Aside from having a weird habit of asking for murderous books for Christmas, there’s nothing I like better at this time of year than curling up with a book that takes place at an English manor house.
I had the luxury of of a few days off ahead of the holidays this year. Once the presents were wrapped, the place was clean and we just had to wait for Santa to head this way, I decided that the time had come to read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
The kind of opening line that is immediately familiar even if you’ve never read the book before, that sends a delicious chill down your spine because you know good things are coming.
It’s hard to explain this book to the uninitiated. It’s one of those books that is so much better if you know next to nothing about it going in. Du Maurier lays the groundwork from the beginning, delighting in red herrings and confusion caused by the social cues of the day and the lack of any sort of communication. But make no mistake, the lack of communication doesn’t make what’s actually happening any less sinister.
A young woman is learning to be a professional companion in Monte Carlo when she meets the recently widowed Maxim de Winter. When Mrs Van Hopper becomes ill, the young woman is left to her own devices and finds her time taken up with driving excursions with Mr de Winter. At the end of two weeks she becomes engaged and after an Italian honeymoon, she travels back to Manderley as the second Mrs de Winter.
Once they get back, she is thrown into a lifestyle that she certainly didn’t grow up for. She’s now in charge of a grand old house, an entire county is looking to her to provide the kinds of entertainments that the former Mrs de Winter made the estate famous for. She has to deal with the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers who was completely devoted to the first Mrs de Winter and delights in undermining the new one.
Oh this book. I don’t want to say much more – if you haven’t read it, you should remedy that. If you have, you know what I mean. When you read the first line, you know it’s a big one but it isn’t until you finish the book that you realize how big that line is.
Rebecca is now most definitely on my list of all time favourite books. I can’t wait to read this again one day.