“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
This is the first line of Daphne du Maurier ‘s novel Rebecca.
This first line is deceptively simple. The story which is told in retrospect begins as a fairy tale romance. The heroine who narrates the story is a simple well bred but penniless girl. She is swept off her feet by rich and sophisticated Maxim Dr Winter. After marrying her he takes her to his country mansion Manderley.
Then begins a tale of mystery intrigue and buried secrets that turn it into a Gothic novel. The influence of the hero’s dead first wife, Rebecca pervades the household. Our heroine finds herself unfavourably compared to her at every step. The mysterious housekeeper of Manderley, Mrs. Danvers, keeps up an undercurrent of hostility.
As the story unfolds, another mysterious character in the form of Rebeca’s suave and apparently charming cousin enters the scene. The story then turns into a murder mystery with the heroine’s husband embroiled as suspect.
What I have always found intriguing upon rereading this novel is that the heroine’s first name is never revealed. I believe this is a very clever plot technique used by Ms. du Maurier as it adds to the suspense.
Although the story has a sad ending, the author’s portrait of her fresh and innocent young heroine is charming. Her skilfull descriptions of nature as well as the grandeur of Manderley form o beautiful backdrop for the gripping plot.
Several movie adaptations of the novel have been made. The earliest dates back to 1938 and the latest to 2018 starring lily James and Annie Hammer.