by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca is my latest book club book. I’d never heard of it, even though it’s a classic. I dove in not knowing what to expect, and ended up loving this creepy, intense thriller. Daphne du Maurier is one the best authors I have read. Her descriptions were spot on and incredibly vivid. I was swept up in her imagery by the first sentence. The book started fairly slow and steady and for a while I really wondered where it was going (I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t fast-paced), but then it took a sharp turn and I couldn’t put it down. This is a book where you end up kind of rooting for the “bad guy” (I couldn’t help it), who is rather endearing. This book is brilliant, thrilling and exquisitely written. It is reminiscent of gothic novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Rebecca follows the story of a young unnamed woman who is the companion to a wealthy lady before meeting Maxim de Winter, a mysterious widower in mourning. Their romance is rapid and Maxim soon proposes and marries the new Mrs. de Winter (she is never named in the whole book). They have a blissful honeymoon before returning to Maxim’s home, Manderley. It is stately, grand, and beautiful and has been in Maxim’s family for years. He quickly returns to his routine of running the manor, while Mrs. de Winter struggles to find her place. She feels hopelessly overshadowed by the former Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca. She is despised by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who was devoted to Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers is determined to undermine and destroy the new Mrs. de Winter. She succeeds in part at a grand ball where she tricks Mrs. de Winter into wearing the same outfit Rebecca did at her last ball before she died. Danvers succeeds in hurting Maxim and Mrs. de Winter and causing a bit of a rift between them. Mrs. de Winter is convinced that Maxim is not over Rebecca; that he is still in love with her. She is surrounded by Rebecca everywhere she turns and she cannot compare to her. She is at the point of realizing that her marriage has failed and that it’s all her fault for believing that Maxim could love her and she could help him. Spoilers: But that is when the plot twists and as she declares all of that to Maxim, he insists that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, he tells her, he hated Rebecca. Once he was married to her, she revealed her true nature of malice and hate. She agreed to make Manderley hugely popular (she is extremely likeable on the outside), but made Maxim agree to let her have her own love/social life away from him. She was manipulative and vile. After a while, Maxim couldn’t take it any longer, so he killed her. He shot her and then sunk her in her own boat. Maxim never loved Rebecca, but he does love Mrs. de Winter. They are finally communicating and truly happy. Mrs. de Winter is thrilled to be loved by the man she loves and they are ready to start afresh (even though she knows her husband is a murderer). But then it all comes crashing down. A boat crashes in the cove where Rebecca was drowned and divers try to help it. In the process they find Rebecca’s boat and her body locked in the cabin. To make matters more complicated, a year earlier, Maxim identified another body as Rebecca’s. There is an inquisition and with the evidence (including holes poked in the boat), they determine that Rebecca committed suicide. Rebecca’s cousin (whom she was also sleeping with) doesn’t believe it and sets about to prove that Maxim is the murderer. After a lot of angst, travel and close calls, nothing comes of the accusations, and Maxim and Mrs. de Winter are free to go. They feel an urgency to return to Manderley and head there straight away. It’s too late though, Manderley is burning (Mrs. Danvers figures out the truth and sets Manderley on fire).
Summing it up: this book was creepy, intense, thrilling and good. I highly recommend it!
All the best, Abbey