Rebecca: The Unseen Mistress of Suspense


Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley, again. Okay, okay, so I’ve never really been to Manderley and I wasn’t dreaming about it last night, but I can say I finished reading Rebecca and I’ve come to realize that the novel’s tagline “The unsurpassed modern masterpiece of romantic suspense” is spot on! Reading through the chapters, I couldn’t help but wonder what was really making this novel so suspenseful? Was it the mystery of how Rebecca died? Were it the secrets held by Rebecca’s husband, Maxim De Winter or the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers?

It could possibly be all of these things, but I then realized that what made the novel truly suspenseful to me, was the fact that Rebecca is always there, always ever-watching, a ghost set out to haunt the house and man she had so carefully wrapped around her finger. Pick up the novel yourself and have a read and you’ll soon notice one striking thing about it – we never know the name of the young woman (the narrator and protagonist) that Maxim marries. The new Mrs. De Winter is quite literally nameless, yet Rebecca, the former Mrs. De Winter, carries with her an overwhelming identity that infiltrates the life at Manderley long after she’s gone.

The author of the novel, Daphne Du Maurier, clearly had an excellent trick up her sleeve because she knew how to tickle a reader’s sense of unease because Rebecca is an antagonist that is overwhelmingly present, yet simultaneously unseen. It’s like having your own shadow swallow you up! You just never know when Rebecca is going to strike next because you can’t see her and you also don’t really know her as a character (only through fragments of memories or images conjured up by other characters’ imaginations).

So crack open the novel yourself, delve into the world of Manderley – you’ll soon feel Rebecca’s eyes upon you. Better yet, use this technique in a piece of writing of your own and see what you conjure up. Undoubtedly, it will push the boundaries of spine-tingling suspense.


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