Set within the beauty of an English manner on the very tip of the Cornish coast, Rebecca represents the past elegance of English nobility while being embedded within the dark imagery of mystery and fear. The heroine of Rebecca – a frightfully shy and relatively poor young woman – meets wealthy widower, Maximilian de Winter, and is dumbfounded by him. His authoritarian affection is too much to resist. They are soon married and she is brought back to Manderely, his family manor in Cornwall, only to be confronted by the memories and ghosts of his dead first wife, Rebecca. She is everywhere, embodied in the dramatic Cornish coast, the servants, the house and even her new husband. Does she really know the man she has married? This question plagues the reader throughout this spell-binding novel and creates a fear that is too inexplicably difficult to communicate.
Weirdly enough, I discovered this book in a small bookshop when I was holidaying in Cornwall and my eyes have been glued to the pages ever since. Du Maurier creates a fear out of something that is somewhat everyday: love. The shy narrator appeals to everyone’s inner naïvety, where trivialities such as clothes, etiquette and affection become life and death matters. Nevertheless, her childish fantasies and worries may not be as innocent as they appear: du Maurier presents one of the biggest and most shocking twists I have ever read.
At the root of this story, love and the vulnerability it brings takes centre stage. It’s about whether love, pure love, can conquer all. Can Maxim overcome the haunting memories of his first wife? And can the new Mrs de Winter live up to the standard of the perfect Rebecca, whom everyone loved and misses dearly? I would advise caution, however; this is not a romantic love story – murder, suicide, lies, doubts and secrets all play a part. Who really knows if love can prevail? As soon as I finished this book, it broke me to tears; not necessarily because it was sad, but because it left me in such a way that I wasn’t able to gain closure. I would never know the true fate of the beautifully innocent Mrs de Winter, who had meant so much to me.
This is book is also about the power and process of change. It represents that finality, in both life and death, is a fairytale. Everyone and everything is susceptible to change and I think that’s the scariest thing about this book; no matter how hard we try, we are transient beings who are never certain of anything: least of all the future.
Words by Joe Lewin