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.