Boy, did I underestimate this classic! Perhaps I’ve always misjudged it because of the cheesy mass market paperback cover. You know the one I’m talking about. Basically the vibe of every dime store romance novel: red satin sheet, big gold lettering. I purchased my copy from a local Goodwill more than a year ago mostly for the haunting cover to the left. This is such a better representation of the material between the covers.
From the famous opening line “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again“, Rebecca begins as a woman cryptically looks back on her life. Soon you are transported to Monte Carlo where the young woman's story began. Working as a companion for an older American woman, this unnamed narrator seems happy to be free from her old life but yearns for something to come along and shake things up.
Enter Maxim de Winter, intelligent, suave and the owner of Manderley, his estate a little outside of London. He lost his wife, the devastatingly beautiful Rebecca, over a year ago and has come to Monte Carlo to help distance himself from such a tragic event. Over the course of the summer, our heroine and Maxim begin a courtship that results in a hasty and business like marriage proposal. Eager to embark upon a new chapter of her life she agrees and soon they are arriving on the grounds of his massive estate.
The rest of the gothic romance is best experienced with little spoilers. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Du Maurier creates a very atmospheric estate at Manderley with her descriptions of the gardens, the palatial house, the sea, and that damn fog. There is an interesting dynamic that plays out between the couple and the servants that I think would appeal to Downton Abbey fans.
With so many plot turns, I sped through the last half of the novel with such fervor. Rebecca is one of those novels where the narrator enters your head and has you thinking about the story even when you’re not currently reading it. There was such a need to find out what happens.
While not short, clocking in at a little under 400 pages, Rebecca grabbed me by the collar and wouldn’t let go. I can see why this is a favorite read for Halloween and the many spooky reading challenges. Highly recommend!