My Personal Challenge – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier


With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

My Thoughts

I had no idea what to expect when I first picked up Rebecca. What I found was a coming of age tale that I can relate to quite well, despite the era gap. We begin the tale not knowing the protagonist’s name – we know her only as Mrs. de Winter. However, she was not the first Mrs. de Winter.

I found I could relate to this young woman’s tale as she constantly feels as though she is living in the shadow of her husband’s first wife – who has passed away of a tragic accident, so she is to learn. I have gone through a similar situation, of constantly being compared to my fiancee’s ex-girlfriend. I know how it feels to live in that shadow, and to be told that you will never live up to what this other person was. It’s a terrible feeling. And it’s no wonder our protagonist feels insecure and vulnerable when speaking to the servants and caretakers of Manderley, her husband’s vast estate on the coast of England. She is put in her place many times – especially by one Mrs. Danvers (whom I really wish I could have hit over the head with a frying pan). From the very first time our protagonist meets Mrs. Danvers, one message is very, very evident – she will never be as good as Rebecca. She will never live up to what Rebecca was. She is an outsider, and she does not belong. She is belittled and humiliated from the get go.

There are many points in the book where I want to scream at our protagonist. Her insecurity rule her as she navigates this new life that has been thrust upon her. She has no idea what she’s doing, or even what she’s supposed to do. It takes a very unfortunate series of events that occur in succession for her to finally establish herself as the madam of the household. Within the short time of (roughly) 24 hours, she grows up tremendously.

We follow this story as she tells it in the past tense, traveling the country with her now – much older – ailing husband. I finished Rebecca with a sense of loss. I felt as lost as Mr. and Mrs. de Winter do at the very end. Yet I also felt justified, and vindicated. Rebecca is a story of a woman coming into her own, establishing what is hers, and taking control of her life. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. It’s a lesson I wish I had learned sooner.


~ by Aubrey Smith on September 11, 2012.

2 Responses to “My Personal Challenge – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier”

  1. This is one of my favourite films of all time and I have desperately wanted the book ever since I saw it. I am so jealous.

    • It’s definitely worth it. Between work and school, it took me a while to read, but I really enjoyed it none the less! I’m hoping to find a copy of the film somewhere, I’d love to see the adaptation from book to screen.

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