[Book Review] Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier, 1938) ★★★★★

book cover Rebecca by Daphne du MAurier 1938

Rebecca is a haunting tale of love, with gothic dread and horrifying secrets.

Rebecca is a gothic romance mystery novel that tells a haunting tale about love with a foreboding atmosphere and an unsettling twist and a devastating ending. With a dead woman’s shadow lurking in the halls and rooms of Manderley and her presence ever tangible, she haunts the unnamed main character. With a beautiful addictive style we dive into the narrator’s head resulting in an enchanting gothic read. 


The unnamed narrator begins her story in a hotel room where she wakes up from a dream about Manderley. She reminiscences about the time she met her husband Maxim in Monte Carlo who is a widower, while she worked as a companion to the rich, arrogant and selfish Mrs van Hopper. How she spent her most wonderful days with him in Monte Carlo and how he asked her to marry him and how he took her to his estate Manderley in England. 

Although the house is beautiful, she isn’t accustomed to the duties of the lady of the manor, and she struggles with the ever present ghost of the former lady of the house, Rebecca. While Max seems more withdrawn and distracted, Rebecca’s old maid Mrs Danvers seems to make her life at Manderley even more difficult. Something dark is looming over the newlyweds, is it Rebecca’s ghost, is the main character too young and not prepared to be a wife, or is there a dark secret destroying their happiness?

Why you should read it

Rebecca is a gothic romance novel that starts out as an idyllic romance between the young narrator and the somewhat older Max. It all seems like a fairytale in Monte Carlo and when the narrator sees Manderley for the first time, she couldn’t be more enchanted. But slowly the tides are turning. She wants to feel at home, but doesn’t feel like she fits in. While the story is told from her perspective we dive deep into her thoughts, her emotions. But although we get to know her very well, her name remains unknown. 

While Rebecca’s name, of the former dead wife is ever present. Although dead she seems to be the main character that competes in death with the narrator. Rebecca was charming, beautiful, smart and tough and sociable and a real lady, everything the narrator is not. All so she think. She’s plain, she’s not particularly smart and doesn’t have any skills, except from drawing. In her mind Rebecca grows everyday more beautiful and this is increased by Mrs Danvers who speaks of Rebecca as if she were a goddess. Even Rebecca’s old room is still intact.

The narrator sells herself short, for her wordings are beautiful and sincere and give a meaningful look inside her heart. Her experiences at Manderley come to life in a most haunting way. 

Manderely is an impressive mansion that is a perfect place for a gothic tale and for Rebecca to haunt. The descriptions of nature, the fields, the garden, the cliffs and the sea are true gothic elements in which everywhere the presence of Rebecca is tangible. The nightly wanderings, the narrator’s wanderings in the garden as through her mind add to the gothic atmosphere. While Mrs Danvers is a disguised villain full of hate and revenge. 

The dark past looms over the narrator’s head and is the main element of this haunting gothic tale. It’s a twist, a secret that turns everything upside down, that changes not only her way of seeing herself, but also how she sees Max and even Rebecca. The last part of the story is all about this big reveal and turns the story from a romantic tale into a haunting gothic tale and finally into a thrilling mystery. 

Rebecca is very richly told, in observations, descriptions, wanderings, thoughts, and themes and really takes you back to a much romanticized age.

My favorite part

Rebecca can be divided into three parts. The first part was a delightful romantic story that’s swoons you away and feels very nostalgic. The second part is wonderfully gothic and haunting and it changes the narrator into an insecure young woman. But the third part reveals a horrifying past and then things change again. That’s what makes this story so rich. It’s how different events and circumstances and revelations do change a person, their minds, their actions and their core beings even. This goes for both the narrator as Max and it makes a very interesting and intriguing read. It’s a wonderfully told tale that is gripping and emotionally charged and takes you on a captivating journey through the mind of a young girl. 

A favorite quote

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’


Rating: ★★★★★

Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆

Drama factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Rebecca is written by Daphne du Maurier and first published by Victor Gollancz in 1938. It consists of 428 pages. 

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