Rebecca is, of course, du Maurier’s most famous novel, and there is a reason for that: it is glorious. I remember once hearing that the three books every young woman should read before she turns thirty are Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, and Rebecca. I’ve never read Gone With the Wind (although I still have about nine months before I turn thirty so watch this space…), but I can add my hearty concurrence when it comes to the other two novels. I think it is also probably fair to say that if you love Jane Eyre you will likely feel the same way about Rebecca, and vice versa – indeed, as has been documented in many an academic study, the two novels are intimately and intertextually related. The young Mrs de Winter is struggling to adjust to life with her new husband in his grand country home, Manderley. Will she ever live up to the standards set by his deceased first wife, the glamorous, captivating and seemingly perfect Rebecca?
Like its eponymous character, Rebecca is intoxicating and exhilarating. It possesses a haunting, visceral quality which lingers in the mind like heavy perfume in the evening air. The novel famously opens with a dark and atmospheric dream sequence, and, despite its setting moving from hot and gaudy Monte Carlo to cultivated rose garden to rugged Cornish coast, continues consistently, I think, in a similar vein. But this is far more than mere surface sensation; I must have read it four or five times now, and on each occasion have found something new to notice and to ponder on. Most recently it was the trace scent of roses all throughout the novel. Look out for it – I’d love to hear what you think.