The Winters is an audacious book, in that it grabs very explicitly the iconic story Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, in both hands and writes a bold new modern-day retelling of Max Winter and his new wife, following the death of his first wife Rebecca (or Rebekah in this novel). I can’t work out if this is a good move or not. To be compared so obviously to the classic is a daunting task, even with unique perspectives. Reading this book I’m both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate that I’ve not read Rebecca so I’m not comparing it to the original and can treat as a new story, unfortunate in that I’ve not read Rebecca and can’t compare to the referenced original.
The Winters in a psychological thriller that is devious in its intent. My sense of Rebecca is that it is dark and foreboding, with a repressive and menacing atmosphere that deeply affects the new wife. That is not a sense that is portrayed in this book. There is an obvious impact on the new wife as she navigates the dramatic transition from a poor life in the Cayman Islands to the unimaginable opulence of living on a private Island, connected by a causeway to the Hamptons coastline in Long Island. The Asherley estate is home to Max Winter and his daughter Dani Winter. The essence of Rebekah is still felt throughout the house with its design, décor and furnishings, and it is difficult for 15-year-old Dani to accept a new mother figure when she loved her Mother so much. Dani is the centre of the tension in this story both with the new stepmother and her father Max, the quarrels are very believable and the typical teenager debates are well developed. She appears very confident is some aspects yet in turmoil and struggling to come to terms with the loss of her Mother and the connection with her Father. She is, however, very capable of being destructive, to herself and her family.
Lisa Gabriele writes a wonderful novel full of family secrets, devious plotting, political ambition, greed and a search for genuine love. The new (unnamed) wife is a great character that is treading very carefully amongst family tensions, swayed by a desire to build relationships, yet strong enough to address issues that she feels are important. Max is plotting his Senator re-election and is absent for large periods which leaves the new Mrs Winters forging relationships with the staff, Max’s sister Louisa, and more problematically Dani. She does have this recurring nightmare that:
“Last night Rebekah tried to murder me again.”
The story is entertaining and engrossing, and the plot is imaginatively developed with some amazing surprises that build to a breath-taking and climactic finale. Perhaps Lisa Gabriele felt that if she had written Rebecca, there were a number of elements she would change, and hence we have The Winters. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful page-turning story in its own right and I highly recommend it.
I would like to thank Random House UK, Vintage Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.