Published in 1938 and never out of print, Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca continues to enthrall readers nearly 80 years after its release. In honor of Daphne du Maurier’s birthday on May 13, we’ve selected a list of gothic and mysterious books that capture the spirt of Rebecca. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries — and there he dies suddenly. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose’s letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin’s widow with hatred in his heart.
Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet… might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Orphaned Jane Eyre grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, where she endures loneliness and cruelty, and at a charity school with a harsh regime. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit — which prove necessary when she finds a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him and live with the consequences, or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving the man she loves? A novel of intense power and intrigue, Jane Eyre (1847) dazzled and shocked readers with its passionate depiction of a woman’s search for equality and freedom.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Considered lurid and shocking by mid-19th-century standards, Wuthering Heights was initially thought to be such a publishing risk that its author, Emily Brontë, was asked to pay some of the publication costs. A somber tale of consuming passions and vengeance played out against the lonely moors of northern England, the book proved to be one of the most enduring classics of English literature.
The turbulent and tempestuous love story of Cathy and Heathcliff spans two generations — from the time Heathcliff, a strange, coarse young boy, is brought to live on the Earnshaws’ windswept estate, through Cathy’s marriage to Edgar Linton and Heathcliff’s plans for revenge, to Cathy’s death years later and the eventual union of the surviving Earnshaw and Linton heirs.
A masterpiece of imaginative fiction, Wuthering Heights (the author’s only novel) remains as poignant and compelling today as it was when first published in 1847.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods — until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Wilkie Collins’s classic thriller took the world by storm on its first appearance in 1859, with everything from dances to perfumes to dresses named in honor of the “woman in white.” The novel’s continuing fascination stems in part from a distinctive blend of melodrama, comedy, and realism; and in part from the power of its story.
The catalyst for the mystery is Walter Hartright’s encounter on a moonlit road with a mysterious woman dressed head to toe in white. She is in a state of confusion and distress, and when Hartright helps her find her way back to London she warns him against an unnamed “man of rank and title.” Hartright soon learns that she may have escaped from an asylum and finds to his amazement that her story may be connected to that of the woman he secretly loves. Collins brilliantly uses the device of multiple narrators to weave a story in which no one can be trusted, and he also famously creates, in the figure of Count Fosco, the prototype of the suave, sophisticated evil genius. The Woman in White is still passed as a masterpiece of narrative drive and excruciating suspense.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
“There was, on the Hudson, a way of life such as this, and there was a house not unlike Dragonwyck.”
In the spring of 1844 the Wells family receives a letter from a distant relative, the wealthy landowner Nicholas Van Ryn. He has invited one of their daughters for an extended visit at his Hudson Valley estate Dragonwyck. Eighteen year-old Miranda, bored with her local suitors and commonplace life on the farm, leaps at the chance for escape. She immediately falls under the spell of the master and his mansion, mesmerized by the Gothic towers, flowering gardens, and luxurious lifestyle — unaware of the dark, terrible secrets that await.
Anya Seton masterfully tells the heart-stopping story of a remarkable woman, her remarkable passions, and the mystery that resides in the magnificent hallways of Dragonwyck.
Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman
April 1951. It has been 20 years since the death of Rebecca, the hauntingly beautiful first wife of Maxim de Winter, and 20 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.
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Follow the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle, and the machinations of an Italian brigand. Considered by many to be the first Gothic novel.
A Heritage of Shadows by Madeleine Brent
It is 1890 and Hannah McLeod, an 18 year-old English girl, is living in Paris, where she works at a small restaurant. Only her neighbor, Toby Kent, a struggling artist, knows the strange and horrifying secret that makes her afraid to return to England. Then one night, rescuing a stranger, Andrew Doyle, from attack by Montmarte apaches, Hannah unwittingly becomes entangled in circumstances that force her to flee from France to England and take up the mysterious offer she had received to become French tutor in the household of a Mr. Sebastian Ryder. But why should Mr. Ryder want to employ her? Does he know something about her of which she is unaware? Are there still more secrets in her past?
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
A governess in a French château encounters an apparent plot against her young charge’s life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel. When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe’s uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant — his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma — though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda’s innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.
Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned… But what bout its master — Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh’s new employer as romantic as his name sounded? As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her.
TreMellyn’s young daughter, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered. But it was the girl’s father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil — even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha’s life.
Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets — as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning. But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love — and the freedom to find a golden promise forever…
Mrs. de Winter by Susan Hill
Rebecca was Daphne du Maurier’s most famous and best-loved novel. Countless readers wondered: What happened next? Out of fire-wracked ruins of Manderley, would love and renewal rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the embittered past? Married to the sophisticated, wordly-wise Maxim, the second Mrs de Winter’s life should be happy and fulfilled. But the vengeful ghost of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife, continues to cast its long shadow over them. Back in England after an absence of over 10 years, it seems as if happiness will at last be theirs. But the de Winters still have to reckon with two hate-consumed figures they once knew — both of whom have very long memories…
Alena by Rachel Pastan
In an inspired restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor.
Two years have passed since the tragic death of Alena, curator at the Nauk, a cutting-edge art museum on Cape Cod. At the Venice Biennale, Bernard Augustin, the Nauk’s wealthy, enigmatic founder — to whom Alena had been closest confidante and muse — offers the position to an aspiring young curator from the Midwest. It’s the job of her dreams, and she dives at the chance.
Just as quickly, she finds herself well out of her depth. The Nauk echoes with phantoms of the past — a past obsessively preserved by the museum’s staff — and the newcomer’s every move mires her more deeply in artistic, erotic, and emotional entanglements. When recently discovered evidence calls into question the circumstances of Alena’s death, shattering secrets surface, putting to the test the loyalty, integrity, and courage of our heroine — who remains nameless, like the heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the inspiration for this provocative and spellbinding tale.
Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels
It is a find of inestimable value for Karen Holloway. The battered manuscript she holds in her hand — written in the 19th century and bearing the mysterious attribution “Ismene” — could prove a boon to the eager young English professor’s career. But Karen’s search for the author’s true identity is carrying her into the gray shadows of the past, to places fraught with danger and terror. For the deeper she delves into Ismene’s strange tale of gothic horror, the more she is haunted by the suspicion that the long-dead author was writing the truth… and that even now she is guiding Karen’s investigation, leading her to terrible secrets hidden behind the cold walls of houses of stone.
Edge of Glass by Catherine Gaskin
Fashion model Maura D’Arcy is on the verge of fame and success. But when a handsome stranger enters her late mother’s antiques shop, his revelations change the course of Maura’s life.
Midnight Is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine
After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book until her landlord’s daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed! In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorized by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? That the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge and passion do battle across the centuries!
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman
In her enthralling novels of literary suspense, Carol Goodman writes stories that resonate with emotion set in lush landscapes that entice the senses. Now, with The Ghost Orchid, a narrative that seamlessly weaves together the past and the present, Goodman creates her most lyrical and haunting work to date.
For more than 100 years, creative souls have traveled to Upstate New York to work under the captivating spell of the Bosco estate. Cradled in silence, inspired by the rough beauty of overgrown gardens and crumbling statuary, these chosen few fashion masterworks — and have cemented Bosco’s reputation as a premier artists’ colony. This season, five talented artists-in-residence find themselves drawn to the history of Bosco, from the extensive network of fountains that were once its centerpiece but have long since run dry to the story of its enigmatic founder, Aurora Latham, and the series of tragic events that occurred more than a century ago.
Ellis Brooks, a first-time novelist, has come to Bosco to write a book based on Aurora and the infamous summer of 1893, when wealthy, powerful Milo Latham brought the notorious medium Corinth Blackwell to the estate to help his wife contact three of the couple’s children, lost the winter before in a diphtheria epidemic. But when a séance turned deadly, Corinth and her alleged accomplice, Tom Quinn, disappeared, taking with them the Lathams’ only surviving child.
The more time she spends at Bosco, the more Ellis becomes convinced that there is an even darker, more sinister end to the story. And she’s not alone: Biographer Bethesda Graham uncovers stunning revelations about Milo and Corinth; landscape architect David Fox discovers a series of hidden tunnels underneath the gardens; poet Zalman Bronsky hears the long-dry fountain’s waters beckoning him; and novelist Nat Loomis feels something lingering just out of reach.
After a bizarre series of accidents befalls them, the group cannot deny the connections between the long ago and now, the living and the dead… as Ellis realizes that the tangled truth may ensnare them all in its cool embrace.
Which of these books do you want to read? Share in the comments!