When I started to pull together my 2016 book list I wanted to make sure I included some of the Classics. Books that I should have read but never got round to. Usually this was because I was rereading David Gemmel or Neil Gaiman. One of the authors recommended to me was Daphne Du Maurier and quite a few people asked me to read and review Rebecca. If one of those people is reading this then thank you. I don’t always get along with the Classics but this was one that I enjoyed immensely.
At first glance Rebecca is a Gothic Romance. It shares many of the same details as Jane Eyre and has the dark undertones throughout that you would associate with the genre. The Narrator, fascinatingly nameless throughout, is working as a paid companion for a tyrannical older woman. Whilst staying in Monte Carlo they meet a wealthy widower called Max De Winter and over the space of three weeks the narrator and he grow close. at the end of the trip he proposes to her and brings her back to his Ancestral home called Manderly. For those fond of great first lines in Literature the line ” Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” should be easily recognizable.
All should be going well for the narrator. she’s married out of poverty and into a beautiful house. she has staff and never needs to worry about money again. The problem is Rebecca. The Dead wife of Max De Winter. Her memory infests the house and constantly reminds the Narrator that she isn’t the first and convinces her that she’ll never be good enough. Not for the House, the family name and most importantly, her husband.
I’ll leave the plot there. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it and those who have read it will understand why. All I’ll say is that it’s filled with betrayal, blackmail, murder, fireworks and and moral ambiguity.
I said that at first glance Rebecca is a gothic romance and in many ways this is true. However, Rebecca can be taken as much more than this. At it’s core, at least to the eyes of this reader, Rebecca is a wonderful commentary on Class divide and social anomalies. When Du Maurier was writing Rebecca she was in Egypt where her husband, a soldier, was stationed. unaccustomed to the social graces expected of Officers wives in the area she found it incredibly difficult to fit in to the world they had joined. In our Narrator therefore we can see Du Maurier’s discomfort and vulnerability. She is pouring her own sense of doubt and discomfort into her character. As the narrator has married into a new world we are constantly reminded by her thoughts and day dreams that she does not belong. she is an outsider thrust into new situations that she cannot grasp. It is this view on high society that gives Rebecca something that other books of it’s type haven’t achieved. It’s engaging on different levels due to the Dark nature running along such a detailed look at the class system of Britain at the time.
There is so much more I could say about Rebecca but I wont go further. People have been studying and discussing this book for years and I doubt they’ll be stopping any time soon. The only way to see if I’m right or not is to read it for yourself.
Who should read Rebecca? If you enjoyed Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then I’d recommend this. If you enjoy social commentary or dark mystery then this will be for you. I’ve just added Jamaica inn and Frenchmans creek to my reading list and I can’t wait to delve once more into Du Maurier’s world.