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’
- Helen Dunmore
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 disorientate 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’ 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.