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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . . “

June 6, 2006

So begins Daphne du Maurier’s classic 20th-Century suspense novel, Rebecca. I just read it for the third time in my life, and I couldn’t put it down just as much this time as the first time I read it. If you want a page-turning summer read, I highly recommend it.

The story centers on a timid, insecure young woman who marries a wealthy widow, Maxim de Winter. We never learn her first name, which is symbolic of how she can never truly be herself, I think. Unsure of her husband’s love for her and intimidated by the unnerving housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, our heroine is constantly reminded of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, who was tragically killed in an accident a little over a year previously. Everywhere the traces of Rebecca remain: her hankerchief in a raincoat, her handwriting on labels on the desk, her room left just like the night she died. Our heroine is fascinated with her, yet realizes she can’t ever be what Rebecca was: beautiful, brilliant, putting people at ease.

But Rebecca wasn’t what she seemed.

Don’t be confused when you first read the first few chapters. The book starts in the “present” and moves backward through one continued flashback. You won’t understand the beginning until you get to the end. That’s what makes the book structurally a fabulous book. Du Maurier is a master at creating atmosphere and creating the interior life of our heroine. We see through her eyes, so our perspective is strictly a biased view. And the descriptions are some of the most sumptuous you’ll ever read, involving every sense.

Alfred Hitchcock filmed an adaptation of the book, which I recommend, but only after you read the book, because it really can’t compare. The book is so much about the thought-process of our newly married heroine; you can’t replicate it in film. But it’s a good movie, just the same.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2006 8:21 am

    I’ve heard the Hitchcock film, but didn’t know it was based on a novel. If I get time, I may have to check this book out. You definitely made me want to see what happens!

  2. June 7, 2006 9:15 am

    Great write up on the book! I do need a summer read. I also need to finsih the other 5 books I have started! OY!

  3. June 7, 2006 10:23 pm

    Sounds like a good beach read! I usually treat myself to a good novel on summer vacation, when there are no “assignments” in conjunction with it. Just reading it for the sheer pleasure. Thanks. You’re a good book reviewer.

  4. June 8, 2006 11:03 am

    Oh this sounds really good. I will have to add it to the list. I ALWAYS read the book before the movie. If I watch a movie first it just ruins the book for me.

  5. June 8, 2006 10:15 pm

    Of course, the most memorable thing about the book, to me, is that the heroine’s name is never, ever revealed.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read “Rebecca.” I might try it again.

    — SJ

  6. June 13, 2006 6:07 pm

    I love that you read, Danielle! Thank you for the recommendation. Keep ’em coming!

  7. June 13, 2006 10:21 pm

    LOVED this movie! I’m amazed at how the heroine remains nameless. What a challenge!

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