The author, Daphne Du Maurier, paints the deceased woman as seen through the eyes of several other characters, leaving the reader to tease out the true spirit of Rebecca de Winter, and how and why she died. Rebecca never gets to speak for herself, so the reader must decide whom to believe.
The impressions of Rebecca that her husband, friends and servants provide are further warped by the insecurities of our narrator, the second Mrs. de Winter. This second wife of Maxim de Winter, mousy and plain by comparison to the beautiful and confident Rebecca, is greatly intimidated by the ghost of her predecessor.
Beauman’s sequel (approved by the Du Maurier family) begins about twenty years later, when people are still arguing over the mystery of Rebecca’s death and what sort of woman she was. This novel is told through four first-person narrators, one of whom is the title character! This time Rebecca gets to speak for herself through her journal, but even her own version is sketchy, and we’re left unsure of what to believe.
It’s difficult to describe Rebecca’s Tale without giving away so much as to ruin the pleasure of discovering these novels fresh for yourself. Suffice it to say that when you get to the end of Rebecca’s Tale it seems the real story is finally out. Yet, somehow I still feel lingering mystery. Is this truly the final word?
Both novels start very slowly, to my taste. But hang in there. Once they pick up, you’ll find yourself on an intriguing ride.