Okay, so now it’s time to discuss one of my favorite novels, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. As usual, I’m finding it difficult to discuss a novel that I really, really like. Anyone else? The fact that Rebecca is an amazingly complex story makes writing a review all the more complex as well.
One of the things I like about the novel is the opening chapter—the dream–and the sense of foreboding and loss it creates. I like that we have the ending at the beginning so to speak and that we know that despite something that happened—we don’t know what, yet—life has continued, simply and quietly. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again” evokes the tension that marks the rest of the novel. “Manderly was ours no longer. Manderly was no more.” The ominous foreshadowing of these statements frames the mystery and sinister secrets of Manderly and its former mistress, Rebecca.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel to me is that two of the main characters aren’t really characters at all, at least not in the sense of characters that have dialogue and action. Rebecca, the first Mrs. De Winter, looms over the entire story. Though dead, her haunting and beautiful presence hovers throughout—in Mrs. Danver’s obsession, in the mystery surrounding her death, and in the narrator’s jealousy and insecurity. As du Maurier weaves her tale, we find that great beauty sometimes masks great evil.
The other character that isn’t a character is Manderly itself. Talk about great beauty! Du Maurier takes great care and many words to create for the reader a sense of the majesty and magnificence that is Manderly. Even in its splendor we sense a sinister aspect, secrets and mysteries, and, ultimately, loss.
Our unnamed narrator is a sympathetic one—who else hasn’t allowed her insecurity and jealousy to give flight to an overactive imagination? An overactive imagination that, in some sense, is grounded in reality. Mrs. Danvers is evil. There are secrets and mysteries within the grounds of Manderly. Rebecca’s life, and death, do have a profound effect on hers and Maxim’s future.
Speaking of Maxim, I admit I shared the narrator’s uncertainty of his affection at first. I love the progression in the novel both of the narrator’s confidence and the love between herself and Maxim. Thus we realize that despite the loss described in the first few chapters, there is love in the end and, in that love, contentment–a kind of restless contentment occasionally tormented but a contentment nonetheless.
Rebecca is a mystery full of eerie foreboding and evil secrecy. It is in some sense a ghost story. It is a tragedy. It is a love story, certainly not a conventional love story, but a love story all the same.
Did you read along with us? What did you think of Rebecca? Let us know either by linking up your post below or in the comments. You can just give us your thoughts, or you can use our discussion questions as a guide. We look forward to reading your thoughts!
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….
EDIT: Check out our NEW (yes, new again) schedule for Bookclub. Because we saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society on so many lists, we are going to add it in as our September pick. So join us on September 1 to discuss it!!
October 6: Rooftops of Tehran
November 3: Any work by Louisa May Alcott
December and January: off months — eat some extra holiday pie