Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Updated: Sep 27
Rebecca, one has read quotes and quotes about the book and yet it does nothing to quell the thirst for the book. Where it should only incite fear and doom it incites romanticism and an aching longing for their world. What is written as dread in the book somehow transforms into infatuation in the reader’s mind; I know not how this happens but I do know that it is pure genius.
Picture Credit: Rebecca Book Cover Virago Modern Classics
Never out of circulation since 1938, Rebecca firmly inhabits the best sellers section of bookstores and young readers constantly flock to revel in the world of Manderley. The story told through the nameless current Mrs de Winter is a gripping tale of painful self-awareness and living in another’s shadow. The new Mrs de Winter has always been painfully conscious of her so called uninteresting and “young” self. In a world that has always prized youth over all else, it is mildly tragic and vastly amusing to see the new Mrs de Winter pining to be older.
Her pain is made so much worse by the gradually solidifying figure of the first Mrs de Winter – Rebecca. Rebecca was a mere shadow of the past but through Mrs Danvers, the morning room, the audacious red rhododendrons, the Happy Valley, the beach cottage and the terrified Ben she gradually comes alive. Almost until one reaches the last 100 pages one can even be forgiven for assuming Rebecca to have been a magnanimous comforting efficient creature and Maxim de Winter to be a heartbroken beyond repair almost like Margaret Mitchell's Ellen and Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.
Picture Credit: 1940 Rebecca movie
The cold, calculating, condescending, skeleton like Mrs Danvers is a carefully plotted as a character through which to bring Rebecca alive. Some interpretations of the book claim her love for Rebecca to be romantic deriving from du Maurier's androgynous self. Whilst the affection is uncomfortable and obsessive it may not be very different from any obsession a woman can harbour over another. Where an imposing, charming woman exists there exist shadows who wish to partake in the perfect life she possesses and Mrs Danvers may be no different.
The evolution of the new Mrs de Winter arrives as the ugly truth begins to rear its head and leads to a more endearing relationship between Maxim and his new wife. With her newfound confidence the new Mrs de Winter challenges Mrs Danvers in a first attempt to reign supreme in Manderley. Much like a battlefield Manderley has seen its share of aggressors and rulers and it is here that the new Mrs de Winter stands up to her inner demons, relinquishes Rebecca to the shadow where she belongs and begins to come into herself.
Providence had other plans though, Rebecca's victory was ensured in the end by Mrs Danvers. One wonders whether this is where the author couldn't control her moral compass, how could she let a murderer and a half wit mouse like woman win - surely the wronged and grandiose Rebecca deserved better? Or did she want to burn Manderley down so the readers would not pine after the real version - her dear Menabilly and she could fool them into thinking no such estate existed and as such it mustn't be sought?
Picture Credit: 1940 Rebecca movie
The end truly is an end, an end; what perishes with Manderley is the grandeur, the hope of a new beginning, the satisfaction of ridding Manderley of Mrs Denvers, the joy of replacing the blood thirsty driveway rhododendrons, the glum loveless moods of Maxim, the new Mrs de Winter’s shadowy self, the morning room which may as well be Rebecca herself, all of which inspires emptiness as opposed to relief. Rebecca hits all the emotions of a Gothic novel and yet at no point does the reader feel overwhelmed enough to abandon the book.
Ironically named after the equally adored and abhorred character in the book, Rebecca anchors itself to the hearts of all those who ride the waves of its plot twists and emotions.
Links to buy Rebecca:
Barnes and Nob