Rebecca is a gothic romance of the kind that has been popular since the genre was invented in the late eighteenth century. The plot is conventional: The protagonist, a young woman, finds herself in an unfamiliar and sinister setting, where she must solve a mystery and win the heart of a handsome man. This novel, which is considered one of the finest of its type, continues to be popular in the late twentieth century, despite the fact that the central character accepts a subservient role in society and in marriage.
Rebecca begins, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” This often-quoted line sets the story in motion, not only establishing the narrative voice but also indicating that what follows will be an account of past events, ending sadly. In the pages that follow, however, the narrator explains that although they must live far from home, she and her husband are devoted to each other. After further arousing the curiosity of her readers with tantalizing references to the title character and to a Mrs. Danvers, Daphne du Maurier begins her story.
Although from this point on the novel moves chronologically, the narrator frequently uses similar hints to foreshadow future events, thus maintaining a high level of suspense. For example, in chapter 3 she muses, “I wonder what my life would be today, if Mrs. Van Hopper had not been a snob.” It soon becomes clear that the social aspirations of this rich American woman vacationing in Monte Carlo have resulted in the introduction of the narrator, who is Mrs. Van Hopper’s hired companion, to the aristocratic Maxim de Winter, and eventually in their marriage. When Mrs. Van Hopper decides to leave immediately for New York, the recently widowed Max does not want to lose his young companion, and to the older woman’s astonishment, he proposes. The result of Mrs. Van Hopper’s snobbery is now clear; what is still to be explained is the rest of the sentence, which recalls the narrator’s statements about suffering in the introductory chapters. For those answers, one must read on.
After this brief beginning, the novel moves to England and Manderley, Max’s country house by the sea. From the moment she sees the staff waiting for her, the narrator feels insecure. Ill at ease in British upper-class society, the shy, inexperienced girl fears that she cannot live up to the standards set by Max’s late wife Rebecca, a woman of great sophistication and legendary beauty. The narrator’s sense of inadequacy is carefully nurtured by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who adored Rebecca and who takes every opportunity to make her successor feel like an intruder. Unfortunately, Max goes on with his own life, minimizing his wife’s concerns and refusing to talk about Rebecca. Thus isolated, the narrator is sustained only by the kindness of Max’s sister Beatrice Lacy and by the evident approval of his agent Frank Crawley.
Without any facts at her disposal, the protagonist proceeds blindly, with no way of knowing what will please or displease her husband. When she breaks a valuable ornament, horrifying Mrs. Danvers, Max treats the matter as trivial. Yet he disapproves of his wife’s going into a boathouse used by Rebecca, and he becomes livid after learning that Rebecca’s cousin Jack Favell has put in an appearance. The protagonist does not feel Max’s full fury, however, until the ball. When he sees her in the costume that Mrs. Danvers had suggested, he becomes enraged. Without explaining that Rebecca had previously worn an identical costume, he simply tells his wife to change and throughout the evening treats her like...
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a stranger. Taking advantage of this breach between husband and wife, Mrs. Danvers has begun hypnotizing the broken-hearted girl into jumping to her death when, providentially, the explosion of rockets, signaling a shipwreck, shocks the narrator into sanity.
Ironically, it is the shipwreck that reunites the couple, even though it also results in Max’s having to defend himself against a suspicion of murder. When he hears that divers have found Rebecca’s body on her sunken boat, Max finally takes the narrator into his confidence. Throughout their marriage, he says, Rebecca had been malicious and promiscuous; when she indicated that she was to have a bastard child, who would inherit Manderley, Max shot her, put her body in the boat, and sank it. Now, he says, Rebecca has won. When the narrator assures him that she has no intention of deserting him, however, it is evident that, in fact, Rebecca has lost. Whatever follows, love has triumphed.
The final segment of the book describes the inquest and its aftermath. Despite the efforts of Jack Favell and Mrs. Danvers, Max is officially cleared of suspicion. Even though he has guessed the truth, the magistrate, Colonel Julwin, is so sympathetic with Max’s sufferings and so repelled by Favell’s attempts at blackmail that when he discovers Rebecca had been terminally ill, he chooses to call the drowning a suicide. On their way back from London, however, Max and his wife see a glow in the sky and realize that Rebecca’s two friends have taken revenge by setting Manderley on fire.
Manderley. Estate in Cornwall to which Max de Winter brings his new bride, the second Mrs. de Winter. There, he earlier lived with his first wife, Rebecca. From the blood-red rhododendrons surrounding this house of secrets to its iron gates holding in its past when Max and his second wife arrive in early May, Manderley is a forceful, menacing, and even malignant presence. The house itself seems to cause the events of the plot by acting upon the characters. As willful and capricious as the spirit of the dead Rebecca herself, the house symbolizes her tomb; her spirit infuses the place. In this ghostly personification, Rebecca actually seems to transcend the gothic form.
Manderley is based on two distinctive houses, one a house du Maurier visited as a child, and the other, Menabilly, a house in which she herself lived for more than twenty-five years. The houses merged in the landscape of her imagination to become Manderley, which inspired one of the most famous opening lines of twentieth century literature: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” As potent as a presence, as moody as a person, Manderley has a living aura and is as much a character in the novel as any man or woman. In fact, the house figures in the sensibilities of both of Max de Winter’s wives more than any living presence by being imbued with the spirit of his first wife, Rebecca.
According to a published memoir, du Maurier visited a family friend’s home, Milton, in 1917, and her memory of that house created the seed for Manderley. Struck by Milton’s portraits of four centuries of family ancestors, du Maurier wondered if the ancestors’ presences still haunted the house—with menace. For her the past is clearly a destructive force, destroying the present, just as the past wreaks havoc on present lives in Rebecca.
*Cornwall. Historic region of southwestern England to which du Maurier felt a passionate attachment. Her sense of Cornwall’s atmosphere is integral to each of the novels she set there. Remote, distant from the rest of England, full of antiquities from prehistoric times to Arthurian legend, Cornwall infuses the imagination with history in a setting in which the ghosts of the past intrude upon the present. Dramatic things happen in such settings. For example, a shipwreck that du Maurier witnessed off the Cornish coast in 1930 became transposed as a symbol of the tragedy haunting Manderley in Rebecca. Indeed, the novel itself, originated in du Maurier’s memory of place. While she was living in Alexandria, Egypt, she became so homesick for the woods and shores of Cornwall that she was moved to write a novel about it, and that novel became Rebecca.
When Rebecca appeared in 1938, it was dismissed as a romance written to fit a familiar formula, designed purely for entertainment. Critics admired du Maurier’s technical skill, but they did not look in the novel for thematic or symbolic subtleties. The fact that since its publication Rebecca has continually remained in print, selling steadily over the years, must be attributed primarily to its still holding the same appeal for readers which made it such a commercial success a half century ago. The book is exciting and suspenseful, it has the kind of setting that lends itself to ghost stories, and it is essentially a love story with a happy ending.
Although many women readers evidently can still identify with heroines as subservient as the protagonist of Rebecca, contemporary critics are taking a new look at the novel. It is difficult to reconcile its seeming acceptance of a patriarchal system of male dominance with what, in her authorized biography, Margaret Forster has shown about the author herself. Not only was du Maurier convinced from childhood that she was a male in a female body, but, though a wife and mother, she felt free to have affairs with other people of both sexes. In other words, although she was not selfish and spiteful, in many ways du Maurier resembled Rebecca more than she did the virtuous protagonist of her novel.
Evidently, Rebecca is a more complex work than it was once thought to be. While it can hardly be argued that Rebecca is a sympathetic character or that her minions, Favell and Mrs. Danvers, are anything but revolting, du Maurier does show how dangerous not only innocence but also a system based on female subservience can be for both partners in a relationship. As she finally realizes, the narrator is of little use either to herself or to Max until she has developed an identity of her own. It is not the shy and helpless girl, but a woman—strong, self-confident, and independent—who chooses to support her husband in his ordeal and, in their exile, to make his life worth living.
Post World War I During the 1800s, Britain had built its empire by adding colonies, dominions, and protectorates. These were the great years of the British Empire: Queen Victoria, reigning for over sixty years, gave the nation a sense of stability and progress. Her conservative social views created the stiff-lipped, formal stereotype of the British citizen that is known today and that is portrayed inRebecca: strict rules of behavior between the sexes, tea at four-thirty each day, and a fascination with wealth that was suppressed by the good taste not to talk about it. When Victoria died in 1901, her son Edward succeeded her to the throne. The Edwardian age in England is considered a time of international stability, owing to Edward VII’s talent for negotiations. Like the Victorian era, Edward's reign from 1901 to 1910 was marked by domestic stability and social formality.
World War I shattered the tranquility of Europe, especially of Great Britain. Previous military conflicts, such as the Crimean War and the Boer War, had been marked by the civility of the participants. In the previous battles, the British class system had been clearly maintained, separating officers from soldiers, keeping the former far from the fighting, in deference to their ranks. World War I, on the other hand, brought new technology that destroyed any sense of class in battle. Long-range cannon, portable machine guns, and, especially, the use of poisonous gas forced the genteel tradition to wake up to the inhumane horrors of modern warfare.
Being with the winning forces, Britain benefited at the end of the war; colonies that had been under German control became British mandates. For a short while, there was a post-war economic boom as laborers returned and industry grew. The old social class system, though, with the type of rigid structure that du Maurier presents in Rebecca, was on its last legs as modern technology made the feudal system that great estates like Manderley were built upon seem increasingly pointless.
The Approach of World War II Like America and many other countries around the world, Great Britain suffered through an economic depression in the 1930s. The country, which had started the century as the most powerful on Earth, was forced to take measures that would assure its continued economic stability. In 1931, for instance, the British government, which had been borrowing money from France and the United States to get by, imposed a heavy tariff on items that were brought into the country. This helped to control the economy, forcing British citizens either to buy goods that were made within the British Empire or to add tax money to the general revenue base. Although it helped the economic situation, British self-esteem suffered from this sign of economic weakness. The country's free trade policy had been a source of pride for Britain, and this forced abandonment of that policy was a clear sign that Great Britain no longer dominated the world the way it once had.
At the same time, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were rising to power in Germany. To a large extent, Hitler was able to gain power because of the same worldwide economic stagnation that was affecting America, Britain, and other countries. Germany was hit particularly hard, with prices of basic foods and supplies sometimes doubling within a week. Hitler was able to appeal to the suffering people, and he also addressed the matter of German pride, convincing the German people that the country was being mistreated by the international community. The Treaty of Versailles, which established the conditions for Germany's surrender in 1918, separated the states that had made up the German Republic, and placed restrictions on the country's armed forces, leaving Germany economically and militarily vulnerable. The Nazi party was voted into power in 1933 because the electorate believed that they could end the country's suffering and humiliation.
Almost immediately, Hitler's government began its program of military expansion. In the following years, German forces were used to absorb Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, all of which it had given up to end the war. Looking back on it, many people wondered why the countries that had led the winning force in World War I did not stop Germany when it first started to violate the Treaty of Versailles. For one thing, many people across the world agreed with the German view that the treaty had been too confining and had caused the citizens of Germany to suffer more than they should have, and so there was not strong opposition to the steps Germany took to "correct" the situation. Another reason was that the economic crisis made countries in Western Europe, such as England and France, reluctant to fight if they did not have to. Hitler signed new treaties with London, agreeing to limit the size of the German military, giving those who wanted to avoid war a chance to argue that it would be unnecessary. The forces opposing intervention into German affairs were so strong that the world ignored the stories that escaped from German territories of concentration camps where, it has been proven, millions of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals were mutilated and killed.
Great Britain eventually did enter into war with Germany in 1939, after Hitler broke a non-aggression pact with Poland and attacked that country. By that time, it was clear that he intended to continue endless expansion and that treaties made no difference. At the start of the war, the brunt of opposing Hitler fell upon France, which was defeated by the Germans in 1940, and England, which was hammered by German bombing raids. Seventy thousand British civilians died during the war, which lasted until 1945.
With the exception of the opening chapters in Monte Carlo, Rebecca takes place at the country estate of Manderley. The now famous first sentence, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," prepares the reader for the importance of the manor house. Du Maurier adheres to the Gothic tradition by giving psychological importance to the house, which becomes almost a character in its own right. The mansion's rooms provide clues to Rebecca's character. There is a stigma attached to the sea, the site of Rebecca's drowning. Maxim orders Mrs. Danvers to redecorate the east wing, which looks out on the rose garden, rather than taking up residence in the west wing with its view of the sea.
Manderley is important to the narrator before she even sees it. Her elderly companion, Mrs. Van Hopper, dwells on British aristocracy and places great value on Manderley as a stately home. In addition, when younger and vacationing nearby, the narrator herself had purchased a post card of the estate. She speculates, "Maybe there was something inviolate about Manderley that made it a place apart." Her reflection on the uniqueness of the house prepares the reader for the events which are later revealed.
Setting There are two main settings for this novel. The first is the resort of Monte Carlo on the southern coast of France. Since 1862, when the first gambling casino was opened there, the town has been famous around the world as a playground for Europe's rich. Starting the book in this setting serves to establish the wealthy social class of these characters. It also helps to raise readers' curiosity about Manderley, which is talked about constantly, even by characters who have never been there but who know it by reputation. The narrator buys a postcard of Manderley in a shop in Monte Carlo.
Most of the book tales place at Manderley, the English country estate that has been owned by the de Winter family for generations. The house itself is imposing to a young girl who was not raised in this wealthy social environment. It is so large that she gets lost, so large that one entire wing can be shut off with Rebecca's personal belongings with little effect. Ancient portraits hang on the walls, reminding the narrator of the responsibility of becoming part of a well-established dynasty. The place is decorated with expensive things that Rebecca put there, constantly reminding her of the presence of the first Mrs. de Winter.
The house is surrounded by trees, which can be inviting on a sunny day but frightening on a dark, rainy one. Past the trees is the bay. Manderley's proximity to the sea is important because it adds to the beauty of this rich estate but also because the sea hides the corpse of the murder victim, but hides it in a way that it can be found again. One other significant aspect of Manderley is the mysterious cottage where the narrator encounters Ben: this place is left to decay, obviously because Maxim cannot bring himself to go there, raising the prospect of mystery until the end, when it turns out to be central to the horrible events of the past.
Structure Most of Rebecca follows a chronological path, from the time the narrator meets Maxim de Winter at Monte Carlo to the night that Manderley burns down. There is, however, a prelude that takes place some time after the events in the novel. There is no way to tell when this beginning section, which comprises the first chapter and a half, takes place, only that the events that happened at Manderley still haunt the narrator and her male companion, who is left unidentified.
The function of this beginning is to foreshadow events that the reader is going to read about. Mrs. Danvers is mentioned, and so are Jasper the dog and Favell. They are all brought up in the natural way that they might pass through the mind of someone thinking about the past. Because readers do not know what these names refer to, however, they serve in these first chapters to focus attention, to keep readers alert for the story that is about to unfold. The most important element of this introduction is the fact that the man travelling with the narrator is not identified: while reading the main story, readers have to be alert to signs that her love affair with Maxim de Winter might end and to look for clues that hint who her true love might turn out to be.
Gothicism The true flowering of the gothic novel was during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when it was a sub-category of the much broader romantic movement in literature. While romanticism explained humanity's relationship with nature as one of mutual benefit, with nature providing an escape from the rules of society and offering artistic souls a chance to express themselves creatively, Gothicism stressed the frightening, dark, unsure aspects of nature. The most powerful example of the gothic novel is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, which is concerned with the tragic results that can occur when humans tamper with nature.
Gothic novels usually include elements of the supernatural, mystery, and horror. In Rebecca, all of the events end up being explained within the realm of commonly understood reality, but the haunting "presence" of Rebecca's personality gives the book a Gothic mood. Another key element of these works is their setting in ancient castles, usually decaying, which is an element that shows the romantic movement's fascination with ancient history along with the Gothic interest in death and decay. The short stories of Edgar Allan Poe contain many of the most recognizable Gothic elements. Many of the novels that modern readers associate with romance and horror use elements of Gothicism.
Narrator Readers are often so comfortable with the narrative voice used in this novel that they can finish the entire book without realizing how little they know about the woman who is telling the story. Du Maurier does not even provide a name for this person. She is described as being small and girlish, with a pageboy haircut. (Frank Crawley suggests that she might be Joan of Arc at the masquerade because of her hair.) The book does not, however, tell how old she is nor where she was raised nor how she came to work for Mrs. Van Hopper, her employer when the story begins. She does like to draw, but not so much that she practices her interest within the story, and she seems perplexed by the books on art history that Beatrice gives her. It is not until the seventh chapter that any of the other characters addresses her directly, and then it is as "Mrs. de Winter," a title that identifies her in relation to her husband.
Du Maurier manages to keep her readers from being curious by having this narrator describe the things around her with such fascination and loving detail that all attention is drawn to them. The people and events that she encounters fill her imagination, and she in turn fills the reader's imaginations with her descriptions. Maxim de Winter, in particular, is so important to her that she focuses her story on him. Furthermore, this narrator has such a complete, believable personality, which comes out through her telling of the story, that readers find that they are not curious about her past.
Du Maurier excels at first person narration. Rebecca is written from the point of view of Maxim's second wife, whose name is never revealed. This deliberate omission serves to emphasize her colorless personality and, by contrast, to accentuate the powerful personality of her predecessor, Rebecca.
Du Maurier has written that she had meant to begin Rebecca with the narrator meeting Maxim, then later decided to move the beginning of the action to an opening epilogue. This decision is, in large part, responsible for the success of the novel. In Rebecca,as well as in My Cousin Rachel and other of her works, the action begins with a major character's elusive memories of the way life used to be before a terrible event. The novel then describes the events that irrevocably changed the character's life. Du Maurier allows the novel to end quickly by using this narrative device, thus avoiding a long, anticlimactic denouement.
Rebecca follows the conventions of the Gothic novel and is largely responsible for the genre's resurgence in the twentieth century. Typified by Horace Walpole's novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764), the Gothic novel is often set in an eerie mansion or castle. Usually, a young heroine's life is threatened by secrets contained in the mansion until the man she loves rescues her. Rebecca follows this formula except that Maxim, the hero, does not rescue anyone from the evil Manderley. To the contrary, Maxim was responsible for the death of his first wife and is unaware of the danger his second wife faces.
1938: The first nuclear fission of uranium is achieved by German scientists. This is the physical reaction that leads to the nuclear bomb.
1945: Nuclear bombs are dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening the end of World War II by killing nearly two hundred thousand people.
Today: After decades of international fear about the devastation that nuclear weapons can cause, no other nuclear bombs have been used during wartime.
1938: Cancer is barely understood. The first cancer-causing agents, known as "carcinogens," have been isolated in England just five years before.
Today: Cancer is the number two cause of death in the United States, but millions of dollars are spent on research each year, and much progress has been made in understanding causes and treatments.
1938: The first steps in photocopy technology are made, as inventor Chester Carlson develops a method to reproduce an image on paper using electrostatic attraction.
Today: Image reproduction has progressed to the point that computer users are transferring scanned images from one machine to another, without ever using paper to transmit them.
1938: Orson Welles presents his radio program about an alien invasion, War of the Worlds, in the style of a news program. Across America, hundreds of listeners believe that Martians are really invading Earth, and become panicked.
Today: Audiences are used to radio and television programs that use the same style as the news, and few people would take such a preposterous story seriously.
1938: Radio and motion pictures are the main forms of entertainment in America. People living in urban areas attend live theater productions. Television technology is invented, but TV ownership is not widespread until after World War II.
Today: Most homes own at least one television, many with the possibility of access to over five hundred channels at a time through cable and satellite systems.
1938: Air travel is still an uncertain proposition. In 1937, aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in the Pacific Ocean while trying to circumnavigate the globe. In 1938, Douglas Corrigan flies illegally from New York to Dublin, giving the excuse that his compass had led him in the wrong direction and earning him the nickname "Wrong-Way Corrigan."
Today: International flights are routine, and all flight paths are monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Rebecca follows the tradition of the Gothic novel and is largely responsible for the genre's resurgence in the twentieth century. First created by Horace Walpole when he wrote The Castle of Otranto (1764), the Gothic novel typically takes place in an eerie mansion or castle. Usually, a young heroine's life is threatened by secrets in the manor until the man she loves rescues her. Rebecca follows this formula except that Maxim, the hero, does not rescue anyone from the evil in Manderley. To the contrary, Maxim is responsible for the death of his first wife and is unaware of the danger his second wife faces. My Cousin Rachel is also an adaptation of the Gothic novel since a young hero and heroine are caught in a mystery that takes place in an old mansion. It also departs from the traditional Gothic romance because the hero is responsible for the heroine's death and the reader is never certain of the heroine's true character.
Two authors who used the trappings of the Gothic novel and influenced du Maurier are Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Charlotte Bronte's fane Eyre (1847) also has a mysterious first wife, a brooding hero, and a fire. Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel begin similarly to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1847) since all are structured as memories of events that have already taken place. Daphne du Maurier has acknowledged her debt to the Brontes. She used a line from one of Emily Bronte's poems for the title of her first novel. The Loving Spirit (1931), and she wrote about Charlotte and Emily Bronte's brother Branwell in The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte (1960). Rebecca is also indebted to other nineteenth-century romantics. Edgar Allan Poe, for example, popularized the notion that an evil woman is dark; du Maurier's novel repeatedly describes Rebecca as such.
In 1977, as part of the celebration of her seventieth birthday, Daphne du Maurier participated in a television biography about her life. This rare interview by Cliff Michelmore, entitled The Make Believe World of Daphne du Maurier, is available in VHS cassette from Banner Films in London.
Rebecca is one of director Alfred Hitchcock's most celebrated films, made in 1940 with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.
Rebecca was also adapted to a television series on the British Broadcasting System in 1978 starring Jeremy Brett, Joanna David, and Anna Massey, with direction by Simon Langson.
A 1996 adaptation of the book, co-produced by Carlton-UK television and WGBH-TV in Boston, stars Charles Dance, Diana Rigg, and Faye Dunaway. This version is directed by Jim O'Brien with a screenplay by Arthur Hopcraft.
A 1993 abridged audiocassette version of the book, read by Jean Marsh, is available from Audio Renaissance.
There is an unabridged audiocassette version, released in 1999 by Audio Partners Publishing Company, which is read by Anna Massey, who played Mrs. Danvers in the 1978 British television version.
"Daphne du Maurier—Romantic." Ladies' Home Journal (August 1971): 102-103. Biography of du Maurier; also includes one of her stories, "Shock of Recognition" (published as "A Border- Line Case" in Don't Look Now).
"du Maurier, Daphne." In Current Literary Biography 50 (June 1989): 63. This short obituary relates the highlights of du Maurier's career and writings.
du Maurier, Daphne. Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer. New York: Doubleday, 1977. Information on writing The Loving Spirit.
The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories. London: Victor Gollancz, 1981. An early outline of du Maurier's most famous novel.
Kelly, Richard Michael. Daphne du Maurier. Boston: Twayne, 1987. This biography includes criticism and interpretation of du Maurier's novels and a helpful bibliography and index.
Straub, Deborah A. "Daphne du Maurier." In Contemporary Authors New Revision series, vol. 6. Detroit: Gale. Biography of du Maurier and bibliography of her works. Also summarizes critical opinions of her most popular works.
Sources Barkham, John, Review in New York Review of Books, March 8, 1953, p. 8.
Davenport, Basil, "Sinister House," in Saturday Review, September 24, 1938, p. 5.
Hill, Susan, Review in New Statesman, July 23, 1971.
Raymond, John, Review in New Statesman, August 11, 1951.
Rogers, Pat, "Saving Her Bacon," in Spectator, Vol. 237, No. 7727, July 31, 1976, p. 20.
For Further Study Auerbach, Nina, Daphne du Maurier: Haunted Heiress, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. This recent critical examination of du Maurier defends her against criticism that finds her work superficial.
Forster, Margaret, Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller, St. Martin's Press, 1994. This is the biography that was authorized by du Maurier's family. It has some probing information because the author had more access to papers and interviews than many du Maurier scholars.
Bakerman, Jane S., ed. And Then There Were Nine . . . More Women of Mystery. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. A collection of essays. Bakerman’s chapter on Daphne du Maurier argues that in her six “romantic suspense novels,” including Rebecca, can be seen not only new uses of the gothic “formula” but also reflections of other literary traditions. Sees du Maurier as preeminent in her genre.
Beauman, Sally. “Rereading Rebecca.” The New Yorker 69, no. 37 (November 8, 1993): 127-138. Points out that the publication in 1993 of Forster’s biography of du Maurier and of Susan Hill’s Mrs. de Winter, a sequel to the novel, indicate the lasting importance of Rebecca in literary history. Beauman voices her surprise that feminist critics have not turned their attention to a work in which the narrator so clearly equates love with submission. A balanced and perceptive analysis.
Conroy, Sarah Booth. “Daphne du Maurier’s Legacy of Dreams.” The Washington Post, April 23, 1989, pp. F1, F8. Accounts for du Maurier’s continuing appeal by placing her in the oral tradition. The deep-seated “universal fears” that are experienced by her characters and the rhythms of her prose are reminiscent of fireside storytelling. Of all of her well-developed characters, the most convincing is Manderley itself.
Du Maurier, Daphne. The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980. Examines the birth and adolescence of a novel. Contains all textual notes and personal commentary by the author. A comparison of this source and the final text is fascinating. Also included are family anecdotes.
Forster, Margaret. Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller. New York: Doubleday, 1993. The first authorized biography of du Maurier. With the aid of previously unavailable source materials, Forster reveals du Maurier’s lifelong ambivalence as to her sexual identity. She concludes that the novels permitted du Maurier to be psychologically, as well as financially, independent. Although it contains little critical analysis of the works, the volume is a useful addition to du Maurier scholarship.
Hollinger, Karen. “The Female Oedipal Drama of Rebecca from Novel to Film.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 14, no. 4 (1993): 17-30. A feminist view of the translation of a Gothic novel into the film media.
Kelly, Richard. Daphne du Maurier. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Discusses the notebook for Rebecca as well as subsequent film and television versions. Includes commentary from periodicals and a list of all works in chronological order.
“Novel of the Week: Survival.” The Times Literary Supplement, August 6, 1938, 517. A contemporary review of Rebecca, “a low-brow story with a middle-brow finish.” Of the characters, only the narrator is believable; however, the work is well crafted and readable, one of the few in its genre which can be considered an unqualified success.
Shallcross, Martyn. The Private World of Daphne du Maurier. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. An insightful, sympathetic overview of the author by a close family friend. Includes many pictures and a chronological bibliography of the du Maurier canon.