Rebecca

The novel Rebecca mirrors the stereotypical English countryside, standing out among mystery novels as an understated, yet surprisingly lush gem of a read. Written by Daphne du Maurier and published in 1938, Rebecca was an instant best-seller, earning cult-classic status in its own right as well as through famous interpretations such as Alfred Hitchcock’s film interpretation, released in 1940.

Rebecca is widely considered the best gothic romance of the 20th century, containing prized examples of the mystery and psychological darkness the genre is famous for. The novel follows a heroine, known as the second Mrs. de Winter, who transcends her position as a personal companion to a social-climbing and gauche woman.

While vacationing with her employer in Monte Carlo, Mrs. de Winter meets her future husband, the broodingly quiet and troubled Maxim de Winter. She follows him back to Manderley, his remote manor on the Cornwall coast. The manor’s impeccable appearance and high esteem serve as an indicator to the inescapable presence of Maxim’s deceased first wife, the beautiful and charismatic Rebecca.

The novel’s mystique is highlighted by its superb cast of characters, and is shown through the viewpoint of Mrs. de Winter. A young lady is somewhat overwhelmed by the life she came into so suddenly. Her understated eccentricities, quiet and reflective air, and supreme naivete perfectly accent the various twists and turns in the plots, which maintain an air of immediacy that ensures she stays as surprised as the readers at the events surrounding her. Her counterpart is the sinister and convoluted Mrs. Danvers, who has an unfaltering dedication to the past.

Rebecca dredges up history that Manderley and its players try to suppress at any cost. As Mrs. de Winter delves deeper into the truth about Rebecca, Maxim grows more and more aloof, unwilling to reveal the troubled and emotional history he shared with his first wife.

Each distinct move a character makes draws the reader closer to the answers that enshroud Manderley: who was Rebecca, who yields such a strong influence on the house even after death? And how did she really die?

What makes du Maurier’s work such a masterpiece is not only the shadowy English countryside she describes so well, but the progression of her characters, each following a different goal but bound together by the strange history that creeps towards an inevitable revelation. Each understated action, each move made by a character, leads carefully to a predestined result, the build-up of suspense making the ending of the story an almost magical experience.