Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

You know you’ll love a book if the first page makes you long for more and if you forget about everything else that surrounds you. But if the first sentence already overwhelms you and you just want to read on and on and never stop reading, then it must be an amazing book. And for me, that was the case with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I just couldn’t put this book down and I was lost in du Maurier’s beautiful writing style and her vivid descriptions. The entire book is just fascinating and you’re aware of this fact when you just read the first sentence:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

As a reader, you immediately begin to ask a lot of questions (Where is Manderely? What happened there? Who is the narrator?). You just want to find out more about the mysterious speaker and about Manderley. With each page, I was eager to find out more about the narrator and about Rebecca. Needless to say, I just loved this book and it is now one of my favorite books. I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, as I knew about it from my mother and grandmother. We had this book for as long as I can remember, but yet, I didn’t get to read it and I don’t understand why. But better too late than never, right? I am just glad that I finally had the chance to read such a wonderful and engaging book that astounds you and takes you to places who have never dreamed of!

This time, I won’t dwell on the summary of the book, since I think that most of you have already read it. (In case you haven’t read it yet, you can find out more about this book here). Instead, I want to do something different this time. I am going to answer some study questions and that way, you can find out what I have to say in particular about this excellent novel.

I’ve chosen three questions for further reflection:

Why do you think the narrator remains nameless?

If you have read the book, you may have noticed that the heroine’s name is never revealed in this novel. I think that the absence of a name symbolizes how uncertain the heroine is of herself; when she marries Maxim, she takes his name, but she doesn’t feel really comfortable in it, because she is not the first to have taken Maxim’s name. She is not the first Mrs. de Winter, and thus she has to compete with the late Mrs. de Winter, with Rebecca. Rebecca’s name is haunting the narrator like a dark shadow throughout the book and it’s even the book’s title. The heroine feels defeated and overpowered by Rebecca, until she finds out the truth about her. When she learns about Rebecca’s true nature, our heroine is suddenly feeling at ease; she no longer fears Rebecca and she begins to feel comfortable as Mrs. de Winter and as the mistress of Manderley.

What makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature?

There are many gothic elements presented to us throughout the book, but ultimately, it’s Rebecca’s “ghost” what makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature. From the beginning, the narrator has to compete with Rebecca. Everyone compares her to Rebecca and our heroine feels haunted by Maxim’s first wife. Her spirit is still present at Manderley, partly because Manderley is still run just as Rebecca has run it and also because Mrs. Danvers keeps Rebecca’s bedroom ready for her, as if Rebecca would return any minute. Furthermore, Rebecca’s memory is piercing the house and all of those who knew her. Our heroine feels her presence everywhere; every little thing reminds her of Rebecca; from the pen she uses to write letters to the chair she sits in. Everyone is still talking of Rebecca, preserving her memory, and mourning over her death. Thus, Rebecca’s “ghost” is haunting our narrator. Even though we are not talking about a real ghost, or supernatural forces, Rebecca is still present at Manderley; although she is dead, Rebecca’s spirit is still filling up the rooms with the help of her “messenger”, Mrs. Danvers, who is very devoted to Rebecca and who is willing to retain her memory forever, at all cost.

How does Maxim’s relationship with our heroine develop throughout the novel?

At the beginning, our nameless narrator is really happy when she marries Maxim. She has a great time on their honeymoon and she is anxious to arrive at Manderley and to take on the new role as Mrs. de Winter and as the new mistress of the house. But when the couple arrives at Manderley, the heroine sees that Rebecca’s presence dominates the place. Everything is run exactly as it was run when Rebecca was alive. Mrs. Danvers, who admired Rebecca, is always mentioning the former mistress of Manderley and she makes clear that she doesn’t approve of the narrator. The sinister Mrs. Danvers makes our heroine feel inferior and she tells her how much everyone loved the perfect Rebecca, especially Maxim. Thus, our heroine begins to feel intimidated by Rebecca and she begins to wonder if Maxim still loves Rebecca. Maxim and the narrator don’t really spend time together, and Maxim doesn’t tell his wife that he loves her. The heroine thinks that Maxim doesn’t love her and that he has married her only because he didn’t want to be alone anymore. She feels that Maxim treats her like a child and that he makes fun of her. During the course of the novel, everything changes, because Maxim tells her the truth about Rebecca’s evil nature. He tells her that Rebecca’s image was a mere illusion; she was not who she seemed, and therefore, our heroine doesn’t have to compete with the late Rebecca anymore. Maxim finally confesses his love for the narrator, and their bond grows stronger. They are companions now, who share everything with each other and there are no secrets that stand between them anymore. At the beginning, Maxim was distant to her and Rebecca was always lying in-between, but now that everything has been clarified, Rebecca’s shadow cannot interfere with the couple anymore. The question is if they are really happy now, with everything they’ve been through. So many things have happened that none of them will be able to forget and even though they love each other, the past is still haunting them from time to time. Daphne du Maurier gives little hints here and there (at the beginning of the novel) and the reader can conclude that not everything is perfect for the couple. Even if you want to forget your past, you can never quite accomplish that, because there will always be certain things that will remind you of it!

I wish I could answer more questions, but I am afraid that I would give away too much and I don’t want to spoil the story. For those who haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s masterpiece, I highly recommend that you do so. You won’t regret it, as Rebecca is an amazing tale full of dark secrets, remarkable characters and mysteries. This novel has everything I expect from a great book: psychological suspense, gothic elements, romance and twists. I just loved this book from beginning to end as it reminded me a little bit of Jane Eyre (one of my favorite books). I loved the characters and the plot was captivating and mesmerizing! Daphne du Maurier has created a fantastic and unforgettable tale and her descriptions and writing style are beautiful and breath-taking! I can’t wait to read other novels by this talented writer (I only read Frenchman’s Creek a few years ago)!

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aarti
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 16:29:57

    I have wanted to read this book for years now, but never have. I don’t usually like creepy stories, but this is such a classic I think I should read it!

    I have heard a lot of good things about We Have Always Lived in the Castle- you might check that one out!

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 12, 2010 @ 20:06:56

      Yes, you should definitely read it! Thanks for mentioning We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I will check it out.

      Reply

  2. vivienne
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 16:46:11

    I actually preferred Jamaica Inn to Rebecca and I do seem to be the only person that does. I enjoyed Rebecca, but Jamaica Inn just had something so much more for me.

    I have never read Jane Eyre, but I look forward to reading it soon.

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 12, 2010 @ 20:09:03

      I have to read Jamaica Inn, but I want to read My Cousin Rachel first. Since I loved Frenchman’s Creek and Rebecca, I now feel like I want to read all of Daphne du Maurier’s novels. Maybe, someday I will manage to read them all. But I don’t have the time to do that now, since I have other books that I want to read:)

      Reply

  3. Lua
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 21:06:25

    I have to admit Andreea I am kind of addicted to your amazing reviews and suggestions! I’ve finally started reading Remarkable Creatures and I love it! 🙂 Thank you so much for that…
    Next on the list is Becoming Jane Eyre and after that it’s definitely Rebecca! 🙂

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 13, 2010 @ 09:32:47

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I also enjoy reading your blog and I am looking forward to reading a new story:) I am glad you enjoy Remarkable Creatures. It’s such a great book! But I liked Rebecca even more. I think I will re-read this book very often in the future!

      Reply

  4. Sandy
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 04:37:52

    I hosted a Rebecca read-along last fall, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What an amazing book. Danvers was a closet lesbian and a homicidal maniac. I wanted to SMACK the Mrs. De Winter. She was immature as all get out, and was thrilled when she found out that Rebecca was nasty. Would you turn your back on a husband like that? I wouldn’t! I loved it all though…very gothic, very atmospheric, and inspired me to go on to read My Cousin Rachel!

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 13, 2010 @ 09:38:09

      Yes, I remember about your read-along, but I didn’t read the book then, as I had other books to read.
      As to Mrs. de Winter – she was glad when she found out about Rebecca because she learned that Maxim didn’t love his first wife. That’s why she was thrilled, at least that’s what I think. Yes, I agree with you, she was immature, but I think it was du Maurier’s purpose to make her appear like that to the reader. All in all, it was a fantastic book and it’s one of my favorite books of all time!

      Reply

  5. Alice Teh
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 10:20:33

    I enjoyed this book very much and I’m glad you like it too!

    Reply

  6. Nymeth
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 21:59:43

    I had a feeling you’d love this! I really did as well. 😀 I actually read it before Jane Eyre, so now I need to return to it and keep the echoes/parallels in mind.

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 14, 2010 @ 11:44:41

      Yes, it was just the perfect book for me. I am so glad that I finally got the chance to read it! You should definitely read Jane Eyre, I am sure that you’ll love it! I would also be very interested in your review:)

      Reply

  7. Kathleen
    Mar 14, 2010 @ 05:29:27

    This is one of my favorites! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

    Reply

  8. uncertainprinciples
    Mar 14, 2010 @ 10:49:26

    I read this book last year, and absolutely loved it. It was my first Du Maurier, and I was wowed. Read My Cousin Rachel since, and loved that as well.

    Glad you enjoyed it:)

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 14, 2010 @ 11:46:45

      I plan to read My Cousin Rachel in the near future and I hope that I will enjoy it as well. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      Reply

  9. Melody
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 03:17:56

    I’ve read so many good things about this book but I haven’t read it yet (I’ve it in my pile though). It’s definitely onto my to-read list now! 😉

    Reply

    • Andreea
      Mar 15, 2010 @ 12:38:25

      You really need to read this, Melody. It’s the kind of book that must be read by any book lover out there:)

      Reply

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