Even having never read this book, I knew the first line by heart. I imagine it spoken in Joan Fontaine's calm alto. Okay, I will admit to watching Hitchcock's Rebecca a fair number of times (read "a dozen or two"). Why it took me this long to get around to reading the book, I will never know. But now that I have read Daphne du Maurier's classic noir romance, I appreciate her talent even more.
If you haven't read the book or seen the film, the basic premise of the book is that a twenty-one year old girl meets a forty-two year old widower in Monte Carlo and marries him after a very short courtship. She manages to find out nothing about his previous wife and when she returns to his English country home, Manderley, with him, she has trouble stepping into the place of the first Mrs. de Winter. What follows is a mystery of sorts as some strange reactions and comments surface about the former lady of the house. Who was Rebecca really?
This novel is heart-breaking and romantic all at once. The main character, the second Mrs. de Winter, is never given a first name. It's as if the memory of Rebecca is so strong that the new young bride is utterly insignificant in its shadow. And yet, for some reason she was chosen, brought to Manderley to be its new mistress. Not only is the plot strong, the prose in this book is unbelievably fluid and beautiful. Even if there had never been a movie, it would be impossible to not have a perfect mental picture of Manderley.
This book was on my reading list for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. I almost forgot about this challenge and still have eight more classics to read this year so expect to see a few more "oldies-but-goodies" in the next few months. I think they will have trouble living up to this one though.
Mourning the loss of the Manderleys of the world,
Buy Rebecca on Amazon or find it at your local library.