Once in awhile we have to do a throwback to a novel not of this century. Yes, we have to. But that’s OK because this one is about one of my all time favorites: Rebecca by Daphne Du Marurier (1938). It is the only book I have ever stayed up all night to finish just because I had to know what happened. Since then I have read it several more times but this time managing to get some sleep in.
Rebecca was inspired by Jane Eyre, written by Du Marurier in Cairo, Egypt while her husband was stationed there. This British author’s bestseller was a surprising success and spawned several films, television shows, and other novels. However, as we all know, are almost never as good as the book, particularly since when the first film was made in 1940 and was required under Hollywood Production Code to change the ending in order to be shown. (Warning: Reading the Wikipedia entry will spoil it!)
Since a big part of enjoying this novel is staying wrapped up in the mystery and suspense created, I won’t comment on anything that might give that away. The basic premise is a young lady while working as a traveling companion for a wealthy widowed woman meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome gentleman who makes her his bride and takes her back to his estate, Manderley. The young lady is mousy and unsure, struggling at times with why such a man as Maxim would want someone such as herself for a wife. While the reasons become more and more clear as the novel progresses, the couple can never escape the presence of Rebecca, Maxim’s first and deceased wife.
Once at Manderley, the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers makes her appearance and continues to haunt, cause trouble and general nastiness to the young lady, as she was fond of Rebecca and refuses to accept her death. Mrs. Danvers earns her place in villainess history along side the Nurse Ratchets, Cruella de Villes and White Queens. She’ll give you the chills as she sweeps along the long creaking halls of Manderley.
The story is told entirely from the young lady’s point of view, starting a little slow, but really picking up speed mid-way through the story as the intensity in which Rebecca penetrates their lives (with the help of Mrs. Danvers) from beyond the grave. Once I hit the last third, it became a novel that could not be put down as the mysteries begin to unravel.
Because of the age of this novel there have been lots of printings, you could pick this one up at the library, used bookstore or chances are, borrow it from a friend, making it even that more attractive to pick up and give a try. This novel appeals more to women than men, I did get a male friend to give it a try, he liked it, but also referred to it as a very “feminine” story.
On the Bookalicious Scale: 5- Devour: A complete feast for your soul.