I owe a lot to Daphne Du Maurier’s most treasured novel; it was Rebecca, after all, that begun my quest to read the Top 100 BBC Reads. I had just graduated and was interning at a publisher’s in London while still living in Brighton. Browsing the shelves at the Jubilee Library I came across Rebecca and was immediately enticed by the front cover. It depicted a gated drive leading to a sinister looking house surrounding by shadows. And according to a sticker on the sleeve of the book, it was one of the Top 100 BBC Reads. And so it began, the most famous of openings: “Last night I dreamt of Manderly…”
The story is set in Du Maurier’s native Cornwall and sees the protagonist, whose name we never find out, marry the esteemed Maxim De Winter, widow of the infamous Rebecca, who remains very much a constant theme throughout the book.
Du Maurier’s prose is so beautifully descriptive, one really can imagine Manderly in all its glory: the forbidden wing, the stormy sea views; the opulent parties. The characters are equally tangible and Mrs Danvers in particular is as much a part of the house as the very bricks and mortar that built it. The plot is sinister and gripping, right until the very last scene and the climatic finish.
Reading Rebecca sparked a love sparked a love for Du Maurier’s skilled and atmospheric prose and awoke a fondness for Cornwall’s potent nostalgia. I have gone on to read a number of Daphne Du Maurier’s other novels, none of which have been quite so esteemed as Rebecca, despite their equally remarkable plots and characters. Favourites include Frenchman’s Creek and The Scapegoat – both of which I will go on to write about in this blog. Du Maurier really is one of the best writers this country has to offer and I would highly recommend her to anyone.