Rebecca, published in 1938, is probably Daphne Du Maurier’s most loved and most famous novel. I read it a few years ago and, along with the many thousands of other Du Maurier fans, enjoyed it immensely.
Rebecca is still a highly popular, and much analysed, story right to this day. The book sold millions of copies between its publication in 1938 and 1965, and has never been out of print. It has been adapted many times for TV dramas, theatre and radio, and was even made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1940. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the film starred Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier.
The main protagonist of Rebecca is a somewhat introverted, shy young woman (who remains nameless throughout the book), who becomes the second wife of widowed Maxim de Winter. But de Winter exhibits scant affection to his new wife. It’s not long before the new bride realises that de Winter’ previous wife, Rebecca, still very much haunts his thoughts.
On arriving at her new husband’s estate, Manderley, in Cornwall, the woman finds the house pretty much unchanged since Rebecca’s passing. The whole place is beset by memories of the dead woman, and these only serve to emphasise the uncomfortable comparisons with her shy, insecure successor. Eventually, the new Mrs de Winter becomes as obsessed with Rebecca as her husband does.
The novel Rebecca can be viewed from many different angles. For example, it can be seen as a kind of Jane Eyre romance saga, highlighting the volatile relationship between the older Maxim de Winter and his younger second wife. Also, if you enjoy a good crime story, you will be utterly captivated and intrigued by the way the long shadow of the murder victim hangs over the whole story throughout. And of course, we mustn’t forget the rather creepy element that the daunting old housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, brings to the story. All in all, Rebecca is certainly a novel of many parts, many layers, and you can always find something different to mull over each time you revisit it.
As well as being a haunting and captivating love story, Rebecca is a consummate psychological thriller. Daphne Du Maurier certainly did a brilliant job in crafting such a literary masterpiece.
You can buy the novel Rebecca by clicking on the book image below.