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REBECCA’S TALE by Sally Beauman


by Sally Beauman

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-621108-5
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . . and again and again. Estate-authorized remake of the classic Daphne du Maurier suspense novel, unimaginatively told from several points of view, in exhausting detail.

Let's see, there's Colonel Julyan, Rebecca's faithful friend, now 20 years older and much frailer but determined to tell his side of the story if his daughter Ellie would just stop coddling him. Old soldiers never die—and this one never shuts up, either. Beset by, um, dreams of Manderley, he eventually unburdens himself to Terence Gray, a historian seeking to find out more about the mysterious Rebecca while he comes to terms with the ghosts of his own past. Gray's a thoughtful, thorough chap with a knack for drawing out dotty spinsters and other odd folk. Jump back 20 years and Rebecca herself chimes in (rather melodramatically), answering most but not all of the questions raised by Julyan and Gray. Then practical-minded Ellie has her say, and the second Mrs. De Winter pops up at the very end. The story remains much the same: Rebecca, the beautiful, much-admired mistress of Manderley, is emotionally distant from her wealthy husband Max de Winter, who thinks she's having an affair, and suspects her dissolute cousin Jack Favell, among others. Then Rebecca disappears shortly after a clandestine visit to a London doctor. Was she pregnant? Was Max the father? Was she murdered? Her sailboat is dredged up a year or so later, with her corpse inside. Meantime, veteran romancer Beauman (Danger Zones, 1996, etc.) adds a Dickensian ensemble of minor characters from several generations, including orphans and actors and lovelorn ladies. A discreet attempt is made to spice things up with hints of incest and similar goings-on, but the tone is off—and noticeably lacking the plangent melancholy of the original.

More an endless explanation than a sequel.