ne du Maurier's Rebecca is one of the best loved, most widely read novels of the 20th century. The book has remained in print continuously since its publication in 1938, and the film adaptation, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, won an Oscar for best picture.
Rebecca is the story of a beautiful, enigmatic woman who married a wealthy man, Maxim de Winter, and died under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind memories that haunted the lives of everyone who knew her. The novel is narrated by the second Mrs. de Winter, a character who plays second fiddle to the memory of Rebecca, and all we know of Rebecca's story is told through her.
Rebecca's Tale, a new sequel by Sally Beauman, takes up the story 20 years after the death of Rebecca de Winter and tells it through the words of four characters, not the least of whom is Rebecca herself. The book is divided into four chapters, each one giving voice to a person who holds a piece of the puzzle: Colonel Julyan, a gentleman now old and feeble but still devoted to Rebecca's memory; Terence Gray, a likeable young man with his own secret agenda and connections to the de Winter legend; Rebecca, who appears from beyond the grave to speak for herself when her secret journals come to light; and Ellie, Colonel Julyan's daughter, whose young dreams must coexist with her aging father's obsession with Manderley and the de Winters.
Each of these characters stands out as an individual, yet their narratives are remarkably true to the tone of the original novel, a seamless extension of a story that begs to be continued. This sequel stands strongly on its own and though its publication will likely prompt a renewed interest in the original novel, having read the first book is not a prerequisite for enjoying the sequel.
There's also a delicious irony in the authorship of Rebecca's Tale. Sally Beauman, a respected novelist, was handpicked by the du Maurier estate to write the book after she wrote a 1993 New Yorker article blasting the quality of a previous, unauthorized sequel. The estate made a wise choice. Beauman has produced a supremely stylish mystery that offers ingenious solutions to the enigmas posed by the original novel and a beautifully crafted sequel that is magical in its own right as well as by association.
Mary Garrett reads and writes in Middle Tennessee.