Rebecca is the most famous of Daphne du Maurier’s novels. Published in 1938, it has never gone out of print and is one of the great international bestsellers. Having destroyed her first attempt at the novel, du Maurier returned to writing it whilst in Egypt, where she and her soldier husband were stationed in Alexandria. Despite being composed in this alien situation, Rebecca is widely regarded as the Cornish novel, and is evidently the product of du Maurier’s acute homesickness and discomfort in her role as dutiful army wife. The novel’s iconic opening line – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’ – was, in part, born out of du Maurier’s own romantic preoccupation with ‘Menabilly’, a Cornish house she stumbled across and trespassed in her youth. There are autobiographical strains too, in her characterisation of the two antagonistically bound women at the centre of the novel: the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca, and the nameless second Mrs de Winter, the novel’s narrator. Du Maurier felt herself caught between being a dutiful, conventional wife and an independently minded creative. This irresolvable tension is explored in her ambivalent depiction of Rebecca and the narrator as strangely allied opposites.

Daphne du Maurier

Related articles

Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic tradition

Article by:
Greg Buzwell
Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1900–1950

Greg Buzwell traces Daphne du Maurier’s use of Gothic themes, motifs and imagery, and shows how she was influenced both by earlier writers and by her deep connection with Cornwall.

Nightmares, mirrors and possession in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca

Article by:
Barbara C. Morden
Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1900–1950, Exploring identity

Barbara Morden looks beyond the period detail and romantic conventions of Rebecca to uncover an archetypal story of female identity formation.

Related collection items