Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier



Ancient, beautiful Manderley, between the rose garden and the sea, is the county’s showpiece. Rebecca made it so – even a year after her death, Rebecca’s influence still rules there. How can Maxim de Winter’s shy new bride ever fill her place or escape her vital shadow?

A shadow that grows longer and darker as the brief summer fades, until, in a moment of climatic revelations, it threatens to eclipse Manderley and its inhabitants completely…


“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” is one of the most famous opening lines of a novel in literal history and It immediately conjures up the image of the second Mrs De Winter arriving at the imposing Manderley estate and feeling intimidated. Rebecca is my favourite Daphne du Maurier novel and the first one of hers I ever read.

It tells the story of a young naive girl who is working as a companion to an elderly American lady Mrs Van Hopper and while they are in Monte Carlo, the young woman strikes up an acquaintance with a wealthy widower Maxim de Winter. Our narrator (whose name we never learn) spends a lot of time with Maxim over the next few weeks when Mrs Van Hopper is confined to her room and she falls in love with him. Maxim eventually proposes and the newlyweds return to the family estate in Cornwall which is called Manderley.

Back in England, the new Mrs de Winter struggles to settle at Manderley as she receives a frosty welcome from the housekeeper Mrs Danvers who is always pointing out her inadequacies in comparison to the glamorous Rebecca, the first Mrs de Winter. Rebecca’s shadow looms large over Manderley and Maxim suddenly seems so different to the man she married with his mercurial moods. As her husband spends more time away from her, Mrs de Winter is increasingly at the mercy of Mrs Danvers who manipulates her into making mistakes the will upset Maxim and threaten their marriage.

Then Rebecca’s boat is found and new evidence implies that her death was not an accident at all and Maxim de Winter finds himself accused of murder. Faced with the possibility of losing her husband, our narrator turns detective and retraces the last few days of Rebecca’s life. Shocking secrets are exposed which show Rebecca in a different light and the second Mrs de Winter must make some important decisions. However, danger is never very far away and Manderley itself comes under threat.

Rebecca is an intense psychological thriller which keeps you on edge through the entire book as you never feel you entirely know what is happening and who you can trust. The presence of Rebecca is overwhelming to the extent she seems very much alive and she overshadows the new Mrs de Winter so much the latter doesn’t even get her own name. The second Mrs de Winter is a meek individual who really hasn’t come to terms with who she is before she becomes Maxim’s second wife and this is why she is so easily subjugated by Rebecca. Maxim, dealing with his own demons, practically abandons his new wife when they return to Manderley and he becomes such a different person his new wife can’t work out what went wrong.

As Mrs de Winter meets the rest of the family, she learns more about Rebecca and her sense of self-worth continues to diminish which is exasperated by the machinations of the wicked Mrs Danvers who is obsessed with Rebecca. Then things begin to change when Rebecca’s body is found and Maxim is accused of murder. Mrs de Winter sets out to clear her husband’s name and she gains more confidence as the true story begins to unfurl. The characters are all fascinating in their own way and incredibly complex as no one is quite who they seem.

Looming large over these people is the wonderfully gothic Manderley which was inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Cornish home, Menabilly, and Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, which du Maurier visited in her childhood.