“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
So begins what is probably Daphne Du Maurier’s most famous novel.
Our unnamed narrator is a young girl working as a companion to a lady in Monte Carlo, when she meets Maxim De Winter, a handsome and mysterious widower, who has come to get away from the aftermath of his wife’s death. The narrator is instantly taken with de Winter, and a swift engagement and wedding soon follows.
However, when de Winter takes her back to his Manderley, his family home and estate, she discovers a very different way of life, which is still very much consumed with de Winter’s dead wife, Rebecca. The staff and local residents are very intrigued by de Winter’s young wife, and she feels that she can never compare to Rebecca, especially in the eyes of Mrs Danvers, the cold housekeeper at Manderley, who seems to resent the new Mrs de Winter.
And our narrator soon learns that nothing at Manderley is quite what it seems, and she finds herself wondering who exactly she married, and what secrets are held in by the walls of Manderley….
I have meant to read this book for a very long time, and I wish I had read it sooner. There is a dark and sinister atmosphere thoughout the whole book, and the reader knows only as much as the narrator, so that her discoveries and worries become our own.
Manderley is effectively another character in the book, with it’s brooding intensity. Rebecca also, despite not being alive, is a major presence throughout the story.
The writing is very clever, and there are twists and turns in the story which, if I was not already familiar with the story, would not have guessed. In truth, any reader who does not know the story would be kept guessing until the end.
The characters are also all very believable, from the hateful Mrs Danvers, to Maxin’s well meaning sister in law Beatrice, our narrator, and most of all, Maxim himself, who at times is a mass of contradictions.
I can certainly see why this novel has become a modern classic, and it is deserving of all the acclaim it has received.
Highly recommended. I shall be seeking out more work by Daphne Du Maurier.
(For more information about the author, please click here.)