I attribute my curiosity for isolated crumbling mansions from Rebecca. When I cross paths with an old abandoned house I have to fight the urge to stop and explore. There is something about the cracked interiors and the musty smell of old wood panels that gets my imagination running.
In this book I find Manderley as dynamic of a character as the rest.
We start with the young narrator (we never find out her name) who elopes with the elusive Maxim De Winter. Maxim is older and a widower, and he runs the Manderley estate on the English Cornish Coast. Most importantly, he was once married to the mistress of the house: the mysterious and captivating Rebecca.
This new bride is a stranger to her new home, and with her we get to discover Manderley ourselves. Filled with servants and décor, the house also has long stairways and hidden wings. The estate is just as mysterious as its deceased mistress. Like the narrator we become afraid to turn into dark corners or open bolted doors.
The narrator is young and informal, and cannot find enough confidence to run the house. It doesn’t help that when family or new neighbors arrive Rebecca hovers in every conversation. Her rooms are also left untouched and sacred in separate wings of the house; this in thanks to Rebecca’s old servant Ms. Danvers, a spinster who still gloats on her old mistress. The narrator soon starts to wish she had never married Maxim and encroached on his life.
But of course there are cracks in the immaculate portrait of Rebecca. There are secrets Maxim is hiding and ghosts to be released. Like most Gothic mysteries, there are shadows of a love story here and a young woman coming into adulthood. “Every love story is a ghost story,” David Foster Wallace once said. I wish I could have made a statement that perfect. No better way to describe this wonderful novel.