Published in 1938 originally, Rebecca is one of those timeless novels worth re-reading. Set mainly in England at the Manderlay estate on the coast, the story is presented in the first person by the young and impressionable new Mrs. Maxim De Winter. Shy and plain, she internalizes every glance and spoken word, believing that she stands in the shadow of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife and the epitome of everything she, herself, is not. Her journey, eerie and charged with the whisper of hidden, dark secrets, brings her to the revelation that self pre-occupation borne from insecurity leads one to blindness of the truth that is before us always.
Du Maurier's Rebecca is better today than when I read it as an adolescent. The story winds slowly, twisting and turning through the labyrinth of impressions and lasting effects left behind by the departed from this world. It contrasts the self doubt and awkwardness of youth and the vain debauchery of the beautifully young; the fear of the unknown to the horror of understanding. It also exposes the effects of hidden hatred and the equally devastating consequences of hidden love.
At a certain point in the novel, I wanted to shake the backward, mousy Mrs. De Winter. I wanted her to stake her claim on Maxim's heart and over Manderlay, but I patiently read on. My reward was worth the wait, for when her strength was necessary, she delivered, drawing not on righteous indignation, but on depth of love, commitment, and the confidence and security that overflows at the certainty of being loved - of knowing where one belongs.
The love affair between Maxim and his new bride is not the passionate perfection found in many modern novels. It is the rending of the masks worn in hope of self preservation, the risk of placing one's self in the power of another, the hope of second chances. There is a strong feeling of melancholy throughout the novel that this Broad admits I wouldn't welcome in all my reading, but it worked beautifully in Rebecca.