Rebecca is a book that devoured me. It took control of me, possessed me, and flowed through my veins. I felt as though the ghost of Manderley had taken over my body and I was watching myself from a distance.
Manderly. As its name suggests, Manderly is a beautiful estate, a huge piece of land by the ocean with exquisite gardens and a mansion. Ever since the death of the mistress of the house, it is surrounded by a haunting and eerie atmosphere. You can feel the mystery around the lone boat cabin by the beach, and the secrets seeping through the walls in the West Wing of the house, which remains unused.
While on holiday in the south of France, the widower Maxim de Winter meets the narrator, a young orphan girl who has no choice but to work as a paid companion for a woman she despises. Maxim marries her and whisks her back to Manderley where the narrator, who remains anonymous throughout the novel, is overwhelmed by the size, customs, and many servants of the mansion. She feels out of place and is constantly compared to her husband’s late wife, Rebecca. Besides hostile vibes from the housekeeper, she feels Rebecca’s looming presence everywhere and continues to belittle and think lowly of herself.
The first half of the book is rather uneventful, which is in stark contrast to the latter half where the mystery and secrets are unraveled. Uneventful does not mean monotonous at all, it is slow-paced, descriptive writing which sucks you in, and I thoroughly enjoyed entering a different world accompanied by the author’s exquisite writing. I particularly loved being able to relate to the shy and socially awkward narrator as she has a hard time keeping up with the numerous social calls expected from her.
This book is unlike any other I have come across, and is a must-read for gothic fiction and classic lovers. Although the storyline itself may not be extraordinary, the experience of reading the book definitely is. The angle chosen, as well as the subtle beauty of du Maurier’s foreboding and poetic manner of writing captured me from the very first page.
— “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
It is no surprise that this has earned its spot as one of the greatest opening sentences in Literature.
Reviewer’s rating: 4.5/5