Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
“The letter R was the last to go, it twisted in the flame, it curled outwards for a moment, becoming larger than ever. Then it crumpled too; the flame destroyed it. It was not ashes even, it was feathery dust…I went and washed my hands in the basin. I felt better, much better. I had a clean, new feeling…”
When I think of gothic horror, the 1930s does not usually come to mind. But Rebecca du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca, has many elements of the genre: a mysterious ancestral home, ghostly legend (if not an actual ghost), romance, and a gloomy setting with an air of creeping suspense. It is also written in a style that evokes Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
Set mainly in Cornwall on the English Coast, the novel centers around an unnamed young woman, recently married to Maxim de Winter, who arrives to the isolated Manderley estate to find a home that still appears to be mourning the drowning death of Rebecca de Winter, the first Mrs. de Winter. As we come to find out, all is not as it appears, and the second Mrs. de Winter (we never find out what her first name is), is confronted with the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death.
One of the most interesting characters in the novel is the frightening and slightly unstable housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. She is downright scary, and she definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies! She’s spiteful and manipulative, but she is also heartbroken and lost.
“Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor here, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick, light footstep. I could not mistake it anywhere…It’s almost as though I catch the sound of her dress sweeping the stairs as she comes down to dinner. Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now? Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?” ~Mrs Danvers
Rebecca is not a traditional ghost story. She does not roam the halls of Manderley as a spirit. Her haunting occurs through the memories of those that live at Manderley, and most especially through the memories of Mrs. Danvers. The reader gets the impression that everything one touches at Manderley is Rebecca’s, and there is no room in the large massive for anyone else, but most especially a second Mrs. de Winter.
If you love gothic fiction, Jane Eyre, or mysteries, I highly recommend this book! Rebecca is also a good introduction to someone looking to branch out and read more classics.
Rating: 4/5 stars