Tuesday 21 June 2016

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

RebeccaLast 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.

I already kind of knew the story from reading New Girl,  a modern retelling, but knew next to nothing about the actual book. And while it was a bit slow to start but about half way through, I started to really get it. There's something about her writing that pulls you in without even realising.

Told in retrospect, the otherwise nameless Mrs de Winter remembers how she fell in love with Maxim and how young and foolish she was in her behaviour. Haunted by the memory of Maxim's ex-wife Rebecca, Mrs de Winter is cautious in her new role as mistress of the household. She was careful, quiet, almost suspicious and definitely had an over-active imagination. As for her new husband, Maxim was a bit of a tool, to be honest. Twice her age, he treats his new wife as a child to be scolded and patted on the head as such, and she acts this up intentionally because at least she's getting his attention. He is dismissive and condescending, until his confession - which blew my mind by the way! - and then he depends on her, they share a secret and it's them against the world.

Almost a third party in their relationship is Mrs Danvers. Determined to keep the memory of Rebecca alive, she manipulates and scares the new Mrs de Winter into traps that hurt Maxim, their friends and the staff. Mrs Danvers was just an awful woman, twisted and horrible in her deceit and completely two-faced in her behaviour with Mrs de Winter as opposed to the rest of the house. Fantastic as the antagonist, she made my blood boil at certain times!

All in all, a surprisingly clever story that encompasses love, loyalty and secrets, with an enthralling writing style and a mad mix of characters.

Published 1st December 2007 by Virago Press. First published May 1938.

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