In the exotic vacation destination of Monte Carlo, we find a quiet and insecure woman on holiday. The young lady is a companion to a wealthy eccentric woman.
While in Monte Carlo the young lady meets a dark, mysterious widower named Maxium de Winter.
They fall in love and marry almost immediately. Maxium is a wealthy man who’s wife just passed away back in England.
The circumstances surrounding her death don’t sounds sinister in nature but they are horrific. Supposedly the first Mrs de Winter was killed in a boating accident.
Many years his junior, the new Mrs de Winter returns with Maxium to his country estate of Manderley on the British coast. She arrives to find the ghost of Rebecca haunts the estate….not literally but figuratively.
Her presence is everywhere….in all the rooms, on the grounds, in the general running of the household. All the servants are used to how Rebecca ran the house–‘the former Mrs de Winter did this, the first Mrs de Winter did that’.
The current Mrs de Winter doesn’t feel comfortable in the estate at all. She is fearful of disrupting the flow of the house and angering the intimidating Mrs Danvers–Rebecca’s housemaid.
Mrs Danvers does not like the new Mrs de Winter and she makes sure that she knows it. She knows that the new mistress is scared and very very young and she starts to manipulate her and slowly drives the new Mrs de Winter to near paranoia!
Rebecca’s ghost might as well walk the halls and grounds of Manderley, but instead she haunts the fragile mind of the young Mrs de Winter. As the story goes on, we begin to wonder–did the beautiful and charming Rebecca truly parish in a boating accident or could she be the victim of foul play?
I have had this book recommended to me a lot over the years, and since I am on a Gothic lit kick currently, I figured it was time that I pick up this novel to read.
This novel is very atmospheric. du Maurier has a flair for the dramatic and mood! I loved how dark and uneasy the whole novel made me. In the novel we never know the name of the second Mrs de Winter….and honestly that bothered me for a number of chapters.
I don’t know why but I just really wanted to know her name and it set me ill at ease not knowing it. However, I loved that this novel did that….it was a brilliant way to get the audience uncomfortable and yet engaged.
The second Mrs de Winter as a character bothered me a great deal. She was silly, young, and fragile. I didn’t like reading from her perspective at all. She was so naive and it bothered me to no end.
When she just let Mrs Danvers walk all over her I wanted to scream but at the same time, that was the whole point of this novel….she’s not very appealing but yet we are forced to see things from her perspective. She was borderline paranoid about Rebecca and her marriage….she seemed rather unstable to me throughout the novel.
I think not knowing her name and making her hard to relate to combined together made this novel sparkle! It really set the mood and tone for a psychological Gothic novel! I loved that!
I didn’t care for Maxium or any of the other supporting characters like at all. Maxium wasn’t romantic or charming or anything for me. I couldn’t understand why this novel was tags as a Gothic romance or romantic suspense….and I still don’t.
There wasn’t a lot of romance in the book and I certainly never felt chemistry between Maxium and the second Mrs de Winter. However, he was just caring and redeemable enough to make the reader sympathetic to his character.
The first part of the novel was a little on the slow side until they got to Manderley, after that the novel picked up a bit. Most of the story happened the second half of the book with the last quarter really picking up pace….almost a little too fast for my taste but it worked.
This is one of those novels that you need to be patient with…..it will deliver.
I can’t say enough about the setting and atmosphere….it was the perfect Gothic setting and one that I dare say is the standard for me now in Gothic novels. It was a dark, rambling estate on the stormy coast with the fog rolling in across the moors. The blood red azaleas that lined the drive…..ahhhh I can’t say enough good things about the setting! Manderley set the tone for the entire story! Flawless!
This book is definitely be in the canon for Gothic lit fans!
Mass Market, 380 pages
Published January 1st 1979 by “Avon Books” (first published 1938)
ISBN 0380486032 (ISBN13: 9780380486038)
- Review copy provided by: Personal collection
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5
Genre: Historic fiction, romantic suspense, gothic romance, gothic lit
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.