“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Synopsis: While vacationing in Monte Carlo, Maxim de Winter meets our unnamed narrator, and they marry and return to the de Winter estate, Manderley. The new Mrs. de Winter constantly comes across reminders of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca.
Review: What a beautiful, marvelous, atmospheric novel. I loved this book, savored every word, and can’t wait to someday read it again!
From the very first sentence (quoted above) to the last (not noted here for spoilers), Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca draws you in and grabs your attention. And after finishing the book, that first sentence is absolute perfection.
The story is told from the second Mrs. de Winter’s point of view, and her name is never mentioned. While this is super irritating at times (especially when trying to write a synopsis and review!), it only adds to the mystery and drama. She is every woman. The reader almost becomes her, you are so thrust into her mind, that I think if we knew her name it would be distracting. And it also makes the name of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife, loom that much larger.
I can’t say too much about the plot, because I don’t want to ruin the story for those who haven’t read it yet, but the plot twists and turns, and I was surprised in some places. The plot races along and isn’t resolved until the last line of the book, which I just love.
There is one character that I must mention however, and that is Mrs. Danvers, the head housekeeper at Manderley. There is one scene between her and the second Mrs. de Winter that is so spellbinding. I was on the edge of my seat, and it was a scene where two people were just talking. You can feel the tension on the page; you can sense the shift in writing style, the pace of the words. It was mesmerizing. I would love to say a lot more about Mrs. Danvers, but I’ll refrain because the book deserves to be read with as little knowledge about it as possible.
The writing and descriptions of Manderley are wonderful. You are transported to the home, to the crashing waves of the sea; you can smell the flowers as you wander the property. I loved it.
Since du Maurier was writing so beautifully about nature, I checked her Wikipedia page to read more about her, and I was thrilled to see that she wrote the short story that Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was inspired by. The Birds is one of my favorite movies and Bodega Bay where the movie was filmed isn’t too far from where I live, so there is always the fear of THE BIRDS looming in my mind.
What I found so haunting about Rebecca is that the horror and suspense involved has so much to do with what your imagination brings to the book. It isn’t a scary book, as in monsters are going to come eat me in the night, but it has an atmosphere of suspense and psychological mystery. It was very unsettling in a delicious way. My mind was constantly wandering around Manderley, I was constantly trying to figure out what had happened to Rebecca and how Maxim felt. Manderley had me in its grasp and I could not escape (nor did I want to!).
Bottom Line: Exceptional book full of atmosphere and tension. I will dream about Manderley tonight and many nights to come.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end. We have conquered ours, or so we believe.”
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
You might like to read:
- The Distant Hours by Kate Morton: Filled with beautiful gothic images, The Distant Hours has a crumbling castle, a jilted bride, a long-lost letter, and secrets. A fabulous, atmospheric novel that is best read on a stormy day in front of a fireplace.
I need to read:
- Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn: Her other famous work, I’ve wanted to read this for some time!