I’ll never forget my first visit to Manderley, the beautiful English country estate. As I trudged along with the narrator, in her dream, through the narrow, overgrown path leading to the estate, and when I saw the ivy growing through the forlorn windows, I was filled with a vague despair. It was then the story started with an intriguing note that the estate was no more.
The book immediately pulled me into the story since the narrator was unnamed, and I found myself in the place of the young girl who works as companion to a rich lady. She becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman ‘Maxim’ at French Riviera, who is the owner of a mansion called Manderley. Though he’s nearly as old as her father, she couldn’t help falling in love with the gentleman who shows affection, and who respects her though she’s poor. She’s sometimes intrigued by the lost look on his face, but she later learns that he had lost his wife Rebecca recently, and he’s unable to move on. She’s surprised, and relieved, when he asks her hand for marriage. She gladly accepts, and accompanies him to Manderly after the wedding.
She’s welcomed into the new home by Mrs.Danvers, the housekeeper of Manderley. Profoundly devoted to Rebecca, she starts treating the narrator with contempt, reminding her that she’s always inferior to seemingly perfect Rebecca. Lacking self confidence and overwhelmed by her life, she allows Mrs.Danvers to manipulate her into believing that Maxim married her by mistake, and that a poor girl like her is not good enough to manage a big household like Mandarley. Maxim avoids the places which may remind him of his first wife, and wears a strange mask of lost look on his face, which further confirms her view. She imagines the ghost of Rebecca haunting her everywhere inside the huge mansion, and she finds herself always imagining things like, “This is where she used to sit. This is where she used to give orders.” Cracking up under the pressure of Mrs. Danvers, she comes close to committing suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window, but she’s distracted by the disturbance created by a shipwreck. The ship carrying Rebecca on the night she died is discovered. What happened to Rebecca? Will the marriage of Maxim and the narrator sustain with Mrs. Danvers around? What happened to Mandarley? You’ve got to find it yourself.
Author Daphne du maurier wrote this book in a unique poetic style. The words flow effortlessly, making Mandarley and its surroundings come alive in the imagination of the readers. You find yourself smelling red camellias, walking through the dense canopy in the forest, and listening to the sound of sea through the window in west wing, as you follow the timid narrator walking through the estate. You can feel the prickle of hawk like eyes of Mrs. Danver, and you can sympathise with the narrator as she finds herself unable to compete with Rebecca. This book is a sensory, emotional treat, and I promise you’ll not be disappointed by this classic.