Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

Rebecca is a Gothic novel by British author Daphne du Maurier, published in 1938. The novel tells the story of a young woman who marries a wealthy widower and finds herself living in the shadow of his first wife, the glamorous and mysterious Rebecca.

The novel’s unnamed protagonist, a young and naïve woman, meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter while working as a companion for an American woman on the French Riviera. After a whirlwind romance, they marry and return to Manderley, Maxim’s estate in Cornwall, England. There, the protagonist finds herself overwhelmed by the shadow of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife who died under mysterious circumstances a year earlier.

The protagonist soon discovers that Rebecca was adored by everyone at Manderley, including the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who resents the protagonist’s presence and constantly reminds her of Rebecca’s superior beauty and charm. The protagonist becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, convinced that Maxim is still in love with Rebecca and that she herself is not good enough for him.

As the novel unfolds, the protagonist becomes determined to uncover the truth about Rebecca’s death, and she gradually uncovers a web of secrets and lies that threaten to destroy her marriage and her own sense of identity. The tension builds to a dramatic climax as the truth is revealed, and the protagonist must confront the devastating consequences of Rebecca’s legacy.

Rebecca is a haunting and suspenseful novel that explores themes of love, jealousy, and the power of the past. It has been praised for its vivid descriptions of the Cornish coast and its complex and memorable characters, as well as its psychological depth and atmospheric setting.

Rebecca is a landmark novel in the mystery genre, and its impact can still be felt in the genre today. The novel’s intricate plot, psychological depth, and atmospheric setting have influenced generations of writers and helped to shape the modern mystery novel.

One of the most significant contributions of Rebecca to the mystery genre is its exploration of the psychological motivations of its characters. The novel delves deep into the psyche of its protagonist, examining her fears, desires, and insecurities as she tries to unravel the mystery of Rebecca’s death. This psychological complexity was groundbreaking for its time and has since become a hallmark of the genre.

The novel’s use of atmosphere and setting is also notable. Daphne du Maurier’s vivid descriptions of Manderley, the grand estate where much of the novel takes place, create a sense of foreboding and tension that permeates the entire story. This attention to detail and atmosphere has influenced countless mystery writers, who have used similar techniques to build suspense and create a sense of unease in their own works.

Additionally, Rebecca helped to popularize the genre of Gothic literature, which combines elements of horror, romance, and mystery. The novel’s themes of love, jealousy, and betrayal, as well as its focus on the supernatural and the uncanny, have since become staples of the Gothic genre and have been emulated by countless writers in the decades since the novel’s publication.

Rebecca has had a significant impact on the mystery genre, particularly in its exploration of psychological depth and its use of atmosphere and setting. Its influence can still be seen in modern mystery and Gothic literature, and it remains a beloved and influential work nearly a century after its initial publication. You can get this landmark book from Amazon here.


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