W H Smith names Rebecca the nation's favourite book

W H Smith names Rebecca the nation's favourite book

In celebration of its 225th anniversary year, retailer W H Smith has revealed Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to be the nation's favourite book of the past 225 years.

The retailer asked its customers to look back on the books that have "stood out, changed perspectives and stayed with their readers long after the last page" in order to find the nation’s favourite book of the past 225 years.

Votes were cast via social media and the W H Smith blog, with the selection narrowed down to a shortlist made up of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and 1984 by George Orwell.

Du Maurier’s Rebecca was on Thursday (1st June) revealed as the winning title. First published in 1938, it sold 45,000 copies in the UK in its first month of publication alone, the company said, and was awarded the US National Book Award for Favourite Book in the same year.  

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, as the heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realises how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives, presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

Frankie Adams, W H Smith new books director, said: “I am delighted that Rebecca has been chosen by the nation as the favourite book of the last 225 years. This is a classic read and a great title to celebrate our 225th anniversary. I hope that our customers will continue to enjoy this title for many years to come – and for those who may have not yet turned the pages until this point-  hopefully they will be more inclined to do so now.”

Donna Coonan, editorial director Virago Modern Classics, said: "Long before contemporary grip-lit sensations like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, there was Rebecca. Haunting, atmospheric and tightly written, it is a page-turning exploration of jealousy, obsession and the hold of the other woman.

"A bestseller on first publication, Rebecca instantly caught the public’s imagination, was made into a celebrated film by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, and has never gone out of print. Almost eighty years after its first publication, Rebecca has lost none of its power and is still thrilling readers today.It is no overstatement to say that Rebecca is a modern masterpiece whose influence is still felt."