If you’ve never read the novel Rebecca, or if you haven’t read it lately, you may want to pick it up this holiday season, as a study in the strength of a character the reader never sees except through the eyes of others.
Penned by English author Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca was published in 1938 and became a bestseller that still remains in print. Starting with the ominous, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” du Maurier explores the chilling saga of the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter, whose name du Maurier never reveals. Yet, almost from the start we know de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, for how can anyone, especially a second wife with no apparent self-identity, compete with the dead?
The story begins with the new Mrs. de Winter’s memory of that inaugural visit to the haunting estate of Manderley, a remote mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, and its equally haunted inhabitants. This is a first step also for the reader in understanding the power of a place and people remembered who are even more real because their significance reaches from the past into the present.
Thus, we find ourselves traveling with the second Mrs. de Winter, the husband she barely knows at the wheel, to an immense estate. There the new young bride is drawn into the life of her predecessor, the beautiful Rebecca, austere as the Cornish coast, dead but not forgotten, whose rooms remain untouched, whose clothes still hang ready. There also we find Rebecca's devoted servant—Mrs. Danvers—loyal and menacing.
Determined to make a place for herself in her new husband's world, the second Mrs. de Winter begins searching for the real fate of Rebecca amid the mysteries of Manderley, which reveals its secrets only at a great price. In Rebecca, the reader will find melodrama and drama at their finest, along with the potency of a story whose main character is seen through the eyes and enshrined memories of those who loved and hated her.