I did it...I went and visited Manderley again. I didn't just dream it. Re-reading books that one has read and loved over twenty years ago is something of a crap shoot. One never know how the older self will view the beloved story. Since I've started blogging and joining in on various reading challenges, I've done fair amount of rereading this year. The French Lieutenant's Woman? Re-reading that was a huge mistake. Jane Eyre? Loved it then and love it now. So, it was with some uncertainty I took up Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca again. Perhaps with the same timidity that the unnamed heroine feels when stepping into Rebecca's shoes at Manderley.
...And found that I still love it. But for different reasons. When I read it twenty years ago, I was all over the gothic romanticism. I enjoyed the plight of the unnamed second wife of Max de Winter--waiting to see what the real terror was that overshadowed that stately mansion. I drank in the evil undertones, the suggestion of Rebecca everywhere. This time I was more interested in du Maurier's writing. Having recently read The House on the Strand and Castle Dor, I was very taken with her descriptive powers. The opening chapter where she describes the Manderley of the dream is incredibly powerful. I absolutely love her descriptions of place and setting. She also sets the mood well...I still enjoy the gothic feel of the novel, but now I am appreciate her power to communicate that mood--I am not so wrapped up in it that I'm feeling the shivers along with the narrator.
I did find the narrator a bit taxing this time around. I understand the circumstances that led to her timid nature. After all, she has married above her and has never had the experiences necessary to allow her to fit securely into the place of lady of the manor. But I was definitely relieved when she finally stood up to Mrs. Danvers and began to show some backbone. More of that would have gone a long way with me.
Du Maurier's skill as a writer amazes me. Even knowing the ending, I still felt the thrill of the building pressure on de Winter. It still seemed that they would find out the facts behind Rebecca's death. The twist at the end is brilliant and I can understand why this book has won the Anthony Award for best novel of the century. I gave this novel four stars for my first reading. That rating still stands.