Rebecca's Tale

Rebecca's Tale

by Sally Beauman


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Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman

April 1951. It has been twenty years since the death of Rebecca, the hauntingly beautiful first wife of Maxim de Winter, and twenty years since Manderley, the de Winter family's estate, was destroyed by fire. But Rebecca's tale is just beginning.

Colonel Julyan, an old family friend, receives an anonymous package concerning Rebecca. An inquisitive young scholar named Terence Gray appears and stirs up the quiet seaside hamlet with questions about the past and the close ties he soon forges with the Colonel and his eligible daughter, Ellie. Amid bitter gossip and murky intrigue, the trio begins a search for the real Rebecca and the truth behind her mysterious death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061174674
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/30/2007
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 344,227
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Sally Beauman is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist who began her career at New York magazine. Her internationally bestselling novels, including Rebecca's Tale, her sequel to Daphne du Maurier's iconic work, have been translated into more than twenty languages. She has written for The New Yorker, the Sunday Times, and numerous other leading periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic.


London, England

Date of Birth:

July 25, 1944

Place of Birth:

Torquay, Devon, England


B.A. in English Literature, Hons Cantab, 1966; M. A., Hons Cantab, 1969

Read an Excerpt

Rebecca's Tale

Chapter One

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. These dreams are now recurring with a puzzling frequency, and I've come to dread them. All of the Manderley dreams are bloodcurdling and this one was the worst-no question at all.

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 toward me. I made a cowardly moaning sound. Then I saw this phantom was wrapped up in a dressing gown and its hair was disheveled. 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 willfulness-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 eleven 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 thirty-one-year-old daughter 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 toward 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, under 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 toward 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 open a little as I'd requested, then turned away with a resigned air. She left the curtains half-drawn, 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 first saw her, 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.

I watched her down the corridor of years. Again and again, just as she did then, she came to a halt as I stepped out . . .

Rebecca's Tale. Copyright (c) by Sally Beauman . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide


Rebecca's Tale works well as a stand-alone novel, while its highly skillful references to Daphne du Maurier's famous novel Rebecca make it a deeply satisfying reading experience. Sally Bauman comes up with a moving and exciting vision of what might have happened at Manderley. There are always at least two sides to any story, and Bauman has mined du Maurier's novel for many points of view, without ever distorting or disrespecting the original novel. Her story in no way cancels out the first novel; rather it adds to it, deepens its possibilities, and perhaps humanizes the characters of Maxim, Rebecca, and the young narrator to whom everything in the past is so frightening and unclear. The Rebecca of Beauman's story is very believable, a fully rounded, human woman, with both strengths and faults. The story of Manderly and its ill-fated inhabitants now has a new volume, fully worthy of the first, and definitely just as suspenseful.

Questions for Discussion

1. What are some of the important ways in which Beauman's Rebecca differs from Du Maurier's? Is she portrayed simply as a good woman instead of a bad woman?

2. Similarly, what changes or complications does Beauman add to the character of Maxim? How does this change the whole atmosphere of the story?

3. What is it about the young Mrs. deWinter that makes her attractive to Maxim?

4. Beauman makes clear her respect of du Maurier's original novel in her first sentence, which is the first sentence of the original novel, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." (Page 3) What are some of the elements of the first novel that might make the ideaof a "sequel" so inviting to a writer?

5. Whereas in du Maurier's novel, the character of Rebecca remains mysterious and is seen mainly through the eyes of her husband, Beauman has filled in the details of her life leading up to her time as mistress of Manderly. Do you find the story believable and consistent with a character like Rebecca?

6. Do you find Beauman's narrative style consistent with du Maurier, who wrote her novel in the 1930s? How important is this kind of consistency?

7. What do the new characters of Tom and Ellie add to the story of "the Manderley mystery?"

8. Did you find yourself identifying with any of the characters in this novel? Which one, and why?

9. Some readers question the idea of current writers choosing to write new "sequels" to classic novels by writers who are now dead. What is your opinion?

10. Do you consider Beauman's version of Rebecca herself a more feminist interpretation? Why or why not?

Customer Reviews

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Rebecca's Tale 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the worst books I think I've ever read. I don't understand why people think this was well written. I found the writing plodding, clunky, and slow. There were certain things, especially towards the end, that just left me wondering what on earth the author was thinking. In terms of story, this was a total waste of paper. The author doesn't want to "shed light" on the original - she wants to rewrite it. There are things that are presented as simple fact in the original that she suddenly decides aren't really true. I found her characters either boring or unsympathetic, and I found her manipulations of the characters from the original novel to be far fetched at best. I think in many ways she misses the point of the original. Rebecca isn't a character on whom light is meant to be shed. She's supposed to be a mystery. She's supposed to be an enigma. That's part of the power of the original story. Besides that, much of the "history" she creates for the character feels more like a joke than it does anything that could possibly "answer questions" about Du Maurier's original characters. If you're left with questions after the original... good! That's the point. Not everything is meant to be answered all the time. Having someone write a book about it after Du Maurier is dead doesn't answer questions. Beauman has no freaking clue what Du Maurier might have had in mind. She's just plain old making it up. You can do the same thing yourself without having to waste your time and money reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to read this book and by the time I finished it, I was thoroughly dissapointed because nothing exciting happened. I kept waiting for an intersting climax, only to be sadly dissapointed. The original Rebecca should be left just as it is, without any differing versions of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This ended up being such a great book! I just wanted something to read before I went to bed. I ended up reading the story a lot during the day too. I love the characterization and unique perspectives of time. The narrative is so rich that certain sequences could almost be short stories by  themselves. I think that some of the reviewers were just too stuck on their interpretation of the original story of Rebecca to appreciate what a gem this book is. And I am such a finicky reader most of the time too. so I do understand how that can be, but this book is great. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I enjoyed the writing style and the voice it was written in, I did not like the story it was telling me. This is so different from what Rebecca was that I don't feel like I was reading the same story. I am sorry for the unfortunate portrayal of the second Mrs Dewinter as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed reading Rebecca, and looked forward to Rebecca's Tale, however, this book destroys any sympathy one may have felt for Rebecca from the first book. Rebecca is basically a man-hating, conniving, manipulative woman who is so focused on revenge for past injustices, both actual and perceived, that one hardly feels sympathy for her as she "whines" away in her diary. She is too obsessed with destroying men and I feel that this theme, running throughout this story, makes for a disappointing, depressing read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always been a huge fan of Rebecca. I must have read this book SO many times, always imagining what happened after Mandery burnt down, and the lives of Maxim and the second Mrs.DeWinter. You can imagine how excited I was when I learned there was a sequal to Rebecca. I bought this book, and read it in 3 days. The bottom line? BURN THIS BOOK. NOT only did it ruin the original story for me, it made me angry to see the second Mrs.DeWinter as a such a weak and naive person. It was ridiculous to read that she was pitied. In Rebecca, I loved the way our unnamed narrator turned out to be such a strong person, who had a loving husband. I had hoped so much that they would have happy lives, and loved each other without any membrance of Rebecca but NOT in this book. It did say that they loved each other, but it gives hints that Max had always loved Rebecca deep in his heart, one example is how he took her enternity ring on her ring finger after Rebecca died (the eternity ring was a ring Reecca's father gave her) Max had said he would replace it with his ring and he did so in the end. AND, there is more hints of course. Overall this is such a disspointing book. If you are a fan of the second Mrs.DeWinter and Maxim, don't read this book. I wish now that I never read or wasted my money. NOW I'd have to read the original over again to try to forget this horrible book otherwise it will give me nightmares!
Fourborne on LibraryThing 8 days ago
Rebeccas's Tale is a continuation of Rebecca. It takes place years later. There are 3 people telling their versions of Rebecca and her mysterious notebooks. The 3 people lives intertwine with each others.I read some of the other reviews. I liked this book. But I do have to admit I haven't read Rebecca I've only seen the 2 versions of the movie.(My favorite being the black and white one). I had already decided that I would read Rebecca when I read this. I'll review back to see if my rating changes.
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing 8 days ago
I should first say that I'm not a diehard fan of Rebecca (though I do quite like it), so my response to Rebecca's Tale may be different from truly devoted fans of the original novel. The novel is divided into 4 parts, each with a different narrator (I won't name them here in case that counts as a spoiler!). Beauman does a good job of giving each character his / her own distinct voice; some writers attempt to narrate with different characters, but everyone sounds the same-- that's not the case here. Chalk one up for Beauman's style. I think what I liked most about Beauman's novel was the themes she chose to pick up and elaborate on from Rebecca: death sealed in persons (along with sterility), the life in nature, the notion of place (and breaking away from it), and a few others. Explorations of sexuality are also more explicit in this novel; even nature becomes almost overwhelmingly fecund. The novel still hovers at the question of who Rebecca was in life, but it also tries to pick apart who and what she has become in death. I should emphasize that this is NOT a retelling of Rebecca but a "further-telling" of, perhaps, Manderly itself and the lives of all it touches. It's not a remake, and it's overall not an attempt to explain (its weakest moments are, in fact, when it DOES try to explain, and that's why I give it 4 stars, along with the fact that it can be rather obvious in its "mysteries" at some points). Recommended, especially after rereading Rebecca.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the original novel as well as the superb movie, so my expectations were not high, but the premise was interesting and I expected to be entertained. I was not disappointed. The story was complicated and sometimes hard to follow, unlike the original. It held my interest and although it was not the way I would have solved the mystery I applaud the author's take and found I liked knowing more about the characters who were so compelling in the original.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good for a sequel to a classic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting but one author cant take anothers book and change the actual story why not tell mrs winters story or the cousin who got sick when he learned she had c.a. or do the next years when they go away from england and she has a child and they settle down renember these estates were also working farms and evan a village owned by the estate
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't like this book from the beginning. To me, none of the backgrounds were believable. Too sympathetic to Rebecca. Too many new characters. And what she did with the 2nd Mrs. De Winter was sad and, to me, not believable by the end of 'Rebecca,' she became a stronger woman whom Maxim loved and who loved him. Yes, one person can be remembered in many people's lives even after death, but that doesn't mean that they're good memories or, if they are, then what kind of person is having the memory: The people Rebecca had affairs with? The obsessive Mrs. Danvers? Or people she just put on a show for?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry but I have to disagree with all the other reviewers. Sally Beauman nailed all the previous characters correctly. She is an obviously talented writer. I didn't expect her writing style to be like D. DuMaurier's since I think a writing style is a lot like a fingerprint and can't truly be duplicated. Rebecca left out a lot of detail in her version of events that would have explained Maxim's dislike for her a lot more believably than her pitiful little tale about the boy on the beach. I believe it reflected her egotistical view of herself that she flattered herself that he was still in love with her the whole time. I also think since T. Gray discovered inconsistencies in Rebecca's version of her tale (i.e. her father's death and all the gaps in her story) that other parts of her version were most likely a load of distortion of actual events as well. Like Maxim's undying love for her. This book did not ruin my love for DuMaurier's book Rebecca or the second Mrs. de Winter. In the original Rebecca the second Mrs. de Winter expresses how mousie she felt in the shadow and memories everyone had of Rebecca. What the characters in Rebecca's Tale were referring to was exactly how the second Mrs. de Winter felt the brief time she was at Manderley. She didn't acquire her courage and self confidence until after Manderley burned and they left England in Rebecca. I believe her strangeness with Ellie had a lot to do with her old wounds about the whole situation being reopened by the visit back to Manderley. The only parts I wasn't satisfied with was Rebecca's supposed vision of the future second Mrs. de Winter - I thought that was rather stupid. The reason given for Maxim's death was absurd. I also disagreed somewhat with Ellie's behavior in the end. It was as if she were developing some serious obsession with Rebecca's thoughts and what Rebecca's decisions would have been if she were in this or that situation and used that as a way of making her own life altering decisions. In the end of it all, I do understand that one person can make a difference in so many other lives but I believe that throughout Rebecca and Rebecca's Tale all of the characters over reacted as though their entire future happiness lay in the hands of a deceiving and conniving woman that only got where she was because of her beauty, cleverness, and her ability to act as something she wasn't - a good and decent person. Ironically the only character that did seem to move past this was the second Mrs. de Winter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the book Rebecca and have for many years. For me, Rebecca's Tale became something like a terrible car accident, I wanted to turn away but I just couldn't. The book is a compelling read, however, if you truly loved the original story, STAY AWAY from this one. It could very well ruin Rebecca for you. This book is as the title suggests REBECCA'S story. You may come to truly like Rebecca---- but remember---- in order to truly like Rebecca you have to sacrifice something and that may be your love for the second Mrs. De Winter. Proceed with Caution. If you aren't a huge fan of the original Rebecca, or if you found yourself drawn to the dark and mysterious Rebecca more than Maxim's sweet young wife, try this book, you may like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heartily agree with reader Em-239's comments below. I have read Daphne DuMaurier's "Rebecca" every year (sometimes 2x a year) as I love Ms. DuMaurier's style of writing. It is my favorite novel. I've also read "Mrs. deWinter" by Susan Hill when it was published and although I did enjoy reading another author's take on life post-Manderly it fell short of Rebecca. Then I came across "Rebecca's Tale" and was excited at the prospect of reading yet another author's interpretation. What a disappointment. I've had the book 3 weeks and am still struggling to finish reading it. I dislike the author's style and her twist on the characters' personalities. This book belongs back on the grocery check-out bookshelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Beauman's portrayal of Du Maurier's original characters too out of character. For example, the Colonel was too 'backbone of the community' to be in love with Rebecca. Two, Beauman tried to create sympathy for Rebecca. Three, the acts of the next Mrs. De Winter seemed wrong. Even the honeymoon confession of a teen rape seemed flimsy and too shallow to feed such a hatred as DeWinter held for his wife. Yet, the mystery surrounding Mrs. Danvers and the new love story is good. If you really want to enjoy this, don't read the original immediately before or soon after. Let the facts and characters become hazy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would recommend Rebecca's Tale to anyone, whether or not the original Rebecca was read before. I couldn't put this book down. It revealed many secrets for the characters in Rebecca as well as the new characters introduced in Rebecca's Tale. This book explains Rebecca de Winter's past through a journal that was sent to one of her friends, Colonel Julyan. With the help of Terence Gray, a writer, Julyan was determined to find out the truth about Rebecca's mysterious death. Through her journal entries and through past acquaintances, Julyan and Gray link together the clues and finally discover the secretive life of Rebecca de Winter. There was never a moment that I was bored while reading this book. All of my questions from Rebecca were answered. Rebecca's Tale definitely deserves five stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Deep mystery with a topical romance theme, but well crafted. I prefer a bit more activity and interaction between characters like Joe Matlock or Nicholas Sparks works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this novel following in the footsteps of the famous REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, Manderley is revisited in 1951, twenty years following Rebecca¿s death.

Colonel Julyan, former magistrate for the districts of Kerrith and Manderley, had previously been involved in the inquest where Rebecca¿s death was ruled a suicide thereby exonerating her husband, Maxim de Winter. When a mysterious parcel arrives bearing Rebecca¿s notebook along with a postcard of her as a young child, the Colonel is forced to recreate his memories of Rebecca and Manderley where she lived. Adding to the reopening of old wounds is the presence of outsider Terence Gray, who seems to have a single-minded interest in the mystery of Rebecca¿s death.

As Mr. Gray becomes the talk of Kerrith, and spinster ladies link him to Ellie, the Colonel¿s unmarried daughter, the Colonel receives more interesting parcels. Ellie, Gray, and Julyan are caught up in a web that is so intricate in its weave, the reader will not want to miss a word of their tale as hidden truths of the past are disclosed. Gray leads the reader on a merry journey in his quest for self-discovery leading to Rebecca and her haunting legacy. From her journals and first-person accounts of encounters with Rebecca, she remains as much an enigma as she did in Ms. du Maurier¿s novel.

As the intensity of this read increases, so does the complexity of its characters. Those inhabitants of Manderley, who appear at first very commonplace, become so much more as the many layers of their personalities are carefully revealed. For a superbly crafted read with much mystery, some romance, and a pinch of the paranormal, REBECCA¿S TALE is a must-read.