Rebecca – Book Review

The house was a sepulchre, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection. When I thought of Manderly in my waking hours I would not be bitter. I should think of it as it might have been, could I have lived there without fear. I should remember the rose-garden in summer, and the birds that sang at dawn. Tea under the chestnut tree, and the murmur of the sea coming up to us from the lawns below. -From Rebecca, page 4-

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.

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17 comments

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  1. Wonderful novel! Haven’t read it in years, but still one of my favorites.

    • Darlene on November 8, 2008 at 13:20

    Another great review of this novel! I’ve got to read this one and every time I read another review of it I think I’ve got to remember to get it ordered. Today should be that day. lol.

    • Dawn on November 8, 2008 at 14:27

    It has been quite a while since I read *Rebecca*, but I agree, it’s worth making the time to read it!

    (glad to know I’m not imagining the new header! 🙂 )

    • Wendy on November 8, 2008 at 14:34
      Author

    Katherine: It is the perfect winter or rainy day book, isn’t it?

    Darlene: Oh, you really must read it…fabulous. I waited far too long to read it myself.

    Dawn: *laughs* no you are not imagining the new header!! I hadn’t gotten a chance to post something about it before 🙂

    • Laura on November 8, 2008 at 16:50

    Great review Wendy! After being admonished by many for not having read Rebecca yet, I found a copy at a used bookshop this week. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    And I love the new header and your homage to the kitties!

    • Wendy on November 8, 2008 at 19:22
      Author

    Laura: You will LOVE this book – I promise 🙂 Thanks re: the new header…I owe Michelle for that! And the kitties demanded some time on the blog!

    • Teddy on November 9, 2008 at 22:29

    Great review Wendy. I loved this book too!

  2. I’ve had this on my TBR list for ages. I really need to read it. Maybe with my commitment to do less challenges next year I can finally get to this one.

    • Sand on November 10, 2008 at 11:11

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book! I read it for the first time when I was in my 20’s and gave me the jumping creeps. Very masterful writing!

    • Wendy on November 10, 2008 at 20:59
      Author

    Teddy: It was terrific, wasn’t it?

    Suzi: Oh, don’t wait to read it. I’ve had it on my shelf for well over a year now.

    Sand: It is definitely a creepy book with wonderful writing!!!

    • Anna on November 10, 2008 at 22:22

    I have this book, but I’ve never read it. It’s been sitting there collecting dust for years. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, but I probably should do it soon.

  3. Like I said in my other comment, I really loved this book. It got me interested in gothic mysteries. And I love the new header!

    • Wendy on November 14, 2008 at 10:24
      Author

    Anna: I did the same thing – let the book sit and collect dust; and now I wish I had not!! Come back when you’ve read it and let me know what you thought.

    S. Krishna: I never even knew what a Gothic novel was until recently…and now I’m hooked! Thanks for the compliment on my new look 🙂

    • Laura on November 16, 2008 at 07:33

    I just read this as well, and I loved it! The house definitely is a major character in the novel. Now I want to re-read The Thirteenth Tale!

    • Wendy on November 16, 2008 at 14:18
      Author

    Laura: I loved The Thirteenth Tale…although I think Rebecca is a bit more of a classic.

    • ann on November 17, 2008 at 13:52

    Wonderful book !!
    Have you read Mrs. de Winter?
    The author was spose to comment to our
    book group but…

    • Wendy on November 20, 2008 at 08:38
      Author

    I have not read Mrs. de Winter, Ann! *makes note to self to check into it*

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