Daphne Du Maurier – My Cousin Rachel

Posted on | December 17, 2009 | 16 Comments

For twenty four years, Daphne Du Maurier has eluded me, and I’m still trying to figure out how! I read Rebecca earlier this year, and loved it, which led me to pick up My Cousin Rachel. Surprise, surprise! I loved it as well.

My Cousin Rachel is narrated by Philip Ashley, who was orphaned at a young age, and brought up by his older affluent cousin, Ambrose. Philip is totally devoted to Ambrose, and in turn, Ambrose to his naive younger cousin.

Health problems force Ambrose to spend the winter months in Italy, and one year, he sends a letter home saying he is married to Rachel. Philip, consumed by jealousy, isn’t able to share the happiness and excitement that the friends and family seem to revel in.

My cousin Rachel had a dozen personalities or more and each one more hateful than the last. I saw her forcing Ambrose to his knees to play at bears, the children astride his back, and Ambrose consenting with a humble grace, having lost all dignity.

When Ambrose’s letters home mention sickness, and further ill-health, Philip makes plans to visit his cousin. The last letter received before his departure has an almost illegible scroll: For God’s sake, come to me quickly. She has done for me at last, Rachel my torment. If you delay, it may be too late. Ambrose.

By the time Philip reaches Florence, Ambrose has passed on – a result of a brain tumour, the doctors day. Philip refuses to believe that, and insists that Rachel has had something to do with his cousin’s unfortunate and untimely demise. Rachel has disappeared, and left the handling of her affairs (and villa) to a untrustworthy-looking man, Rainaldi.

Philip, the heir of Ambrose’s estate, returns home and attempts continuing running things as he has been taught, silently glad that Rachel wasn’t left anything in Ambrose’s will. However, when Rachel comes to England, she seems to be the diametric opposite of what Philip thought, and he quickly discards his many theories associating her with Ambrose’s death.

Not having a relationship with any woman previously, Philip is drawn to Rachel like a moth to a flame, and acts naively and impulsively – much reminiscent of the narrator in Rebecca. Yet, Rachel plays the part of the mourning widow to perfection, instead of acting like the black widow… yet, the questions are always there: was Rachel responsible for the events in Italy? Will history repeat itself?

The beauty of this book is in Du Maurier’s immense skill of weaving a dramatic plot, that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat. Hints are scattered around artistically, and the various clues that make up the story keeps the reader guessing right till the very end – and beyond. If you had questions while reading the book, the number of questions that flood your mind once the book is completed increases tenfold.

Rating: A


16 Responses to “Daphne Du Maurier – My Cousin Rachel”

  1. Random Reflections
    December 18th, 2009 @ 8:14 am

    Oh yes, a great read. Similar to Rebecca in some ways but equally gripping!

  2. Claire (Paperback_Reader)
    December 18th, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    Rebecca is one of my all-time favourite books and I read it first when I was thirteen years old but in all that time I haven’t read another Du Maurier novel although recently have wanted to. I received as a Secret Santa gift a copy of My Cousin Rachel and The House on the Strand and plan on reading My Cousin Rachel over Christmas – very excited!

  3. Jodie
    December 18th, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    Very interesting, must read more Du Maurier I think.

  4. uncertainprinciples
    December 18th, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

    Glad you agree – I think I found Rebecca a shade more gripping, but this book – immense plot build up!

  5. uncertainprinciples
    December 18th, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

    That’s the polar opposite of me! When 13, I tried reading as many books I could by the authors I liked. I read all the Grishams in under two months!!

    Am already looking forward to reading your thoughts on My Cousin Rachel. I really hope you enjoy it (well, both) – you got yourself a good Secret Santa!

  6. uncertainprinciples
    December 18th, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    So do I :) (as in, I must…)

  7. Jo
    December 18th, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

    same for me with Du Marier. It managed to pass me by until Rebecca this year. But I think it’s Jamaica Inn next for me, mainly because thats the other one I own! This one sounds good too though.

  8. Sassy Brit (Alternative-Read.com)
    December 19th, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    I loved Rebeca as well. Haven’t read this one though, so I had to stop by and say I’m pretty interested after reading your review. Thankies. Happy Christmas! Hope you are well.

  9. mee
    December 19th, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

    I’ve read Rebecca and would like to read another duMaurier’s. This sounds intriguing! Probably more than Rebecca.

  10. Marie
    December 20th, 2009 @ 2:03 am

    Sounds wonderful. I still have Rebecca in my TBR pile but I’m going to add this one to my wish list! :-)

  11. uncertainprinciples
    December 21st, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

    Sounds good – would love to read what you think of Jamaica Inn. I think my next Du Maurier is going to be The House On The Strand.

  12. uncertainprinciples
    December 21st, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

    Happy Christmas to you as well :)

    Hope you read it, and looking forward to you reviewing it.

  13. uncertainprinciples
    December 21st, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    You should read it – think you’ll like it. To be honest, though, I was more hooked on to the storyline of Rebecca than My Cousin Rachel. Rebecca is just soooo suspenseful.

  14. uncertainprinciples
    December 21st, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    Hope you read Rebecca soon – it really is an amazing book. As is this!

  15. Novel Insights
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

    Oh, wow you make me want to read this right now! I may have to do a secret personal extension of Discovering Daphne month as I want to read this and The Infernal World soon.

  16. Daphne du Maurier – The House On The Strand : another cookie crumbles
    May 25th, 2015 @ 3:29 am

    […] I know that’s harsh, but if you compare this book to the likes of Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel, it falls well short. Possibly, that’s where I, as a reader, fell short – setting high […]

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