Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Publisher: Pan Books
First Published: 1938
Source: borrowed, but I am definitely going to get a copy soon.
With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
I do believe that I enjoyed Rebecca more on this second read than I did the first time I read it in January 2011. Whilst I do not mean to insult this wonderful book, the first time I read it it was sort of humdrum, you learn a great deal about Rebecca and Manderley, and you are sort of just coasting along waiting for the action to happen. And that something only happens in the second half of the book. Because of this a first time reader may give up on Rebecca. But, if you keep on reading, you are rewarded with fast paced action, that really has you holding on to your seat.
A reread however is an entirely different experience. Because you know the general way in which the story unfolds, you are able to enjoy the beautiful writing, instead of reading and asking yourself when is something going to happen? During this reread I found that I have a greater appreciation for du Maurier's writing style, the way she weaves the scenery, the way she has you curious about things. You can see Manderley ever so vividly in your mind's eye.
The only thing that bothered me sooner this time, was that I was just so anxious to learn our narrator's name. Ofcourse we never do, because that is the beauty of the book, and the whole issue of being Mrs de Winter. But I felt myself needing to know!
I really think that Rebecca is more enjoyable the second time around, because you can appreciate the craft of Daphne du Maurier's writing so much more. And I don't think I could have laughed at this part the first time around, when our narrator finally stands up to the dreadful Mrs Danvers:
"I'm afraid it does not concern me what Mrs de Winter used to do,' I said. 'I am Mrs de Winter now, you know. And if I choose to send a message by Robert I shall do so.' p.303
I love how our narrator takes us on her journey from her obsession with Rebecca to her eventual loathing of all that Rebecca did to poor Maxim, how she transformed from a young single girl to Mrs de Winter. This is a wonderful book, and a great story told with such precision and skill, that this book is definitely a book for all to read, regardless of the genre you prefer.
I found myself sitting up through the night to finish Rebecca this time too, much like the first time - being familiar with it does not make it any less enchanting. I find that I actually would like to see the BBC serial of Rebecca, as no one does it better than the BBC.