Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Remembering Rebecca

Summer was made for light reading fare. While one might tackle Proust, heavy tomes of history or detailed accounts of the world wars in winter, summer (at least for me) brings out an urge for novels and mysteries.

I’m now rereading Agatha Christie's Miss Marple Meets Murder, a collection that contains The Mirror Crack'd, A Pocket Full of Rye, At Bertram's Hotel and The Moving Finger. Christie's beloved character, Miss Jane Marple, is definitely one of my favorites in the mystery category. But I'm also fond of Dorothy Sayers; British mystery writers are the best!

Today I was thinking about the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I remember reading the book when I was about 15 and I thought it the best book I’d ever read. It's part mystery, part English Gothic, part thriller.

After all these years, I still remember the opening line:

Manderly castle in the film version of Rebecca.

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. “

And continues:

“The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. Nature had come into her own again, and little by little had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers, on and on while the poor thread that had once been our drive. And finally, there was Manderley - Manderley - secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France.”

Mrs. Danvers made sure the new Mrs. de Winter felt the presence of the dead Rebecca at Manderly.

When I recall du Maurier’s descriptions of Manderly, all these things come to mind: the rhododendron-lined driveway, the dining room sideboards groaning with sumptuous food, the steaming tea served in thin porcelain cups, the roaring fires in the fireplaces, the spaniel Jasper romping the woods and the beaches, the enigmatic Rebecca and of course, the spooky Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers, played by Judith Anderson, in the 1940 film Rebecca

Theater poster of the 1940 film Rebecca starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine
I no longer have a copy of the book. Mine was a paperback and I read it so many times I think it finally disintegrated. I have seen the film many times as well, and think it’s one of the few films that did justice to the book.

That does it! I’m going right now to order Rebecca from Amazon. I will not order the Kindle version, even if it's available, because I envision myself turning the paper pages and remembering my 15-year-old self perched in the front porch swing on a lazy summer day.

Have you read the book? Seen the movie? Are your summer reading habits different from other times of the year? 


  1. I have not read Rebecca. Oddly enough, just today I looked at my Daphne DuMaurier books and I do have a copy. I loved Jamaica Inn and it is embedded in my mind.

    I am in the the final fifty pages of Wuthering Heights. I will need some light reading following this.

    Thanks for the review on Rebecca, perhaps I shall read it next

    Helen xx

    1. Hi Helen
      You should definitely read it! I have all of du Maurier's books and I think Jamaica Inn is next best after Rebecca. I don't believe I have read Wuthering Heights all the way through but have it on Kindle and will get to it soon. Have a good Wednesday!

  2. Ah yes, Rebecca - such a great book. I too have that opening sentence imprinted in my mind. It speaks of dramas yet to unfold. Seen the movie lots of times, and would always watch it again on TV. Did you know Mrs Danvers was played by an Australian actress, Judith Anderson?
    Happy reading xx

    1. It is such a memorable opening line! Did not know Judith Anderson was Australian. What a fantastic job she did. Another memorable line: "why don't you just jump? " she said to the new Mrs de Winter as she stood gazing out a second floor window! Such a great read!

  3. This is also one of my favorite books and have seen the movie several times. This makes me want to read it again. Also Wuthering Heights is a good one and I have an old copy I bought at an antique store many years ago. My project for today during the "heat of the day" is to search for both of these books - they are here ---somewhere. I need guidance on what to read.....thanks.

    1. Find it and read it! Again. So many books. So little time!

  4. My Cousin Rachel was another book by du Maurier,have read all of them....but my favourite author's are the Bronte sisters..especially Wuthering Heights..about the Earnshaw family. Ida


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...