Rebecca is the story of a young, naïve girl who marries a handsome, widowed older man, Maxim. He takes her to live at Manderley, the estate he shared with his late wife, Rebecca. She struggles to live in the shadow of Rebecca’s past which slowly reveals her as someone who was vibrant and beautiful. She finds her new role as the new Mrs. De Winter daunting, not understanding why Maxim would choose her — someone so plain and ordinary.
“It seemed remote to me, and far too distant, the time when I too should smile and be at ease, and I wished it could come quickly; that I could be old even, with grey hair and slow of step, having lived here many years – anything but the timid, foolish creature I felt myself to be.”
Then there’s the dreadful housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, always there with her skull like face to remind her that she’s not Rebecca. She decides that her husband is not truly in love with her and secretly longs for Rebecca. But as time passes, things unfold from the past that have been long buried. Truth becomes lie and lie becomes truth. The book has an Alfred Hitchcock mystery element to it, a darkness like Wuthering Heights, and a storyline reminiscent of Jane Eyre. If you’re a fan of classics, this is a must-read. If not, you’re rather likely to find it tedious.
Rebecca was first published in 1938, making it more than 70 years since it was written. The fact that it captured me so completely speaks volumes of the talent of Daphne Du Maurier. I only wish there was a rating beyond five stars.