Blog – Posted on Monday, Oct 19
5 Daphne Du Maurier Books to Read After Watching Rebecca
This post was contributed by Reedsy Discovery reviewer Lou Hurrell.
Just finished watching Netflix’s Rebecca and find yourself hungry for more? Why not satisfy your appetite by checking out some of Daphne du Maurier’s other works? Having written 38 books between 1931 and 1989, du Maurier is a highly prolific author; and with titles ranging from novels and short stories to plays and nonfiction, deciding what to read next can be an overwhelming task. Luckily, we’re here to help: whether you’re Daphne daft or a complete newbie, here are five Daphne du Maurier books to read if you enjoyed Rebecca.
1. Jamaica Inn (1936)
Following her mother’s death, Mary Yellan goes to live with her aunt and uncle at Jamaica Inn, where she soon suspects that everything is not what it seems — especially her uncle Joss. Mary tries to uncover the inn’s dangerous secrets, but when she develops feelings for Joss’s younger brother Jem, her quest becomes complicated.
Like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn has an incredible Gothic atmosphere. Du Maurier’s gorgeous descriptions of the surrounding Cornish moors truly capture the rugged landscape, and call to mind novels such as Wuthering Heights and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Mary’s strong-willed, curious personality also makes her the perfect window through which to enter this world: it’s easy to root for her as she seeks to uncover the mysterious happenings at Jamaica Inn. This is definitely a novel to cosy up with when the nights are getting longer.
2. Frenchman’s Creek (1941)
Lady Dona St. Columb, fed up with her life in London, decides to whisk her children away to her husband’s estate in Cornwall. But when she arrives, she finds the house occupied — by the infamous French pirate Jean-Benoit Aubery. Once she discovers that he isn’t quite as fearsome as he seems, Dona and Jean-Benoit fall in love. Their new relationship is threatened, however, when her husband and his friends show up at the estate.
Expertly blending action-adventure and romance, Frenchman’s Creek is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to both genres: a fun, fast-paced melodrama that du Maurier obviously relished writing. It’s also a brilliant piece of escapism that readers can dive into when they want to leave their troubles behind. The characters are engaging and charming, and the descriptions of the Cornish landscape are beautiful (yet again). Frenchman’s Creek is a perfect pick-me-up to get lost in.
3. The House on the Strand (1969)
Unhappily married Dick has just quit his job, when his old school friend Magnus summons him to Cornwall (where else). Magnus soon reveals the reason behind the visit: he has created a new drug that allows the user to travel through time. Initially sceptical, Dick quickly becomes enthralled, spending his days consumed in the 14th century rather than the present. As his addiction worsens, his wife Vita and two step-sons join him at Magnus’s house.
The House on the Strand is delightfully bonkers. Du Maurier fuses together different genres to create a truly original plot with a take on time travel that has rarely been seen since. She also successfully blends the fantastical with personal, intimate elements, such as Dick’s various relationships. Dick himself is wonderfully written — frustrating at points, yes, but also strangely relatable. There’s a lot to unpack in The House on the Strand, which makes each read more rewarding.
4. My Cousin Rachel (1951)
It would be flat-out wrong to write a list of Daphne du Maurier books without including My Cousin Rachel, one of her most popular novels. The story follows Philip and his cousin Ambrose, who have lived together since childhood. Due to his health, Ambrose regularly spends the winter in Italy. One year, Philip is shocked to hear that Ambrose has married a widow, called Rachel Sangalletti; and even more alarmed to learn of his cousin’s death. The coroner says Ambrose died of a brain tumour, but did the charismatic Rachel have anything to do with it?
Fans of Rebecca will certainly enjoy My Cousin Rachel, as both are romance-mysteries set largely on a country estate in Cornwall. Yet, unlike Rebecca, this dark and thrilling novel tackles both the beginning of one relationship and the disintegration of another. Du Maurier’s clever use of letters throughout allows readers to hear from Ambrose as he spends his final days in Rachel’s company. The novel's trio of voices leads us to ask the gripping question: Who can we trust?
5. The Birds and Other Stories (1952)
Short story lovers, this one’s for you. Perhaps her best-known collection (it inspired the 1963 Hitchcock movie after all), The Birds is a masterclass in short story writing — equal measures thrilling and terrifying. Aside from the titular story, other highlights include ‘The Apple Tree’ and ‘The Old Man’.
‘The Apple Tree’ is a ghost story with no ghosts, in which an unlikable widower believes his wife’s spirit is inside an old oak tree. Meanwhile, in ‘The Old Man’, a neighbour who spends his days spying on a family believes he may have witnessed something sinister (fans of Hitchcock’s Rear Window will enjoy this one). Both highlight du Maurier’s skill in crafting unreliable narrators and ramping up the tension; as well as her ability to write brilliant endings that never fail to shock and surprise. If you don’t fancy reading one of du Maurier’s novels, then The Birds is a great place to start — especially during the spooky season!
Lou Hurrell has been writing about books since 2017, when she started her blog Random Book Reviews Web. She joined Reedsy Discovery as a book reviewer early this year. When she is not busy reading or writing, she can be found in her local cinema, theatre, or in her kitchen attempting to bake.