Friday, 10 April 2009

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

Read: October 2007

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I hovered, unseen above the events taking place, deliciously voyeuristic, as the vines crept closer and the night began to wane. An orange glow flickered on the sea breeze and all too soon I realised I was dreaming.

For there is no returning to Manderley, you cannot unread the books you have read. Such a shame since Rebecca is a novel to delight in endlessly, there is so much left unsaid, so much more you want to discover. It is a masterpiece of atmospheric storytelling and quietly creepy imagery. The simplicity of its narrative style is matched by a fast paced and exciting plot which is never quite what you expect it to be. Rebecca is, in short, a fabulous novel, so enthralling it will enshroud you like a vast curtain flapping in the evening breeze.

The narrator and protagonist – whose first name we never know - begins the novel in Monte Carlo working as a companion to a stubborn old lady with pretensions of grandeur. There she meets Max de Winter, owner of one of the most beautiful estates in England, a man whose legendary wife Rebecca recently drowned in a boating accident. When he suddenly proposes she is shocked and delighted, liberated from her tedious companion and whisked away on a brief honeymoon in Italy. But all too soon they return to Manderley and the new Mrs de Winter is confronted by the haunting spectre of Rebecca whose memory resides in every single brick and blade of grass in the entire estate. Rebecca, whose grip on Manderley was absolute when she was alive seems to have maintained all of her dominance even in death. Rebecca the enigma, whose mystery seems almost as great as her personality. Servants compare the new Mrs de Winter with Rebecca, house guests are constantly judging her, and all the while Max is growing more and more withdrawn. Despite her best efforts the hauntingly perfect beauty of Manderley gradually grows stronger, and with it comes the realisation that she can never compete with the memory of a dead woman.

But there are secrets surrounding Rebecca, and it is only a matter of time before they begin to float to the surface. This is a fabulous novel, the perfect combination of beautiful imagery, exciting plot and fantastic characters. Read it now.

9 out of 10

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