Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Genre: Classic, romance, mystery, suspense
Publisher: Avon, 1938
Source: Borrowed from my sister
Read for: Fun, reread

Mrs. de Winter has fallen in love abroad, been swept off her feet by the widower Maxim de Winter. After a perfect honeymoon, he brings her home to Manderley, his sprawling, elegant estate, and Mrs. de Winter falls in love with it. However, as the days pass at Manderley, Mrs. de Winter feels the presence of Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, from the organization of the desk to the untouched west wing where she used to sleep. Will Rebecca's legacy -- or her devoted friend and housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers -- destroy Mrs. de Winter's happiness?

I've mentioned before on this blog that I read Rebecca first in the eighth grade, when we were given a choice of about six books and we read them like a little book club. I was drawn in by the romantic cover and name, and I remember enjoying (and being shocked) by the story. A few years later, when my sister read the book in school, she decided it was her favorite book and bought a copy. While I remembered the barest details of the plot, I couldn't remember much about the book except that I had enjoyed it, so I decided to reread it. I have been planning on rereading it for about six or seven years now, and I've finally gotten to it.

One thing that stood out to me on this rereading, something that may have escaped me when I read it at thirteen, is the abundant and descriptive language. Du Maurier is not sparing with her words, but in this case it gives a strong sense of atmosphere that pervaded me entirely while I was reading the book. I could vividly picture the morning room at Manderley, the eerily preserved west wing, the abandoned cottage by the sea. Like Mrs. de Winter, surrounded by the ghost of Rebecca in her home, I had a strong sense of her character, her personality, even though she is never actually living in the book.

The story itself is also compelling, despite its slow, languid pace. It revels in descriptions and details, but it places them conveniently, in a way that tantalizes and arouses questions in suspicions. While the story is slowly paced rather than snapping and thrilling, every word is well-placed. I don't feel that the language is superfluous; it simply paints a more complete picture.

Another aspect of the novel that I'm certain I wasn't aware of the first time I read it is its connection with Jane Eyre. Reading the book with that perspective in mind gave it new depth to me. I could definitely see the connection between Maxim and Mr. Rochester (and it begs the question -- whose act is more despicable?). The connection with Jane and our lovely nameless narrator is less obvious -- while they are both "plain and little," with no money or family to speak of, Jane is plucky and moral whereas our lovely nameless narrator does whatever her dear Maxim does. If you really want to get into those comparisons, Raych has done a magnificent job, and I refer you to her post about it.

So overall? Thoroughly satisfying reread. If I could sum up Rebecca in one hyphenated word, it would be well-crafted. Every detail was thought of, every scene played out with painstaking surety, leading to the devastating climax, which was depressing in more than just one way -- it was also depressing to know I will never be able to write like that. Oh well, at least I can read it.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Vague allusions to scandal, homicide


  1. Lovely review. I love this book as well.

  2. Wonderful insight! I read this for the first time a couple months ago and have kicked myself that I missed out on it my whole life. The language is certainly descriptive and which is why I loved it so much. Just the opening lines are memorable for me, and I can't wait to do a re-read.

  3. @LitLover -- Thank you!

    @Natalie -- I remember your review! It is a good book for a reread -- once you aren't looking for the mystery, you can enjoy the language even more.

  4. I've wanted to read this one for a while now. One of my favorite roommates from college absolutely LOVES this book, so I bought a copy, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. It sounds amazing though!

  5. Without a doubt one of my favourite books - I need to re-read this soon. The film by Hitchcock is also amazing :)

  6. I've never read this, but I see it pop up all of the time...enough that I am interested in reading it, especially because of seeing you mention it more than once.

    And now, since New Girl by Paige Harbison is out - and I think a retelling of Rebecca?? - I definitely want to read it sooner.

  7. @Ashley - It is beautiful! Kind of slow, but the language is delicious.

    @O - I haven't seen the film yet! I had no idea Hitchcock did an adaptation. I know what I am doing next Halloween!

    @Asheley - Yes, The New Girl is a retelling! I have it from NetGalley and I am interested in how it will turn out. It could be very, very awful... but it could also be great.


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