My Dalliance with Daphne

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Rebecca.

After reading Daphne du Maurier’s haunting masterpiece Jamaica Inn last summer, it was inevitable that I would read her most famous of novels; Rebecca. Both texts provided me with a sense of comfort through the familiar description of Cornish places yet still managed to provoke haunting and chilling sensations via the cruel and murderous secret lives of the characters.

Du Maurier, although born in London spent much of her life in Cornwall. We adopted her as our own and now have an annual literary and arts festival in her honour.

Du Maurier's house

Du Maurier’s former house taken last summer on the River Fowey

From the famous opening sentence in Rebecca, I was transported into a world where social class was paramount and the aristocracy ruled. The gothic book centres upon the deceased Rebecca De Winter and her husband’s new wife, the latter of whom is the nameless narrator of the tale. Rebecca metaphorically haunts Maxim de Winter’s beloved property; Manderley, via the sacred west wing of the estate and all those who reside in it, namely her former faithful maid Mrs Danvers who is a constant source of terror to the new Mrs De Winter. However the malevolent twist in the plot comes when a ship is washed up on a small cove by Manderley and the search for the truth about Rebecca’s death has torturous consequences for all the characters in the story.

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At first I was not convinced by Mrs De Winter’s weak narration but after persevering I could not put the book down and read three hundred pages in two days. I have not read a novel in a long time where I was so deeply transported into the character’s worlds that I could not wait to discover what was to happen to them all.

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Without ruining the ending, it would be safe to describe Du Maurier’s story as a bitter tale of Mrs De Winter’s battle to banish the existence of the other woman at Manderley. The novel had an essence of Jane Eyre and even Bluebeard due to the conflict between the two women. The females provided a binary opposition through Rebecca’s ferocious and powerful nature and the placid characteristics of Mrs De Winter. The latter of whom is initially nothing more than an accessory to her husband Maxim, yet by the end of the novel the two united on a pre-determined pathway to hell. In the clash between the women, it is Rebecca I remembered when I closed the novel, showing that seventy five years after the book was published she will never be truly buried.

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