If you’ve never read Rebecca or haven’t read it lately, you may want to read it for pure pleasure and as a study in the portrayals of a main character the reader never sees except through the eyes of others. Penned by English author Daphne du Maurier and published in 1938, Rebecca was a bestseller that still remains in print. From the ominous first line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” the reader is ushered into the disquieting world of the second wife of Maxim de Winter, a new bride known only as Mrs. de Winter. Yet, from the story’s outset the reader learns of de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, and immediately wonders how anyone with no apparent self-identity can compete with the dead. From the second Mrs. de Winter’s inaugural visit to the remote mansion of Manderley, the reader is given a firsthand glimpse of an entrancing setting on the treacherous windswept coast of Cornwall that’s as much a character as the others in the novel, many of whom are more starkly real in the present because their identity reaches out from the past. From her arrival at Manderley with a husband she barely knows, the new bride is drawn into the vortex of the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten, whose suite of rooms remains untouched, whose clothes are ever ready to be worn, and whose servant—the sinister Mrs. Danvers—remains fiercely loyal. Despite a sense of foreboding, the second Mrs. de Winter begins probing the real fate of Rebecca and the mysteries of Manderley, whose secrets are revealed only at great cost. In Rebecca, the reader finds British drama and melodrama at their best and powerhouse storytelling in the portrayal of a character revealed only through the hallowed and haunted memories of those who loved and hated her.
By Adele Annesi