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Rebecca's Tale

Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman
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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.

HarperCollins; June 2009
464 pages; ISBN 9780061955778
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Title: Rebecca's Tale
Author: Sally Beauman
 
Excerpt

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 . . .

  • News
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Malorie Blackman: 'I've had to develop a thick skin' - Telegraph.co.uk
Fri, 29 May 2015 08:21:14 -0700
Telegraph.co.ukMalorie Blackman: 'I've had to develop a thick skin'Telegraph.co.ukI really do not comprehend how, ...
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ISBNs
0061955779
9780061174674
9780061955761
9780061955778
9780061955785
9780061955792