Author ~ Daphne du Maurier
Pages ~ 357 pages (hardback)
Memorable Quotes: “‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Favorite Character: Hands down, Maximilian! Ooooh, do I ever love that man!
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
(Thanks to Goodreads!)
I Rate It: 5/5 Stars ~*~ My bookshelf would be empty without it!
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was written in 1938–and the copy we have of it is just as old. The darling book had been sitting in one of our numerous bookcases just waiting for me to pick it up, something that took me far too long to do. Books that are physically old are just that much better; the smell is impossible to recreate, (though I’m curious about the candles I’ve seen that smell like it) even the feel of the pages is different. Our copy had a few “neat” words underlined in pencil for the first few chapters, something that just makes me smile–I wonder why they were underlined and by whom. But that’s besides the point.
(I try to keep away from spoiling things, but this book is old and so is the movie some people might be familiar with. The movie, by the way, is wonderful in its own right! 🙂 )
There, that’s out of the way. On with this post.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Quite an opening sentence, no? I’m a sucker for good opening sentences–this is definitely one of them. You’re immediately wondering at where Manderley is, what its significance might be, who is speaking, and why Manderley is only dreamt of.
Get used to wondering–this book keeps you wondering even after you’ve finished it. The book is clearly in the first-person point of view; the reader never learns the name of the main character. It’s to drive home a point, I believe–I’ll get to what that point is soon.
We soon become better acquainted with the girl whose point of view we see this world through, however; she’s a companion to a dreadful old lady (she’s bad enough that she needs to pay people to be around her) and young, she doesn’t have a great deal of money–and hence has clothes verging on shabby, definitely nothing that suits her well–and doesn’t think herself the most attractive of people.
One of her few possessions is a post-card of the famed Manderley; a grand estate owned by the widower Maximilian de Winter. (A lovely name, isn’t it?) Six months previously his wife had drowned while out boating by herself, something that she did often; but the weather was too bad that night and she’d made a mistake in even stepping foot in the boat.
The woman that she is the companion for is a bit more than a gossip–if anyone of any sort of status is present she feels it necessary to go speak to him or her. This is how our unnamed character finds herself meeting Mr. de Winter; she makes a fool of herself, spilling things and feeling embarrassed both for herself as well as for the woman who clearly sees nothing wrong with being such a nuisance to people. Maxim doesn’t ignore them, but isn’t the most pleased by their conversation; he’s a dark sort of fellow, but people forgive him for it–he’s never been quite the same since his wife, Rebecca de Winter, died.
One would never imagine how this meeting turns out.
Maxim is kind to her and apologizes for his rude behavior. He wasn’t fond of the woman she worked for, but the girl without a name seems to interest him; they go out driving and he’s not the same, an expression that was in his eyes before seems to have gone. He doesn’t seem quite so sad.
Things continue on this way for two weeks; they go driving, they meet for meals. He either leaves behind or gives her a book of poetry, inside which is written “To Max,” and is signed by Rebecca in a fancy, flowing handwriting. Max. No one else calls him Max; it was a nickname only Rebecca used.
Our main character finds herself in tears one morning (after two weeks have passed), hating to leave with her American companion–and without being able to tell Maxim goodbye.
They end up meeting for a very hurried breakfast, at which Maxim casually asks her to marry him. She thinks him cruel for asking her such a thing, sure that he was joking, but no such thing is true–he really is asking for her to marry him. She would be Mrs. de Winter; Manderley–a place that’s talked about by so many people–would be hers…. Hardly knowing what she’s doing, and wondering if the only reason Maxim wants to marry her is because she seems to help him forget Rebecca, she accepts his proposal, packs up her few things and they’re married just like that. No big ceremony or anything, and they have a quite honeymoon in Italy.
When they arrive at Manderley it isn’t long before the guests begin inviting themselves over; Maxim’s relatives, random people that have been there before–when the first Mrs. de Winters ran the place–and hope to get the newest bit of gossip about the family.
Along with the unwelcome visitors, there are a few members of the staff at Manderley–mostly a woman by the name of Mrs. Danvers–that are pains and make the new Mrs. de Winter’s life a bit miserable.
People don’t like her. They compare her to Rebecca; she isn’t as pretty, she wasn’t born into the lifestyle she found herself thrown into and is always awkward because of it, she is just so very different. The new Mrs. de Winter eventually begins to realize that Maxim is doing the same thing; always missing Rebecca and so unable to love her.
(This is why, I believe, we never learn her name. And I think it’s brilliant!)
Mrs. Danvers in particular is dreadful about this; she hates her from the first and things don’t get better from there.
After months of awkward social gatherings and trying to get used to her life at Manderley, the second Mrs. de Winter decides that they should have a ball–the type that used to be hosted at Manderley when Rebecca was alive, the kind that people still talk and ask about every time she goes to visit.
It’s during–or, rather, before it’s even begun–this that everything begins to fall apart.
And it isn’t long before our new Mrs. de Winter learns that not everything is as it appeared to be in the death of Rebecca.
A boat is found at the bottom of the ocean–oddly enough, while the diver was trying to help another boat-full of people.
It turns out to be Rebecca’s boat.
…there’s a body in that boat.
Well, it had been a body; by that point, after six months, it’s just a skeleton. But there are things in the cabin of the boat that the body was found in that show that it was Rebecca’s body; scraps of clothing, jewelry and the like.
Everyone is all confused and there’s so many people wanting to come and question those at Manderley, but in the middle of it all we have this moment of peace and quiet…well, minus the peace part. Maxim, knowing that everything was going to blow up in his face soon, takes his wife aside and tells her everything.
He had hated Rebecca. They were good actors, had everyone fooled that they couldn’t be happier in their marriage, that Rebecca was the sweetest person you could ever meet. But Maxim knew that that wasn’t the case.
They weren’t happily married, either; but Maxim never really cared too much about the affairs she was having. He didn’t love her and there was nothing he could do to stop her.
She hadn’t died in some boating accident–goodness, no, she was far too smart for that.
Maxim had never thought that he would be found out…but the boat had sunk too close to shore.
And yet, even in the way she died, Rebecca had the last laugh, as it turns out.
I’ll leave what’s left of the novel for you to read yourself. The ending of the movie is quite a bit different than it is in the book–in an intriguing sort of way that couldn’t really be helped. Makes me want to wait a handful of years and make another movie that’s a bit closer to the book. 🙂
It was a fantastic read! Not super long, (our copy was 300 pages or so) though it took me a little while to read it; but I got to the point where I binge-read and that was, as always, lovely! The language isn’t overly archaic or anything, but it doesn’t have the modern feel to it–which it shouldn’t, because it’s not.
There are other characters in the book that I didn’t mention at all that add so much to the book–they’re not “big” characters or anything, but they give you so much more of a sense as to what life at Manderley was like for Mr. and Mrs. de Winter. The characters you do know well are splendid! 😀 (Though I have conflicting feelings about Maxim. But a guy that always has a handkerchief ready for you when you start to cry–as women inevitably do–can’t be dreadful. Right?)
It has the slightest bit of a period drama feel to it, but that might be because it’s 2015! 😀
It made me want to read other of du Maurier’s books–I’ve heard some of them are even a bit darker than this one…. 🙂
The book itself was so very well written! 🙂 The descriptions of the beautiful places are even more breathtaking. There are so many good quotes! 🙂
I highly recommend this book! I want to read it again–and that’s not something I do frequently! 🙂 There are just so many books to read…but this one would be worth it! 😀