Book Traveling Thursdays is a weekly meme for book bloggers which celebrates the distance a book travels by way of its covers. I’ve only recently discovered this meme thanks to the blog of the co-creator, Catia (the other being Danielle) and the Goodreads group, but I love the concept of it – particularly because it gives me the chance to see beautiful editions of books and develop some major cover envy. My previous BTT can be found here.
This week’s topic is: Because some books stay with us forever!! Choose a book you want to re-read in 2016. I’m a serial re-reader so just choosing one single book to feature was tricky, to say the least, but I finally settled on one of my favourite novels of all-time: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
For those unaware, Rebecca is a 1938 book penned by Daphne du Maurier and famously adapted onto film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. It tells the story of the shy, unnamed heroine who, at the outset of the novel, is working as a paid companion to a rich lady holidaying in Monte Carlo. It is here that she meets the mysterious Maxim de Winter, a rich and handsome widower who owns a famed Cornish estate named Manderley, the name of which features in the novel’s intriguing opening line: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. After their whirlwind romance in Southern France, Maxim returns to the estate with the new Mrs de Winter in tow, but slowly she begins to realise that the house, its staff, and perhaps Maxim himself are still haunted by the ghost of the first Mrs de Winter, the enigmatic and eponymous Rebecca, a haunting presence who, even in death, manages to cast a long shadow over the novel’s inhabitants and, indeed, the novel itself.
Rebecca holds an oddly special place in my heart and it’s because of this that I’m rather picky when it comes to the cover design of the novel. I think I’m yet to see an absolutely perfect cover design for this novel, due in part, I think, to the fact that the narrative can be read on so many different critical levels and frameworks. However, some publishers have come close to perfection, whilst others have produced complete swings-and-misses!
Original cover – published by Gollancz, 1938
Rebecca is renowned for having never been out of print – and this was the cover of its very first printing. It’s certainly functional, it does the job – it tells you the title of the novel and the author, but that’s all that can really be said about this one! Thank goodness the design of subsequent editions proved to be a little more interesting…
Cover(s) from my country – UK, published by Virago (Various years)
I simply couldn’t do a post about Rebecca’s cover design and neglect Virago. An originally British publishing company, Virago was founded specifically to focus on publishing books by women, and they have produced some simply stunning covers over the years – their editions of Rebecca are no exceptions and are particularly beautiful, in my opinion, hence why I’ve chosen Virago’s covers to feature as those from my country.
Favourite Cover – published by Albin Michel (2015); Orion (2007)
Once again, indecisiveness struck and so we have a tie. First, this French edition published by Albin Michel. I think the colour palette of this design is simply beautiful, and I say that as someone who generally hates pink-y shades. I like the contrast, however, of the black wrought iron gates against the pink blossoms of the trees, adding a subtle suggestion of the element of entrapment within the novel, something which harks back to its roots in the Gothic genre.
Secondly, this hardback collector’s edition published by Orion isn’t quite as pretty, colour-wise, as the Albin Michel edition but the concept is something I adore. One of the things frequently forgotten by Rebecca‘s cover design is its place within the Gothic genre – with its many tropes of entrapment, the vulnerable heroine, haunting, memories, spectrality, and the enigmatic hero, all of which influenced Rebecca – but this edition managed to combine that influence with a pleasingly pretty William Morris-esque floral pattern, which is no mean feat!
Least Favourite Cover – published by Gyldendal (2010)
For every beautiful cover of Rebecca that exists, an equally disappointing one also lurks. Film and TV adaptation tie-in editions aren’t the prettiest of covers at times, and Rebecca’s are no exception to this rule. However, I’ve found a cover that tops all of the rushed design of a tie-in edition, and it is this example by Gyldendal, what I’m reliably informed is a Norwegian publishing company. This edition, for me, entirely misses the point of Rebecca – it’s not about the sunny streets of Monte Carlo, where our narrator and Maxim meet, it’s about Cornwall and the Cornish coast and Manderley. Which brings me to my next point – is the rather stylish figure depicted on the cover meant to be the narrator or the eponymous Rebecca? I’m not sure who or what the cover is – and I’m not entirely sure the design does either! No, not my cup of tea at all.
So there we have it, this week’s Book Travelling Thursdays. What do you think of these covers? Which is your favourite? Have you participated in Book Travelling Thursday too? Let me know in the comments!
- ‘Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca taught me how to love literature’
- ‘Literary greats: Rebecca – Love, paranoia, obsession’
- Paloma Faith’s song ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ (a song that reminds me of Rebecca)
- WordsofaReader’s Review of Rebecca