Rebecca and Fowey

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” The opening line from Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic novel ‘Rebecca’ which has been captured on film again and will be shown on Netflix, starting Wednesday 21st October. This latest version stars Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas as the fearsome Mrs Danvers.

The novel was first published in 1938 and the main setting for the book is the Menabilly estate just outside Fowey on Cornwall’s south coast. Daphne had sneaked into the extensive grounds to get the inspiration for the darker parts of the novel, including the overgrown driveway described on the first page of the book in the main characters dream. The cry of gulls and the presence of the sea are never far away as the reader delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Rebecca.

Those who have read the book will be familiar with the story and I don’t intend to give anything away here, but if you wish to explore the landscape that shaped the novel you should visit Fowey and take a walk along the South West Coast Path, out to Polridmouth and then inland to Menabilly Barton. Do it on a day when the sea is rough and you will get a real sense of the wildness that inspired du Maurier (although it is believed she wrote the book while in Egypt with her husband who was in the army).

With the success of the book, and Hitchcock’s 1940 film staring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, du Maurier was able to rent the house and lived there for the next quarter of a century. Although footpaths and lanes go close to the house, it is very difficult to see, with just glimpses of the roof and some windows from the carpark near Menabilly Barton.

In the latest film the house ‘Manderley’ was filmed at two locations, in Dorset and Hertfordshire, with some of the coastal locations shot on the north coast between Bude and Hartland. So, if you want to get a real taste of the book you will have to visit Fowey.

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