Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a classic, Gothic book renowned for the ominous, eerie atmosphere left behind by the dead wife, Rebecca. I do not think that my words will do the book justice, but I am willing to try.
There is something about the mysterious start of the book, the famous in-depth description of the great Manderley, the mansion where most of the book takes place in. The detail Maurier uses to describe each leaf, grass, flower choking the once beautiful Manderley sets up the familiar, foreboding mood that follows the reader throughout the book. Detailed descriptions of nature and the setting create tension as the apparent beauty of Manderley bewitches the characters. The secrecy of Manderley, the beauty in the surrounding woods, the deceptive calm of the sea nearby. It was maddening to be aware that they are all hiding secrets yet the protagonist of the book is completely unaware of it. The slow, easy pace the novel started with does not last and as the plot gains speed, the convoluted events that occur almost made me glad that nature eventually conquered Manderley.
In fact, the protagonist was a source of great frustration for me. Her character was meek, submissive, and naive from the beginning. This got more and more exasperating as the girl began to imagine all the ‘hurtful gossip’ that the people of Manderley were whispering rumours about her behind her back. Here I feel as though Maurier was most effective. It is never confirmed in the book whether or not the judgemental views the protagonist imagines were actually true. I would be inclined to think it’s not, as there is a lot more solid evidence proving that they were mostly concerned with themselves. Still, the protagonist’s active imagination that conjures up vivid scenarios that seem so very real that I was confused on what was reality and what was not. Although I knew for a fact that none of the characters had said a word, the protagonist kept over-thinking every action, ever word. It made me wonder, what if she was a little different? If the girl had been a little stronger, more confidant in her actions and words, perhaps events would be different. By the end of the book, I mostly felt sorry for her, as she had actually been fighting for a peaceful future for herself and her husband. She fought so hard for a future she would not have.
Her only obstacle? Rebecca. Probably my favourite character. Throughout the book, there is no indication that Rebecca has come back as ghost, not like in modern horror movies. Still, the characters are haunted at every step by the searing impression that Rebecca left behind. Even the protagonist has to fight with the powerful memories that remain, the way her husband can never forget, the way even the house itself seems to be unable to forget. Rebecca may have been the worst, dirtiest character in the novel but she is without a doubt the most powerful, destroying every chance of happiness the protagonist struggles for. By the last page of the novel, I truly felt like she had a physical presence as solid as any of the other characters, perhaps even more so. Maurier masterfully gathered up the memories of people who knew Rebecca when she was alive, the remnants of her left in Manderley’s rooms, and the entire spirit of Manderley seemed to be full of Rebecca, even to the very end.
There is a lot more I could talk about when it comes to this book, but then I’d go on forever. So I talked about my favourite parts of the novel and I highly encourage everyone to try reading it, it is definitely a worthwhile read. I hope you enjoyed some of my thoughts!