Numerous friends and a few students have recommended this book to me over the years. I finally found a few days to sit down and be lured in by duMaurier’s mysterious tone, macabre mood, and suspenseful plot. The first three-fourths of the book made me frustrated with the narrator, whose name is never divulged, as she fails to assert herself in her new role as the wife of Maximillian de Winter–an older, rich, landed, recently widowed man (who holds much mystery himself)–and her new role as mistress of Manderley. She lets Mrs. Danvers, the mysterious, severe head housekeeper, run everything just the way the former mistress, Rebecca, ran the house.
The narrator cannot escape Rebecca, and the reader can’t help her to escape Rebecca, which is perhaps why duMaurier didn’t give the narrator a name. A name would have given her the power to overcome Rebecca’s almost ghostly hold on her, Manderley, Mrs. Danvers, and Maxim.
Despite the continuing monotony of the narrator failing at everything she does (which makes for somewhat boring reading), I found myself continuing to turn the pages because it was all a mystery and I had to figure out what was going to happen!
Finally, in the last fourth of the novel, the plot really gets to rolling, and we learn the whole story. duMaurier’s writing lends itself to quick reading and I was impressed with the psychological depth to the main character as her first-person narrations helped us understand her hesitancy and lack of confidence as a new wife. The narrator often talked herself out of action by considering what “would” happen and how people “would” view her and “would” talk about her. Some of these scenes would go on for more than a page, and I wanted to scream at the narrator to take action! Then, as she learns more of the story behind Rebecca’s death, she immediately grows up, comes into her own, and stops worrying about the future. She is able to help Maxim deal with the rest of the conflict that occurs.
The book’s descriptions of the county of Cornwall in England (where duMaurier lived) made me add another spot to my list of places to visit next time I go there. And, I enjoyed reading about how the very rich lived their lives in the 20th century as opposed to the 19th century (which so many of my Austen and Bronte books have shown). This novel is a must-read for anyone who appreciates mystery, gloom, suspense, and good writing! I know just the students to recommend it to!