Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
MY RATING: 5 of 5 Stars
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”
So opens one of the great romantic mysteries of all time, written by my very favorite author, the incomparable Daphne du Maurier. Over the years, I read every one of du Maurier’s books, and while they were all wonderful, vividly written stories, Rebecca is undoubtedly the most beautiful. I always felt Daphne du Maurier dipped her pen into a bowlful of images, and drizzled them down the pages. Her descriptions are so vivid and real, you can smell the azaleas, feel the mist on your face, and hear the foghorn from the shingle below the cliff.
I first opened the covers of Rebecca when I was 12 years old, and I will never forget how the story swept me up into a world of beauty, romance, and intrigue. It has stayed with me all these years, and every so often, I find I am compelled to read it again. To walk the halls of Manderley once more, and feel the fog rolling in off the sea. To revel in the lush growth of the ancient rhododendrons lining the long drive to the estate. To feel all the awkward self-consciousness of our heroine, who adores the handsome, haunted Maxim de Winter, but never feels secure about her place in his heart. And most of all, to remember how the constant presence of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, casts a ghostly shadow over every room in Manderley and every inch of the manicured grounds.
Like so many of Daphne du Maurier’s books, Rebecca was made into an Oscar winning motion picture in 1940, starring Laurence Olivier at his most dashing, Joan Fontaine as his timid bride, and Dame Judith Anderson as the malevolent Mrs. Danvers. Even today, the movie is considered a classic psychological/dramatic noir thriller, and is well worth watching. Yes, some dialog is dated and the acting is on the melodramatic side, but it is still a very powerful piece of work, and the first movie Alfred Hitchcock ever directed in America.
The movie is fantastic, but the book is even better. And the dramatic ending will take your breath away. I can clearly remember coming to the last sentence, and going, “What? WHAT?” as I flipped the final pages back and forth, sure I had missed something. Those shocking endings became a trademark of du Maurier’s, and Rebecca was not the last of her stories to be turned into a Hitchcock movie. No library is complete without a good sample of her work. But start with Rebecca. I loved it so much, it’s my daughter’s middle name. You might not go that far, but I’ll bet you’ll be swept away, too.
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