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The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives - resenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling tale that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.
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By Calliope on 11-24-14
One of my favourite novels, ever
This is a great novel, and considered to be one of the best crime/thriller novels ever written. That might be surprising to some, since it's not about the police or a detective, or even really about a criminal enterprise at all, but about a young girl who marries an older, wealthier man and becomes the mistress of a large, famous, classic English manor named Manderley in the early 20th century. She is haunted by concerns that she will not live up to the perfect perception that her husband's friends, family, and staff have of the now-deceased first wife, Rebecca. The struggle of the naive, young second wife against her dynamic and powerful older husband, as well as by the imprint of his first wife still left in their home are palpable. As for the crime and the mystery? Well, it involves Rebecca's death and why she seems to still haunt the memories of everyone who lives and works at Manderley.
36 of 39 people found this review helpful
By Dave on 10-26-17
Dreaming of Manderley Again
I would love to read a bunch of contemporary, feminist essays on Rebecca right about now. It's a fascinating book, and once I got past the halfway mark Du Maurier really ratcheted up the tension in a story I'd been pretty bored with. Suddenly, I couldn't stop listening to (in my experience, this rarely ever happens).
There's some weirdness, though. First published in the late 1930s, the protagonist is a nameless narrator who recently married a rich widower and only wants to make him happy and for him to love her. But it becomes increasingly doubtful that the shadow of his dead wife (not to mention her loyal and terrifying maidservant) will ever allow them to find a happily after.
I'm kind of curious as to why Du Maurier never gave her female protagonist a name? Was she supposed to be someone every woman could relate to and see themselves in? Was it commentary on women's role in the 1930s? The narrator is so passive, so bland, and so boring -- pretty much every other character in the book is more interesting than she is. She's almost a precursor to Bella Swan.
Yet, some how Du Maurier makes it work -- particularly through the supporting characters. Mrs. Danvers (who also never received a first name), Frank Crawley -- the widower's business partner, Jack Favell -- the late Mrs. De Winter's cousin, and of course Rebecca herself. Although she's dead throughout the whole story, her presence and spirit haunts every aspect of the story.
Anna Massey's narration is flawless -- there were some scenes between Mrs. Danvers and the narrator that were as sharp as a knife in the dark. Masseey did a strong job rolling between all the different characters and giving them all their own voice and character. Her narration certainly helped me push on through the first half of the story.
I'm really glad I stuck with it to the end of the book. As I said, I'm almost always disappointed when I do this but this time it paid off with a very satisfying story and listening experience. I'm curious to find out what people write about the book, and possibly check out some of Du Maurier's other novels.
15 of 18 people found this review helpful