The book opens on April 12, 1951, the 20th anniversary of Rebecca's death. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again", writes Colonel Julyan, an old family friend of the de Winters. As old age and ill health threaten to overtake him, 20 years of doubt about the true cause of Rebecca's death are sharply reawakened with the arrival of an anonymous parcel containing a small black notebook entitled Rebecca's Tale. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger, recently arrived in the locality, appears equally determined to find answers to the string of inconsistencies raised by Rebecca's life and death. The Colonel and his dutiful daughter Ellie are both drawn to the handsome, intelligent Terence Grey but both are wary and wonder if he really is what he appears to be.
As the plot twists and turns, the revelations are both shocking and inevitable. Favourite characters--spooky Mrs Danvers and Jack Favell, Rebecca's reckless cousin-drift in and out. This is a big book (495 pages), yet, once begun, most will find it difficult to put down-just as well for there are so many complexities it doesn't do to take your time. Ultimately, Rebecca's Tale offers its own version of events, yet for du Maurier fans, it is reassuring in that it raises many more. And, cleverly, Beauman has added her own, somehow more relevant sub-plot. Perhaps the "truth" about Rebecca's life is only as important as the legacy she left those whose lives she touched. What they choose to do with it, and how they choose to live their lives, is the central issue here. This novel will appeal to anyone who has ever read Rebecca and, thanks to her finely woven plot and subtle undercurrents of hope and inspiration, it will appeal just as much to those who have not. --Carey Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Compelling, absorbing, captivating, haunting- Sally Beauman's most ambitious and imaginative book so far (Elaine Showalter)
REBECCA'S TALE is bold and clever...In this evocative and compulsive reworking of the balance of power between the sexes, Sally Beauman steers her creation into feminist territory and succeeds in overturning our loyalties. (Elizabeth Buchan, THE TIMES)
Once you start reading a Beauman book, you can't put it down, as Rebecca's Tale attests...I felt satisfied that she had done an extraordinary thing; she convinced me that the Rebecca of these assorted memories really was the Rebecce that du Maurier's novel (Linda Grant, GUARDIAN)
From Sally Beauman, the bestselling author of DESTINY, comes the superbly daring and completely captivating companion to one of the best-loved novels in the English language.
'A masterly piece of literary resurrection' Penny Perrick, Sunday Times
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
I cried out Rebecca's name in my sleep, so loudly that it woke me. I sat bolt upright, staring at darkness, afraid to reach for the light switch in case that little hand again grasped mine. I heard the sound of bare feet running along the corridor; I was still inside the dream, still reliving that appalling moment when the tiny coffin began to move. Where had I been taking it? Why was it so small?
The door opened, a thin beam of light fingered the walls, and a pale shape began to move quietly towards me. I made a cowardly moaning sound. Then I saw this phantom was wrapped up in a dressing-gown and its hair was dishevelled: I began to think it might be my daughter - but was she really there, or was I dreaming her too? Once I was sure it was Ellie, the palpitations diminished and the dream slackened its hold. Ellie hid her fears by being practical. She fetched warm milk and aspirin; she lit the gas fire, plumped up my pillows, and attacked my wayward eiderdown. Half an hour later, when we were both calmer, my nightmare was blamed on wilfulness - and my weakness for late-night snacks of bread and cheese.
This fictitious indigestion was meant to reassure me - and it provided a good excuse for all Ellie's anxious questions concerning pain. Did I have an ache in the heart region? (Yes, I did.) Any breathing difficulties? 'No, I damn well don't,' I growled. 'It was just a nightmare, that's all. Stop fussing, Ellie, for Heaven's sake, and stop flapping around-'
'Mousetrap!' said my lovely, agitated, unmarried daughter. 'Why don't you listen, Daddy? If I've warned you once, I've warned you a thousand times . . .'
Well, indeed. I've never been good at heeding anyone's warnings, including my own.
I finally agreed that my feeling peckish at 11 p.m. had been to blame; I admitted that eating my whole week's ration of Cheddar (an entire ounce!) in one go had been rash and ill-advised. A silence ensued. My fears had by then receded; a familiar desolation was taking hold. Ellie was standing at the end of my bed, her hands gripping its brass foot-rail. Her candid eyes rested on my face. It was past midnight. My daughter is blessed with innocence, but she is nobody's fool. She glanced at her watch. 'It's Rebecca, isn't it?' she said, her tone gentle. 'It's the anniversary of her death today - and that always affects you, Daddy. Why do we pretend?'
Because it's safer that way, I could have replied. It's twenty years since Rebecca died, so I've had two decades to learn the advantages of such pretences. That wasn't the answer I gave, however; in fact, I made no answer at all. Something - perhaps the expression in Ellie's eyes, perhaps the absence of reproach or accusation in her tone, perhaps simply the fact that my daughter, who is thirty-one, still calls me 'Daddy' - something at that point pierced my heart. I looked away, and the room blurred.
I listened to the sound of the sea, which, on calm nights when the noise of the wind doesn't drown it out, can be heard clearly in my bedroom. It was washing against the rocks in the inhospitable cove below my garden: high tide.
'Open the window a little, Ellie,' I said.
Ellie, who is subtle, did so without further comment or questions. She looked out across the moonlit bay towards the headland opposite, where Manderley lies. The great de Winter house, now in a state of ruination, is little more than a mile away as the crow flies. It seems remote when approached by land, for our country roads here are narrow and twisting, making many detours around the creeks and coves that cut into our coastline; but it is swiftly reached by boat. In my youth, I often sailed across there with Maxim de Winter in my dinghy. We used to moor in the bay below Manderley - the bay where, decades later, in mysterious circumstances, his young wife Rebecca would die.
I made a small sound in my throat, which Ellie pretended not to hear. She continued to look out across the water towards the Manderley headland, to the rocks that mark the point, to the woods that protect and shield the house from view. I thought she might speak then, but she didn't; she gave a small sigh, left the casement ajar as I'd requested, then turned away with a resigned air. She left the curtains parted, settled me for sleep, and then with one last anxious and regretful glance left me alone with the past.
A thin bright band of moonlight bent into the room; on the air came a breath of salt and sea freshness: Rebecca rose up in my mind. I saw her again as I saw her that first time, when I was ignorant of the power she would come to exert on my life and my imagination (that I possess any imagination at all, is something most people would deny). I watched her enter, then re-enter, then re-enter again that great mausoleum of a drawing-room at Manderley - a room, indeed an entire house, that she would shortly transform. She entered at a run, bursting out of the bright sunlight, unaware anyone was waiting for her: a bride of three months; a young woman in a white dress, with a tiny blue enamelled butterfly brooch pinned just above her heart. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.