"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," narrates the nameless girl whom Maxim De Winter marries, who becomes apparently, the rather colorless successor to his dead wife Rebecca and becomes the new mistress of the lovely Manderley. And so we are instantly swept, up the twisting gravel drive, through the eerily slim beech trees, past the rhododendrons, till we come in front of the once handsome gray house that was, is Manderley. As Du Maurier sets the scene for a gripping novel, you find yourself already rather intensely involved in the lives of Maxim De Winter and his wife in that small nameless hotel in Monte Carlo. There is this sense of hard fought for peace, a tiredness of the mind that welcomes the mundanity that life is now. There is a certain fragility about the couple and when you begin to wonder why, the narrator sweeps you along for the breathtaking ride that is Rebecca.
Our girl, the protagonist lives the drab life of a ladies companion to a tiresome, tedious widow, Mrs.Edythe Van Hopper in glamorous Monte Carlo. The city itself has nothing to offer to this twenty one year old who knows nothing about the high life. One day, while at lunch, they see Maxim De Winter of Manderley dining alone at a nearby table and Mrs. Van Hopper with her love for high society resolves to make an acquaintance with the illustrious Manderely and its enigmatic Master. Maxim treats Mrs. Van Hopper with the contempt that she deserves but our girl, her companion is quite another matter. A unlikely friendship develops between the two that turns into an all consuming adoration on the girl's part and a "sort-of-love" on Maxim's part. After a whirlwind affair, they get married. Maxim's life is complicated, his first wife Rebecca dies the previous year and it is rumoured that he can't get over her death. His naive, young, new wife tries to convince herself that Maxim really does love her.
When the couple return to Manderley, the bride is over-awed with the splendor in front of her and completely over shadowed by the present, yet never present Rebecca De Winter. Manderley is filled with curious servants, the county is teeming with people who are itching to have a look at the new Mrs. De Winter, the scheming housekeeper Mrs. Danvers absolutely hates her, Maxim himself has become ever increasingly absent with her and she is overwhelmed, trapped in a marriage that seems to be a mistake, unloved by her husband and looked upon as a curio by everyone else. Can she ever overcome the increasingly weighty presence of Rebecca in her life and win Maxim's heart? More importantly, what about the secrets Maxim and Manderley seem to be hiding? Can she ever win her husband's confidence enough for him to open his heart to her?
Rebecca is a tale of first love, adoration, despair and treachery set in stunning Cornwall. The narration was so racy and gripping that it proved to be the perfect antidote to this nasty bout of flu I have been having. Rebecca is my favourite of Du Maurier's novels and so it will be with anyone who reads it. I would recommend this book to everyone: it is easy to lose yourself in the wilderness that is Manderley, so do. You will enjoy it.
P.S - There is a wonderful write up on Rebecca at Hannah Stoneham's book blog...you can catch it here