What a read!
The introduction to the edition I read offered valuable insight into the mindset of the author at the time, and this lent a different light to the novel.
The opening firmly establishes the setting of Manderley. We see it ruined and deserted, but with no idea why. I felt this made the ending more poignant as we never find out if this was Danvers’ last shot at the man she’d come to loathe or an unfortunate natural occurrence. Regardless, the descriptions of the home were beautifully atmospheric.
The story focuses on two characters who don’t particularly endear themselves to the reader. Our unnamed narrator who marries after only a few weeks of acquaintance with Max de Winter, a widower. Gauche and painfully self-doubting, our narrator seems ill-equipped to form such a bond. This exacerbates her feelings of inferiority when she returns to Manderley and is faced with the ghost of her predecessor, Rebecca.
From start to finish it was obvious that things were not well in the de Winter home. As our narrator stumbles through married life, hindered by the housekeeper of horrors, she uncovers secrets that could have awful consequences.
Strangely, the people in this story and the damage they wreak upon each other did not have the impact I expected. None are particularly pleasant, and all bear some culpability for the situations that arise. Though I sympathised with our narrator for finding herself in this scenario, her sacrifice at the end seemed unnecessary.
There were many similarities to Jane Eyre, high points and low, and it strikes me as strange that one book can be so revered and another – very similar – can be so easily dismissed and overlooked.