Daphne Du Maurier & Rebecca

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …”

Is invisibility a wondrous thing?

This is a novel with two heroines, though one is nameless and the other is only a memory. It’s a novel which has a hero who is a murderer. It has a haunting opening sentence which has become justly famous, and since its publication in 1938 Rebecca has enthralled readers and remained Daphne du Maurier’s most popular book.

This memorable novel is like a dream. It is contained within a framing structure, told by its narrator ten years after the events which it describes. It is deliberately vague about time and place, and this gives it a haunting and memorable quality, sustained throughout the novel after its evocative opening line. It is also a chilling tale of murder, blackmail, suspense and intrigue. It is a finely structured and highly unconventional romance.

“There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream …”
― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca when in Egypt, desperately homesick for Cornwall. She wanted to recapture the coves, the houses, the rugged coastal scenery that she loved so much. Her own obsession with her home, Menabilly, helped her create a hero obsessed with his house.

Rebecca is a Gothic novel, with all the classic Gothic elements of brooding mansion with mysterious unused wings and locked gates, a sinister housekeeper, the power of a piece of handwriting, and the act of murder. In Gothic fiction, the house is always vitally important and Manderley is a major character in this book. Like all good Gothic houses, it has secrets and hides criminal activity.

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Discuss it with me

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” is one of the most haunting opening lines in fiction. Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic novel was a best-seller when published and has never gone out of print. What does it owe to the author’s own life, how was it shaped by Jane Eyre, and how has it been represented in film versions? Tell me in a comment.

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Featured image credit- Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as Mrs de Winter in the film Rebecca. Macfadden Publications, Inc.; Selznick International Pictures, United Artists – Photoplay, February 1940 (page 45), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70483282
Featured image credit- Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson and others in the Great Hall of Manderley in the film Rebecca, By Macfadden Publications, Inc.; Selznick International Pictures, United Artists – Photoplay, February 1940 (pp. 44–45), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70482749
Body image credit- Rebecca, first edition, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_(novel)
Body image credit- Daphne Du Maurier, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne_du_Maurier
Body image credit- Manderley Manor, https://hookedonhouses.net/2010/04/11/rebecca-going-back-to-manderley-again/

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