I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . ."
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.
Rebecca holds an important place in the history of Gothic literature. I could see its roots in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. First, there is an orphaned, impoverished young woman as protagonist. She is forced to be a companion/governess in order to support herself. Next, she becomes involved with an older man with a tendency to brood and who seems to have a secret. Rochester may have had a mad wife in the attic, but De Winter’s first wife is a haunting presence keeping the newly married couple apart.
If you can see Jane Eyre as the grandmother, then Rebecca would be the mother. The daughter generation consists of Gothic romances by authors such as Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. They share a lot of DNA—the young women are “poor relations,” they have to face a nasty older female (like Aunt Reed in Jane Eyre or the grim housekeeper of Rebecca), they are unsophisticated, they are rescued from their sad fate by dashing men often with remarkably short courtships, and those dashing men prove to have either a dark secret or a questionable past. There is often a mystery embedded in the novel, requiring the heroine to keep her wits about her.
And now we see the granddaughters, today’s domestic noir. Think Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, where marriage is seen as an unsure proposition, where nothing and no one can be trusted and the notion of a happy ending is regarded with a heavily jaundiced eye.
Rebecca is a wonderful representative of the genre—where else would you find