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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier

  1. Character Exploration:

    • How does the character of the narrator evolve throughout the novel? What factors contribute to her transformation?
    • Analyze the complexities of Mrs. Danvers' character. What motivates her actions, and how does she contribute to the overall atmosphere of the novel?
    • Discuss the significance of the absent character, Rebecca, and the impact of her presence on the other characters.
  2. Themes and Motifs:

    • Explore the theme of identity in the novel, especially in relation to the unnamed narrator and Rebecca. How do societal expectations influence their identities?
    • Discuss the motif of the Manderley estate as a symbol of power, wealth, and secrets. How does the estate contribute to the overall mood and atmosphere of the novel?
    • Analyze the theme of jealousy and its effects on the characters, particularly the narrator and Mrs. Danvers.
  3. Narrative Techniques:

    • Consider the use of the unreliable narrator in "Rebecca." How does the narrator's perspective shape the reader's understanding of the events in the novel?
    • Discuss the significance of the novel's opening line, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." How does this line set the tone for the rest of the story?
  4. Social and Historical Context:

    • Explore the portrayal of gender roles and expectations in the novel. How do characters like Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers challenge or conform to traditional gender norms?
    • Discuss the novel's setting in relation to its historical context. How do elements of class, wealth, and privilege influence the characters' interactions and motivations?
  5. Plot and Symbolism:

    • Analyze the significance of Rebecca's death and the mystery surrounding it. How does her absence drive the plot forward, and what does it reveal about the other characters?
    • Discuss the symbolism of the various objects and settings in the novel, such as Rebecca's room, the sea, and the costume ball.
  6. Comparative Analysis:

    • Compare "Rebecca" to other Gothic novels or works of literature that explore similar themes, such as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. What similarities and differences do you observe in terms of plot, character, and atmosphere?
  7. Reader Response and Interpretation:

    • How does the ending of the novel affect your interpretation of the story as a whole? Did it meet your expectations, or were you surprised by the outcome?
    • Reflect on your emotional response to the novel. What aspects of the story resonated with you, and why?

Dame Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989) was a renowned English author and playwright, best known for her works in the Gothic, psychological thriller, and romance genres. Here's a brief biography of her life:

  1. Early Life: Daphne du Maurier was born on May 13, 1907, in London, England, into a well-to-do family with literary connections. She was the second of three daughters born to Sir Gerald du Maurier, a prominent actor-manager, and Muriel Beaumont, an actress.

  2. Literary Background: Growing up in a family of writers and performers, du Maurier was exposed to the world of literature and theater from a young age. Her grandfather was the noted writer and cartoonist George du Maurier, and her father was a celebrated actor and playwright.

  3. Educational Background: Du Maurier was educated at home by governesses and later attended finishing schools in France and Switzerland. She did not attend university but developed a passion for writing during her formative years.

  4. Literary Career: Du Maurier's literary career began in the 1920s when she started publishing short stories and articles in various magazines. Her first novel, "The Loving Spirit," was published in 1931 and received critical acclaim. However, it was her third novel, "Jamaica Inn" (1936), a dark tale of smuggling and betrayal set in Cornwall, that brought her widespread recognition.

  5. Major Works: Du Maurier's most famous works include "Rebecca" (1938), a Gothic novel that remains her best-known and most beloved work, "My Cousin Rachel" (1951), "Frenchman's Creek" (1941), and "The Birds" (1952), which was adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock.

  6. Personal Life: Du Maurier married Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Browning in 1932, and they had three children together. Despite her marriage, du Maurier was known to have had romantic relationships with both men and women throughout her life, although she never publicly labeled her sexuality.

  7. Later Years: Du Maurier continued to write prolifically throughout her life, publishing novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote non-fiction works, including biographies and travelogues. In 1969, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contributions to literature.

  8. Legacy: Daphne du Maurier is remembered as one of the most talented and versatile writers of the 20th century, known for her atmospheric storytelling, complex characters, and vivid settings. Her works continue to be celebrated for their enduring appeal and influence on subsequent generations of writers and filmmakers.

Daphne du Maurier passed away on April 19, 1989, at the age of 81, leaving behind a rich literary legacy that continues to captivate readers worldwide.


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