly irritating because of her insecurities and lack of courage, but I think because she can see these flaws in her younger self it is less annoying. I also love the way she grows more confident towards the end of the book through her love for Maxim, even if it does seem a bit warped.


    • I don’t know how she managed to not let it slip though. It must be quite difficult and frustrating. I wonder if Du Maurier had a name in mind that she’s kept secret. Maxim mentions at the beginning that it’s an unusual name…


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