“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Thus begins “Rebecca”, the 1930s novel by English author Daphne du Maurier. I chanced upon this book when I was still in school. Not exactly the book for an impressionable teenager, as it deals with adultery, snobbery and the murder of a woman by her husband. But what helped was that I was socially gauche, physically conscious and awkward and emotionally vulnerable. This was exactly what the protagonist was, or shall I say the narrator? For the book revolved around Rebecca, the dead first wife of the man she was married to. Rebecca cast a shadow on every aspect of her life; even when her life could have been magnificent and fulfilling.
But magnificence was reserved for Manderley, the iconic house in the English countryside; now the home of the impoverished and orphaned narrator. She married a wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter and moved to Manderley. The house is described in such vivid detail, right from the first glimpse at the end of a sweeping driveway, to its sweeping gardens, the woods and finally the creek and the rolling sea.
Manderley became the stuff of my dreams. And an ideal house in my waking life. In every house I lived in subsequently I looked for some aspect of that sweeping mansion. A corner, a patch of garden, a wall, the crushed cushions in the living room, the scones at the ritualistic tea times. I tried to live out my dream house in all living spaces.
Years after Mrs. de Winter leaves Manderley, for it is destroyed by arson at the hands of Mrs. Danvers, the loyal housekeeper of Rebecca; she dreams of Manderley and its sweeping grounds. Her dreams may have fallen silent by now but not mine, for I shall continue to carry Manderley in my heart and soul till my ashes are scattered in the wind. Then too, I imagine, some of them would mingle with Manderley’s ashes.
The book ‘Rebecca‘ was not about the mysterious woman Rebecca but an ode to the beautiful mansion of Manderley.