You may remember that I recently pondered the question can too much praise spoil a book? I mused on the idea that over hyping of a novel could leave a reader susceptible for server disappointment, and while this may be the case with some books I was recently reminded that some books simply deserve all of the praise they get.
I’ve always put off reading Rebecca perhaps because it came so heavily recommended, surely it would never live up to my by now high expectations. But then Rebecca is so unique and worlds apart from any other novel that I need never have feared disappointment, from page one I become enthralled and by the end of the novel I was unable to put it down.
The novel opens when our heroine is working as a ladies companion to a wealthy but tiresomely trivial American lady. Shy and introverted but detached and bored with her life in Monte Carlo she finds her attention instantly piqued when she meets the handsome Max De Winter, a rich widower with a dark and brooding past.
Within just two weeks our heroine agrees to be Max’s wife and return to his grand country home; the beautiful Manderley. This may be the escape from dreary companionship that she craves but the new Mrs De Winter will also learn fresh challenges in this ultimate tale of ‘the other woman’.
Arriving at Manderley it is clear that whilst the late Mrs De Winter, Rebecca, may have died a year ago her presence still lingers in every corner of their home. From flowers in the morning room and letters in the writing desk to the examining glance of strangers our heroine feels herself constantly sized up and compared to the perfect Rebecca. Mrs De Winter feels shy were Rebecca was exuberant and fascinating. She feels plain and ordinary were Rebecca was glamorous and beautiful and worse than anything she feels inadequate in her duties as lady of Manderley where Rebecca was so respected and revered. Chipping further away at her resolve is the strange and forbidding Mrs Danvers Rebecca’s former maid who makes clear with her hostile manner that Rebecca can never be replaced.
Maybe it’s female sympathy on my behalf but I really felt for and connected with the novels heroine whose real name we incidentally never learn. Du Maurirer seems to be hitting home the ambiguity of her identify and how isolated and insignificant she feels. As she shrinks further into the shadows suffocated by Rebecca’s memory a deep despair weaves itself into the Novel. Du Maurirer details acutely the heartbreaking reality of her characters life in Manderley and the impossibility of living in the overbearing shadow of Rebecca.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It has everything, a slow burning plot with a dark gothic feel, detailed and engaging characters and a heroine whose journey will have you on the edge of your seat so intimate and real is her plight. I waited too long to read my first Daphne Du Maurier but I’m keen to rectify this. Which books by her would you recommend?