Review: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier



I’ve always been an admirer of the first person narrative. When handled deftly, it magnifies the complex variables that comprise us all. Rebecca is a psychological treatise with a confessional tone spawned from the narrator’s perception, and this is the story. That the narrator is young, inexperienced, and overwhelmed to the point of skittishness sets the dark tone of every paragraph in this cleverly paced mystery. Her vantage point is solidly built on assumption, suspicion and crippling self doubt. The plot is a simple one: the young narrator begins as a paid, personal companion to a domineering wealthy woman, who is on holiday in Monte Carlo, when fate places her in the dining room of a luxuriant hotel next to the table of the troubled widower, Max de Winter, who hails from the Cornish Coast. An awkward and unlikely alliance develops between the narrator and the worldly Max de Winter, which leads to a hasty marriage, in which the reader learns along with the narrator of de Winters’ disturbing past. Set in the house and rambling coastal grounds of de Winters’ stately Manderley, the narrator enters a dynamic firmly in play, whose tone was cast and exists still from the hand of Rebecca: the first Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca’s shadow looms imperiously, and brings to the fore the narrator’s insecurities. Having no background story on her predecessor, the inchoate narrator is tossed by the winds of assumption, half-truths and incomplete perceptions made all the more dark by the presence of Rebecca’s loyal personal maid, Mrs. Danvers, whose presence lends a disquieting air, due to her supercilious knack for comparison. Rebecca is an off-kilter mystery that unfolds along the road of the search for truth regarding what, exactly, happened to Rebecca. That the narrator stays in suspense until the sinister end lures the reader through a story elegantly told in language so poetic, it is its own experience.

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