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November is the time for ghosts and ghouls so what better than a good old Gothic Novel.

November - revisiting Rebecca

Photo: Selznick International Pictures

Photo: Selznick International Pictures

It’s that of the year again, the nights are drawing in, there is a smell of smoke in the air, green red and rust coloured leaves are everywhere and the search for conkers is on. It’s time to pull the curtains, light the fire, pour the tea and open a good book. November is the time for ghosts and ghouls so what better than a good old Gothic Novel.

So for November our Book of the Month is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. There is a big house, the sea, a brooding anti-hero and Mrs. Danvers!

Rebecca was written in 1938 and has never been out of print since. Although it sold 2.8 million copies between publication and 1965, it was dismissed as ‘a woman’s novel’ - with a huge level of snobbery around it. These reviewers missed the overwhelming sense of menace in the book but yet, master of the macabre, Alfred Hitchcock, saw the potential and the darkness in this novel and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1940 for his film adaptation of the book. For many, including myself, it remains the definitive version, despite his being curtailed by the sensors of the time. Hitchcock, also adapted her novel, Jamaica Inn, in 1939, her short story, The Birds in 1963 and The House on the Strand written in 1969 - a bit of a fan perhaps?

Don’t Look Now, directed by Nicolas Roeg in 1971, adapted from another Du Maurier short story, examines the psychology of grief of a couple after losing their child. Setting it in the atmospheric environment of Venice with its canals and alleyways adds to the sense of menace and anticipation and it is acknowledged as an example of great British horror.

Daphne Du Maurier was born on May 13 1907. She lived most of her life in a rambling old house by the sea in Cornwall, called Menabilly. It, and the landscape of Cornwall was said to influence much of her writing. The link between Manderly and Menabilly is clear to be seen. Du Maurier was a complex character. She described herself as only really only being happy "in the middle of Dartmoor in a hail storm within an hour of sundown of a late November afternoon” (Margaret Forester, biographer). Her personal life was also complex, married with children, she also had a long and loving relationship with actress Gertrude Lawerence. She died in Fowey, Cornwall in 1989 weeks before her 82nd birthday.

Finally, lest you think all Du Maurier’s work is horror and darkness, give yourself a treat and read her short story The Old Man.

So whether you're revisiting Rebecca, or encountering it for the first time we'd love for you to join us in conversation about this gothic noir tale. We'll be hosting the monthly Our City Our Books Book Club on Tuesday 24th and Thursday 26th November at 8pm. Check back here soon for booking details.

If you're curious to know more about the book club or would like to share your thoughts about Our City Our Books, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch at hello@ourcityourbooks.ie

Bernadette Larkin

Our City Our Books Project Manager

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