I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Manderley, Again

Manderley, Again

Lia Mills
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, Virago (80th Anniversary Edition), 448 pp, €18.20, ISBN: 978-0349010267 In an essay entitled “Romantic Love”, Daphne du Maurier wrote: There is no such thing as romantic love. This is a statement of fact and I defy all those who hold a contrary opinion. Romantic love is an illusion. Yet she has been classified, and dismissed, as a romantic novelist and her best-loved and most enduring work, Rebecca, as a romantic novel. Since its first publication in 1938 it has never gone out of print. As recently as 2013, du Maurier’s son, Christopher, claimed in an interview that it was still selling four thousand copies a month. One reason for Rebecca’s success is that it tells a good story, in the classic, narrative-driven sense – the sort of story at which it has become quite fashionable to sneer. Another is that the reader is never entirely sure exactly what is going on beneath the thrilling surface. Like all unresolved questions, Rebecca’s powers of suggestion haunt us long after the book has been restored to its shelf. Du Maurier said it was a novel about jealousy, and so it is. She also said that it was about the imbalance of power between a man and a woman in a marriage and yes, it is that too. Part bildungsroman, part psychological thriller, it is also a crime drama with its conventions turned inside out. Not “how will the criminal be identified, caught and punished?” but “will they get away with it and how?” Rebecca does have romantic elements. Our young narrator certainly enters the story with a set of romantic expectations, but these are so swiftly and effectively dismantled that it’s safe to say that the novel is anti-romance. When we meet our narrator she has a dreary life working as a companion to the ghastly Mrs Van Hopper in Monte Carlo. Mrs Van Hopper is a snob and a social climber, the kind of person who stubs out her cigarettes in the butter, in her face cream, among the lipstick and the tissues on her dressing-table. She would be a nightmare to work for. Maxim de Winter is staying in the same hotel. He is the owner of the fabulous Manderley house and estate in Cornwall, where his first wife – Rebecca – drowned, barely a year before. Maxim is wealthy, our narrator is not. She has no home and he has…

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