The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage.
Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”
My initial thoughts are that I’ve totally missed something with this book! I’ve seen such high praise for this book historically and recently when I’ve updated my Goodreads feed to Twitter and people have commented that it’s their favourite book (you know who you are!). Guys, I’m really sorry but I didn’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s one of those where, for me, if this had been published now, would have been over-hyped.
One of the first things I noticed was that the second Mrs De Winter is never actually referred to by her christian name; not even by her employer or later her husband. I found this a little strange and found myself wondering at what point will we learn our narrator’s name?
From very early on there’s this obsession with Manderley; its lifestyle and what it can offer. But all it presents is an old house, with an aging staff and a haunting without a ghost.
Our narrator, the second Mrs De Winter is young, naive and doesn’t quite fit in at Manderley however I felt this was somewhat her own fault as she let Mrs Danvers walk all over her and almost allowed her to continue with the mind games. She also has an overactive imagination, always imagining the worst case scenarios and conversations.
The book has such a dark, brooding atmospheric cover that that is what I expected from the content, unfortunately, for me, I wasn’t feeling it. I found the first 300 pages incredibly slow and a bit dull. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. However, once Maxim had made his revelation the pace and the tension picked up a lot more and I then raced through the last 130 pages.
Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books absolutely hit the nail on the head with her comment on my WWW post “it doesn’t give the instant twists that more modern psychological novels tend to”. But overall, I’m glad I persevered and got through it.
Learn more about the life and books of Daphne du Maurier here