Rebecca Reexamined

Jonathan Yardley compares Rebecca with Jane Eyre.

Over the years there have been countless imitations of “Jane Eyre.” Whether “Rebecca” is in fact one of these is debatable, but the similarities do tend to leap out. Jane Eyre is governess to a wealthy girl; the unnamed narrator of “Rebecca” is companion to a wealthy older woman. Both women (19 and 21 years old, respectively) are mousy in appearance (or think they are) and beleaguered by self-doubt. Both come into the employ of brooding, mysterious men in their forties — Edward Fairfax Rochester and Maxim de Winter — and both fall in love with them. Both men harbor dreadful secrets: Jane learns Rochester’s on the eve of their wedding, the heroine of “Rebecca” learns de Winter’s after three months of marriage. The majestic country mansions owned by both men burn to the ground in spectacular conflagrations. Happy endings are achieved, but at a high price.

The article is part of Yardley’s occasional series on notable books from the past.