Dreaming Again of Manderley
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I could have uttered the best-loved first line myself. Though it’d been years since I read the novel, I instantly remembered. Manderley. How could I ever forget?
I returned to Rebecca for its strong sense of place. I, like the novel’s characters, am enchanted with the setting. The blood-red rhododendrons, the dark woods, the restless sea—they are as real to me as my own wooden fence. Never mind I haven’t been to Cornwall, the place Daphne du Maurier imagined as she wrote the novel (“Author’s Note”). I’ve been to Manderley, and that’s even better.
Du Maurier depicts the ancestral home using traditional gothic qualities: “a carefully described landscape and setting, a sense of the uncanny, and the impression that events are out of kilter with the rational world” (Buzwell). How readers suffer like our unnamed narrator, wanting to know the west wing’s forbidden secrets. We have the east wing and the rose garden, sure, but the large room in the west wing—the one that faces the sea—we long to fling open the window, tear away the coverings, and expose its mysterious past.
For a while, we settle for the library and tea, the dog Jasper at our feet. (It’s certainly better than old Mrs. Van Hopper and her bridge games.) Life at Manderley is good, or is it? Our curiosity must be satiated, so on we go. When the narrator finds herself in the west wing, the “mist upon the window-glass, as though someone had breathed upon it,” fear seizes us. This is Rebecca’s room; it’s herbreath upon the window. Must she take not only the book’s title but our dear Manderley too?
Although she never appears as a ghost, Rebecca dominates the novel, haunting much more than rooms. She lives in the minds of the characters, even our narrator’s, though the two never met. First we envy Rebecca; she must have been something very special. Then we start wondering about those rhododendrons. We wander through Happy Valley—down to the cove, the cottage—picking up clues like a child picks dandelions, mistaking weeds for flowers. By the end, we sense Rebecca laughing at us, “God how funny … how supremely, wonderfully funny.”
It’s hard to move on after a book like Rebecca. We pick up another novel, thumb a few pages, and set it down. We don’t want to leave, but when we do, we won’t leave empty handed. Novels with strong settings give us so much more than a story. They give us a place to return to. For us book gypsies, there’s nothing better. Like a traveler, we will always have our snapshots, our mementos, our memories of Manderley.
What books do you go back to, readers? Any special books you reread? How about books with strong settings? Please share for a chance to win a package of English Berries and Cream from Plum Deluxe, the tea featured in the picture, and the pressed flowers bookmark.
“Author’s Note” Rebecca. Daphne du Maurier. 1938.
Buzwell, Greg. “Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic Tradition.” British Library.
Your captivating and wonderful post resonated with me since reading novels, especially unforgettable, memorable and heartwrenching stories gives me a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure. Reading profound and unforgettable novels are so meaningful and the era, setting and sense of place makes the book come alive. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Marjorie Morningstar, The Good Earth, Night, and many more. I always would include Rebecca since it is my favorite British classic. I love tea and am an avid reader and tea drinker all year. Teas are soothing and give me hope as does reading compelling novels.
Tea and books give me hope also, Pearl! Thanks for mentioning your favorite reads. I’ll check them out.
I have favorites I like to re-read; mostly classics like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agatha Christie….. It’s like visiting a good friend.
It’s exactly like visiting a good friend. And I love rereading Agatha Christie novels. I feel so much smarter the second time around!
What a wonderful post! Rebecca is one of my favorites, along with, Jane Eyre and Agatha Christie.
Thanks for stopping by, Kathy! I’d love to reread Jane Eyre. Maybe next summer!
First I’d like to say I just finished “Passport to Murder” and loved it–surprising ending (Amazon reviewed). There are so many new books I find it hard to re-read books but if I did I’d say it would be the “Outlander” series!! As a avid tea drinker I love to try new blends. Thank you for this opportunity.
Thank you, LuAnn! I’m so glad you liked it. And I appreciate your review. Reviews really help authors expand our readership.
There are lots of great cozies coming out this fall that I can’t wait to read. So many books, so little time, right?
I really do not reread any books. Probably the only two I have are The Cat That Went to Heaven and any form of Tristan and Isolde. They will always hold special memories for me. Oh and Grimms Fairy Tales. You can never go wrong with that, lol
Thanks for mentioning these titles, Kay! I don’t always reread, but when I do, it’s because of those special memories.
Beautiful post Mary Angela.
Rebecca is a favorite of so many. What a special treat, a cup of tea and a favorite novel!
Thanks, Janet! There’s nothing better than a cup of tea and a great book.
Congratulations to Kathy, the winner of the tea and bookmark giveaway! Thanks to all who entered. Please stop by again for more giveaways and fun during the release of A Very Merry Murder.
After spotlighting your new book – A Very Merry Murder – on my own blog, I had to reach out to yours. I love this post on Rebecca and Manderley. Location is so necessary in a novel (as well as in Real Estate!). The book that I return to again and again (after the Bible) is “This Rough Magic” by the late Mary Stewart. It’s also a Gothic mystery, and it’s set on the Island of Corfu, Greece. There’s just something about the place, the use of a Shakespeare play/characters in the modern setting, the ocean, the secrets, the clean romance….. sigh.
If you get a chance to visit the other blog I post on with six other writers -The Writers In Residence, I wrote a post on using our FIVE SENSES in our books. Maybe you’d like to read it. https://bit.ly/2n3Jtgw Regardless, best to you and your writing.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, Jackie! I did check out your post, and it was lovely. I’m going to check out “This Rough Magic” also. I haven’t read that book but am intrigued by your description of it. Thanks for the recommendation.