Who wrote this book and when?
Daphne du Maurier, a female British author, published this novel in 1938.
Has there been a film version?
There is an Oscar winning film version which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. However, the end of the story is slightly altered to be more morally pleasing. There has also been a BBC Masterpiece theater miniseries in 1998/99, and a musical version will premiere in September in Vienna, Austria.
Who are the main characters?
Mrs. de Winter – the second wife of Mr. de Winter, she is significantly younger than him and haunted by the thought of his first wife, Rebecca; she is never named in any way other than Mrs. de Winter
Maximillian “Maxim” de Winter – the master of Manderley estate, widowed, and haunted somewhat by his past
Rebecca de Winter – the first mistress of Manderley, beloved by nearly everyone
Mrs. Danvers – the head housekeeper at Manderley, formerly Rebecca’s private maid and confidant, she hates the new Mrs. de Winter.
Frank Crawley – the de Winter’s agent
Giles and Beatrice – Maxim’s brother in law and sister
Frith – the head butler
Colonel Julyan – the town magistrate
Favell – Rebecca’s cousin
What’s it about?
We meet the nearly nameless narrator as she tells us about a dream she had about a place named Manderley. She gives us very little information other than that Manderley is a very beautiful place, but she and her husband can never return. We also are told that her husband is haunted by some memory which she must be careful not to talk about.
From here, we are told the story of the de Winters, the mistresses of Manderley, the new and the old. And the terrible secret which binds them both to Maximillian de Winter, to Manderley, and to the eerie and devoted Mrs. Danvers.
Why is this book a classic?
It is one of the best romantic suspense novels in history. Not only is it flawless in plot, character design and development, and building of suspense, but it doesn’t fail to shock you even to the last pages.
Why should I read this book?
Read the answer to the previous question.
Why did this book make your list?
It was on the “Top 100 British Novels of the 20th Century” list.
Has it won any awards?
No, but the Hitchcock movie won Best Picture and Best Cinematography in 1940.
“Like old ladies caught at their ablutions, the pigeons would flutter from their hiding-place, shocked into silly agitation, and, making a monstrous to-do with their wings, streak away fom us above the tree-tops, and so out of sight and sound.” – p 7
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first-love. For it is a fever, and a burden too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.” – p 34
Daphne du Maurier also wrote the short story which was later adapted into the Hitchcock classic “The Birds.”
I loved this story from beginning to end. From the first sentence “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” to the horrific ending, I was hooked. Don’t get me wrong – there were times I wanted to hurl the book across the room because I was so dreadfully angry or tense or apprehensive but this is still a wonderful story. The suspense is not only from the mysterious character of Rebecca, but from the lovely and interesting named new Mrs. de Winter, whose birth name is never revealed. Mrs. Danvers will most definitely compete with Count Dracula as one of the most disturbing villains I have ever come across. And du Maurier is spectacular in her exquisite weaving of details and descriptions – whether it’s the grounds at Manderley, or the tumultuous emotions of the narrator. This novel is the most perfect balance between romance and thriller, drama and horror, that I have ever come across.