WBN 9: Rebecca

I’m steadily working my way through the nation’s 100 favourite books according to World Book Night’s poll in 2011. Find out more about this challenge and check my progress here.

Rebecca is the story of a young servant girl named Rebecca, who is taken on at a large country home and travels there in a carriage. Once there she encounters a violent housekeeper and starts to uncover a secret… Oh no, wait, that’s just what I very confidently thought it was about before I read it. Where I get these ideas from I have no idea but somehow these preconceptions lodge themselves in my mind and stay there as vague impressions.

In actual fact, Rebecca is about a nameless young woman who is working as a lady’s companion until she meets and is wooed by Max de Winter, a wealthy bachelor. After a whirlwind romance, they are married and after their honeymoon, go to live in Max’s country home, Manderley. As soon as the new Mrs de Winter arrives, she feels out of her depth: the housekeeper Mrs Danvers is intimidating and unfriendly, and somehow Rebecca, Max’s first wife, is still making her presence felt.

I really loved the way du Maurier developed her characters. Although this storyline could have come off as melodramatic and unrealistic, it was believable and in fact felt almost inevitable. Whilst some women would have stalked into Manderley, sacked the housekeeper with the attitude and chased any lingering presences away, the Mrs de Winter-to-be that we meet over the first few chapters could never have done so, couldn’t have done anything other than what du Maurier writes. Whilst some women would have looked the other way faced with a slightly controlling man clearly not over his dead wife, the shy and socially gauche lady’s companion who has never been in love is completely thrown by his attentions.

This comes highly recommended from me – it’s definitely a book I’ll be re-reading. I’ve also picked up a sequel, Rebecca’s Tale, by another author that is high up on my to read list, now!

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