Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Reviewer : Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore, False Lights & Sacred Lake (

What we thought: I have made it a personal goal to work my way through all of du Maurier’s novels following a recent trip to the Lizard Peninsular. Following the enjoyable passions of Frenchman’s Creek, I turned to Rebecca – and what a change of tone!

I’ve read since that du Maurier used her own feelings of jealousy towards her husband’s previous fiancee as her basis for this novel – and I have to say if the evil Mrs Danvers epitomises Daphne’s own jealous streak … I have much sympathy for the poor woman!

The novel begins in the glamorous surroundings of Monte Carlo where the author’s protagonist first meets the charming Maxim de Winter and despite her youth, they marry and settle in his ancestral home of Manderley in Cornwall. Despite the beauty of the surroundings and the heady flush of first love, it’s not long before our heroine clashes with the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. The story slowly unwinds as we delve into the mystery of Max’s first wife, Rebecca - said to have drowned at sea – and sympathise as the weight of family history threatens to overwhelm their marriage.

We see the struggle of a young, innocent woman, thrown into a world where she feels compelled to judge the success of her role as Mrs de Winter on the previous occupier of the title – and finds herself unable to do battle with a dead woman. But the intrigue is whether her perceptions of the situation are true are false. Could what appears to be love really be hate – or vice versa?

I listened to the audio version of this book, ably narrated by the late Anna Massey, and the superb voices she gave - for Danvers and Rebecca in particular - added another layer to the story.

The dark themes and the mysterious characterisation were brilliant, and while there was less use of the Cornish setting here than in Frenchman’s Creek, the author’s love of the area still came through in the writing. This is a lesson in effortless story-telling and edge of the seat page turning drama all writers should aspire to without doubt.

And onto the next …

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Henry James, Jane Austen.

Avoid if you don’t like: Cornwall. Family secrets. Jealousy.

Ideal accompaniments: Fresh caught mackerel cooked over an open fire. Cornish cider.

Genre: Classic.

Available at Amazon

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