Hello my fellow bookworms, if you didn’t know, two weeks ago it was Ali’s Daphne du Maurier Reading Week 2020! 🎉But as I can be notoriously slow at getting my reviews up, I made a head start with The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier to get a review up for you that week. Then I started a more leisurely re-read of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, where my passion for this author first began.
Rebecca, du Maurier’s fifth and best known novel, published in 1938, was an instant success and has go on to be an international bestseller; considered a modern classic; and has never been out of print. Yet du Maurier herself had doubts about it: fearing it would be ‘too gloomy’ and ‘too grim’ for most readers. She needn’t have feared. This is a timelessly, haunting tale of a young woman consumed by love; struggling with her identity and battling the memory of her dominating predecessor; not since Jane Eyre has a heroine had such difficulty with the ‘Other Woman’!
It all begins in the South of France, where our nameless heroine, working as a lady’s companion, meets and falls in love with the handsome, rich widower, Maxim de Winter. After a quick wedding and whirlwind honeymoon, Maxim whisks his new bride back to his beautiful, coastal estate of Manderley (presumed to be in du Maurier’s beloved Cornwall, although never actually stated). However on arrival the new Mrs de Winter is faced with a changed, closed-off Maxim; the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers; and the ever-present reminders of his first, dead wife, Rebecca.
While our heroine is young, naïve, shy and socially awkward, Rebecca was experienced, glamorous, confident and adventurous. All the new Mrs de Winter can think of is how – whether true or not – everyone is comparing her to Rebecca and finding her grossly wanting. So much so that Rebecca’s memory becomes a growing barrier between her and Maxim, not to mention Mrs Danvers cruel behaviour, and finally the grim discovery in the bay!
The first time I read this, which was when I was a similar age to the new Mrs de Winter is in the story, I really wanted to give her a jolly good shake for being so silly, but on re-reading this now, as an older and more mature woman, I actually found I had far more sympathy for her. It really is a horrible situation to find yourself in and can’t say for definite at her age I could have handled it any better. In fact, du Maurier has written two, utterly, diametrically opposed women, but has still managed to pour a little bit of herself into both, as she wrote this in a difficult time in her own life.
All in all, re-reading Rebecca was a wonderful reminiscent journey for me, as I re-lost myself in this stunning, twisting, Gothic tale of two women, one man and a house. I highly recommend you read this, if you haven’t already, and, if you have read it, read it again! Great read.
Now over to you: What do you think? Have you read this? Did you read anything for the Daphne du Maurier Reading Week this year?
As I mentioned above, I read this as part of the Daphne du Maurier Reading Week 2020, an event hosted by Ali over at her blog, Heavenali. I am now hoping to follow this re-read up with a re-watch of Hitchcock’s classic 1940 film, which stars the brooding Laurence Olivier and beautiful Joan Fontaine.