Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

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?

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16 thoughts on “Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

  1. Ha, 10 out of 10. A great book I’ve been saying one of my favourites for the last few years. Atmospheric and romantic. Glad you enjoyed it. Everything by her is good but sadly nothing is as good as this. The Hitchcock film is also very good. Try ‘The Loving Spirit’ next. xxx

    • It is amazing, now one of my ‘all time top’ books. I heard this was her best so I kind of regret reading this one first. Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  2. I really want to read this book! I’ve got in on my Kindle but haven’t picked it up yet. I never realized all the hype it got until recently and instead regarded it as a stuffy old classic. I’ve seen the movie so I was worried that I wouldn’t find the book suspenseful. But after reading so many great reviews, I can’t wait to pick it up soon. I’ve never read anything else by Du Maurier but I know Savidge Reads is a huge fan of her work so I’m sure you can find some recommendations over on his blog.

    • Hi Book Nympho, thanks for getting in touch. I’d also put off the book for my own reasons but I’m so glad I just gave it ago. Don’t worry about it being stuffy and old, sometimes I had to remind myself it was set in the past. I’ll be sure to check out Simons page for more suggestions. Hope you do enjoy Rebecca 🙂

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed ‘Rebecca’; it was one of our World Book Night titles and we were giving away copies at school today, so the novel has been on my mind recently. I was speaking to a pupil today who hadn’t read ‘Rebecca’ but picked up a copy and the only Du Maurier book se had read was ‘My Cousin Rachel’ and she said she really enjoyed it and wanted to read more. She is the second person in so many months to mention this particular book to me, and it is on my ‘to read’ list, so on hearsay alone I would recommend that.

    Lindy

    • Hi Lindylit, wow I haven’t checked the World Book night list yet, I didn’t know it had made the list, great news. I’m glad a new generation will be enjoying the book. I’ve heard ‘My Cousin Rachel’ is good too, another one to add to the list. Hope you enjoy Rebecca as well and hope all your pupils do too!

  4. I agree that Rebecca is probably the best Du Maurier, but others are great reads. Jamaica Inn, for example, and I loved The House on the Strand (a much later novel in dual time). There’s a strange one called (I think!) The Chrysalids about a dysfunctional family which is interesting. Try her short stories too, especially Don’t Look Now which was made into a brilliant scary film. Daphne du Maurier books have a haunting edge, I think, that holds the reader there. She does intensity so well.

    • Hi Liz, thanks for getting in touch. Your right, they do have a haunthing edge, almost a gothic twist. She takes our fears and expolres/intensifies them. And she knows how to draw out our sympathy as well which adds to the books intensity. Thank you for your recommendations : )

  5. Yes, I liked Rebecca too. I’m intrigued by what I read about The house on the strand, (as recommended in the above comment). However, as it is not out in kindle format yet, I’ve requested it and guess I have to wait. I’ve been looking for something classy to follow The Mirror by Marlys Millhauser.

    • Hi Catpaw, The House on the Strand is another highly recommended book by Dauphne, there’s just so many!! The last book I loved this much was Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, if you haven’t read that yet I’d strongly recommend it. I haven’t read The Mirror, is it good?

      • I’ll check out Fingersmith, I’m always up for good recommendations!
        And yes, The Mirror is terrific, I gave it 5 stars in a review and I stand by that. Two other gothic feel books for you to check out are The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game, both by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Happy reading!

      • I love he Shadow of the Wind and I’ve being meaning to try The Angels Game, thanks for the recommendation Catpaw 🙂

  6. I’ve been wanting to read this for a fair while. I absolutely adore the Hitchcock film, and I’m confident the book will leave me just as enthused, but I’ve never quite round to reading it. Thanks for pushing it back up my priorities list 🙂

    • Hi Matthew, I’m in the opposite boat, I’ve read the book and now I need to watch the Hitchcock film. Hope you enjoy the book, have you read anything else by her? Thanks for getting in touch!

      • No, nothing else. Do watch the film though – it’s a great piece of cinema. Although I am a Hitchcock fan, so…

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