I first read this book sophomore year of high school, about six years ago. I was surprised how much of it had stayed with me, but also how well it held up with someone who already knew the conclusion to all the mystery.
Du Maurier knows well how to spin an enthralling mystery. She builds the suspense slowly and steadily and creates an atmosphere that for me is rarely found elsewhere. Rebecca and Manderley are both palpable characters even though neither of them are actually alive. The narrator is eminently sympathetic, and even though she is a bit wimpy, it’s easy to understand why and how. She’s out of her league for the most part, and she copes the best she can. Each character feels like they could exist, except perhaps Rebecca, but that could just be because she is so different from me – even the cruel Mrs. Danvers has two sides and her cruelty is to some extent understood and explained to the reader. They all have motives for their actions. Everything is tight and well done.
Also, the first person narration is excellent – we really do see through the current Mrs de Winter’s eyes and she acts as a filter for our understanding.
This novel is excellent, and there’s a reason why my edition says it is the classic tale of romantic suspense. I also read recently that du Maurier was consciously evoking JANE EYRE, which may help to explain its similar everlasting appeal. There is nothing about this novel that isn’t five star, and I happily recommend it to everyone I know.