With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
MY RATING: 5 STARS
And now, allow me to expand my pitiful GoodReads review...
Hoo hoo hoo, was this a good one or what!The words that best describe it are "taut" and "unnerving." Right from the first page, I was struck by the atmosphere of menace and doom that permeates this story. Ms. du Maurier uses her settings well, believe you me. That "windswept Cornish coast" almost becomes a character in its own right, it colors everything else so completely and yet so subtly. And Manderley itself is stylish and elegant, but there's something infinitely creepy about the whole place. I get shivers just thinking of living in a house like that.
We never learn what the second Mrs. Maxim's name is, but that only adds to the mystery. She's faceless in the shadow of Rebecca...almost literally. She feels her presence in everything, from the way the servants run the household around her, to what the neighbors have to say about her predecessor as mistress of Manderley, to Mrs. Danvers's inexplicable hatred of her, even to Maxim's behavior toward her. She's very insecure in her new position, this second Mrs. Maxim, and I can't say I wouldn't feel the same way if I was in her shoes. The scene between her and Danvers at the window in particular made my blood run cold.
Maxim, aloof, seemingly invulnerable Maxim...what to say? At first he seemed like a jerk (to put it politely), only proposing to the second Mrs. just to have her around as a companion--indeed, it sounded more like a business proposition than anything! But the weird part about it was, the more I got to see of him the more he fascinated me. He was still aloof and had a nearly god-like status, not unlike Rebecca, but he was magnetic as well, either in spite of or because of his coldness. Then of course, things started getting hairy and I really developed a soft spot for him...which grew into another raging crush on another fictional character. Dang it, I have too many of those already!
This was the most vivid, deceptive, hair-raising book I've read in a long time, and as I love a suspenseful yarn, that's saying something. Just when I'd been complaining about predictable plot twists, this one came around and threw me for a loop. My predictions were wrong at every turning, but each one was written so well I was more than happy to be proved wrong, and not a one of them felt like it was thrown in there for the sake of it. Everything stood up under its own weight.
A word of advice, though--don't start reading it before bed. I couldn't walk away from it and was finally forced to put it aside at three in the morning. I borrowed this book from someone, and it left such an impression on me that I'll have to buy my own copy. And of course, now there's the matter of the movie...
Wait a second...could this be book number six? This means that every one here on out...means victory! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
Your humble book nerd,