English Book Club – ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne DuMaurier
Rebecca is a gothic novel by english author Daphne du Maurier. Some commentators have noted parallels with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Du Maurier commented publicly in her lifetime that the book was based on her own memories of Menabilly and Cornwall, as well as her relationship with her father.
The novel tells the story of a young woman who, while working as the companion to a rich American woman on holiday in Monte Carlo, becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, George Fortescue Maximilian “Maxim” de Winter, a 42-year-old widower.
After a fortnight of courtship, she agrees to marry him and, after the wedding and honeymoon, accompanies him to his mansion in Cornwall, the beautiful West Country estate Manderley.
While du Maurier categorised Rebecca as a study in jealousy… she admitted its origins in her own life to few. Her husband had been engaged before – to glamorous, dark-haired Jan Ricardo.
Du Maurier and her husband, like Rebecca and Maximilian de Winter, were not faithful to one another. Subsequent to the novel’s publication, Jan Ricardo, tragically, died during the Second World War. She threw herself under a train.
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning (13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989) was an English author and playwright. She was born in London, the middle of three daughters of prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont.
Du Maurier was often categorised as a “romantic novelist”, a term that she deplored, given her novels rarely have a happy ending, and often have sinister overtones and shadows of the paranormal.
In this light, she has more in common with the “sensation novels” of Wilkie Collins and others, which she admired.
Du Maurier’s short stories are darker: The Birds, Don’t Look Now, The Apple Tree, and The Blue Lenses are finely crafted tales of terror that shocked and surprised her audience in equal measure.
In later life, she wrote non-fiction, including several biographies such as Gerald, her father’s biography.
Rebecca has been adapted several times. The best known of these is the Academy Award winning 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film version Rebecca. The film, which starred Sir Laurence Olivier as Max, Joan Fontaine as the heroine, and Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers, was based on the novel.
The English Book Club will meet again to coment this book on saturday January 19th.