First published in the UK by Victor Gollancz in 1938. Chivers audiobook edition, narrated by Anna Massey, published in 2009.
Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the audiobook on CD from The Book Depository
How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A timeless classic that has enthralled generation after generation with its exquisitely crafted prose and its haunting story, Rebecca is a true gothic tale of infatuation and naivety. Daphne du Maurier's young heroine meets the charming Maxim de Winter and despite her youth, they marry and go to Manderley, his home in Cornwall. There, the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers and the mystery she keeps alive of his first wife Rebecca - said to have drowned at sea - threatens to overwhelm the marriage.
I am going to make a bold statement for this review and say that I think Rebecca is my favourite book! I rarely revisit books I have read, but have listened to my beloved audio version three times now, the most recent of which being this week so I could join in with its group read for Proud Readers Of Great Stories over on Goodreads. I am sure other audiobook editions of Rebecca are available but I haven't listened to them because, for me, Anna Massey's narration is sublime. She completely understands each character and portrays that repressed Englishness to perfection.
I love du Maurier's detailed observations of place, especially her use of nature to enhance scenes. The claustrophobia of politely stilted conversations taking place in rooms with dense fog or pelting rain just outside makes for almost unbearably tense atmosphere. Even though I know what will happen next and how the story is going to turn out, I still find myself enthralled. The second Mrs de Winter, and I love that we never know her first name, undertakes a complete coming of age transformation, her shyness and diffidence beautifully contrasted with the power she allows the stronger women who surround her - Mrs van Hopper, Beatrice and, of course, Mrs Danvers. No one in this book is two-dimensional or a caricature and they all suit their place and time.
Rebecca is very much a period piece and I don't think, even as historical fiction, a writer of today could have created it so intricately. Aspects of behaviour that seem appalling by present-day standards fit the novel and the social morals of the time. The emphasis on the timelessness of Manderley routine is particularly poignant given its 1938 publication and the imminence of the Second World War which would irrevocably change much of such privileged lives forever. I love this book in its entirety and look forward to reading or hearing it again in good time. Perhaps I should get around to trying another Daphne du Maurier book too!
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