Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

(Editor’s note – we review newer books coming down the pike, but we also like the older classics and aren’t afraid to sing their praises.)

One reviewer called Rebecca, written in 1938, the best-loved Gothic novel of the 20th century.

When my daughter-in-law offered to lend her copy to me, I grabbed it immediately, even though, having read the novel during my college years, I knew the ending!

The narrator is a young woman whose parents are dead and whose education and talents seem suited only to a job as a paid travel companion to an elderly lady—a position which she does not enjoy.  Then she meets and soon marries Maxim de Winter, the owner of an ancient mansion on the Cornish coast.  Shy, awkward, and unsure of herself, she has difficulty adapting to Maxim’s lifestyle.  While she adores Maxim, she becomes miserable as she constantly compares herself to his first wife, Rebecca, who died about a year before.  The servants, the neighbors, the sinister housekeeper, and Maxim’s relatives are lavish in their praise of Rebecca, describing her as beautiful, charming, a marvelous hostess, a superb mistress of the estate.  As the bride senses Rebecca’s presence in every room, she becomes obsessed, feeling more and more inadequate in her new lifestyle and increasingly unsure of Maxim’s love for her.

Then the plot line takes an amazing turn, and the pace of the action increases until the surprise ending.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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