Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…
Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…
Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.
Have you ever read a book where everything is completely messed up?
Before Rebecca, the only book I could easily respond with was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. That is messed up and certainly not in a good way. However, Rebecca takes Wuthering Heights and throws it so out of the park that there’s no doubt as to the winner of the match. Rebecca is stood there, waiting for me to hold it up high and shout its praises to the whole world but I don’t even know where to begin.
First and foremost, Rebecca is a story about identity. It is the story of a nameless heroine who is thrust into the shadows of her husband’s first wife and no one will let her forget it. It’s Rebecca this, Rebecca that. In fact, it’s Rebecca who takes over the story, screaming to all and sundry that she can never die. Her personality is powerful, twisted, and incomprehensible. She wants the world, even in death, and she’ll do absolutely everything to obtain it. Our nameless heroine is the complete antithesis of Rebecca and yet she wants to breathe Rebecca in, feel her presence and be worthy of the de Winter name and Manderley as her home.
I’m still conflicted about the namelessness of our current Mrs de Winter but Daphne du Maurier wields it in such a way that you don’t need to know her name. From the very beginning you are her and you embrace her completely. It’s you who is in conflict with Rebecca and secondary characters like Mrs Van Hopper, Mrs Danvers, and Favell. It is you who problematically loves and is disconcerted with Mr de Winter. It is you who wanders around Manderley and constantly dreams up realistic and crazy scenarios with Rebecca at their core.
I feel the reason behind my inability to escape the clutches of this particular narrative, is down to my personal identity as a dreamer. I cannot stop thinking about this story, the problematic relationship between our heroine and Mr de Winter, the twisted motivations of all the secondary characters, how the story’s revelation snuck up on me even though I knew it was going to happen – the latter not down to predictability but my previous curiosity about the story and having seen bits of the Emilia Fox and Joanna David adaptations when they’ve been on TV.
This book kept me up until 3am. It has taken over my ability to do anything. I cannot stop thinking about it. I want to know more. I now want to re-read Jane Eyre to fully understand why they’re deemed literary twins.
This, for me, is what makes Rebecca a modern classic. This is why, 80 years on from its initial publication, it is never out of print.
Finally, this is why I am determined to re-read classics I initially DNFed as a teenager.
Have you read Rebecca?
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!