Introduced by Helen Dunmore
Illustrated by D. G. Smith
A classic of 20th-century literature, Daphne du Maurier’s mesmerising ‘study in jealousy’ has captivated readers for generations.
An immediate success on its release, Rebecca gripped readers with its drama, romance and mystery, and was soon adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock. This edition of Daphne du Maurier’s macabre masterpiece features a bold cover design and atmospheric colour and black and white images by D. G. Smith. Introducer Helen Dunmore discusses how this extraordinary psychological thriller, with its echoes of Jane Eyre, is also a searing exploration of patriarchy, retribution, female sexuality and class prejudice.
‘A mesmerising novel which reveals more on each reading’
Meek and malleable but with a compelling narrative voice, Rebecca’s unreliable narrator is a masterly creation, artfully wielded by the author to beguile and disorient the reader. For this gauche girl, life begins when the handsome and elusive Maxim de Winter rescues her from an odious employer and makes her his wife and mistress of Manderley, his legendary ancestral home. But, plagued by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, she becomes obsessed with the image of Maxim’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. Embodying everything that her successor lacks, Rebecca is held up as a peerless, charismatic beauty whose allure is only heightened by her tragic demise. In death as in life, Rebecca holds sway over Manderley and all who knew her, from the tormented and malevolent housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, to the failing mother-in-law who cries out her name.
‘My voice was steady and cool. Not like my heart thumping inside me. Not like my mind, bitter and resentful’
Increasingly isolated by her husband’s erratic moods, and the sinister manipulations of Mrs Danvers, the second Mrs de Winter ventures ever deeper into Manderley’s brooding secrets. With its subtle layers of ambiguity and concealment, Rebecca, as Dunmore writes, is a ‘mesmerising novel which reveals more on each reading’. Smith’s illustrations for this edition play with the inscrutable nature of Du Maurier’s two heroines, never fully revealing the anonymous narrator nor the bewitching, enigmatic Rebecca. The binding depicts Rebecca’s monogram, a bold ‘R’ overshadowing a smaller ‘de W’, a symbol of Rebecca’s charisma and her dominion over the second Mrs de Winter.
Daphne du Maurier was a British author and playwright. Born in London in 1907 to the prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont, she was educated at home and later in Paris. In 1928 she began writing short stories and articles, and in 1931 her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. Among her most well-known works are the novels Jamaica Inn (1936), Frenchman’s Creek (1941) and My Cousin Rachel (1951), and the short stories ‘The Birds’ (1952) and ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1971). Like many of Du Maurier’s novels, Rebecca (1938), an immediate best-seller that has never been out of print, was not at first taken seriously by critics, but has since become recognised as a masterpiece of storytelling. Du Maurier lived most of her life in Cornwall, where many of her books are set. She died in 1989.
Helen Dunmore (1952-2017) was a British poet, novelist and children’s writer. Her novels include A Spell of Winter (1995), winner of the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction; The Siege (2001), shortlisted for both the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction; and The Betrayal (2010), shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Orwell Prize. Her poetry collections include The Sea Skater (1986), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, and The Raw Garden (1988), a Poetry Book Society Choice; her poem ‘The Malarkey’ won the 2010 National Poetry Competition. Dunmore’s critical work includes new introductions to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and A Confession. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her most recent novel is Birdcage Walk (2017).
D. G. Smith is an American illustrator based in Connecticut. He earned his BFA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and, after serving in the US Army, earned his MFA from the University of Hartford, Connecticut. His clients include North American Review, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, the University Press of Mississippi, the University of Connecticut and Treaty Oak Collective. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Book Illustration Competition run by The Folio Society and House of Illustration.
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