My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

My cousin rachelMy first introduction to Daphe du Maurier’s work was with the novel, Rebecca, published in 1938, which I found to be a fantastic read and is one of my favourite modern classics. It’s one of those novels I love to recommend to people. My Cousin Rachel was first published in 1951 and it’s no exception as I found it to be another great read. There is just something about the use of words and writing by du Maurier that makes you almost want to pick up all the novels she’s ever written… almost the same way I feel about Zafón.

Please note that there might be a spoiler in my overview section, however it’s something that is mentioned very early on in the novel hence I say “might”

It’s the 19th century. Phillip Ashley is an orphan who was raised by his older cousin Ambrose Ashley in Cornwall. Phillip admired his cousin and always aimed to be like him even from a very young age. Ambrose had an illness that required him to spend time in warmer climates, which meant that when it’s winter in Cornwall, he would spend it abroad. This time he is off to Italy and even though Phillip wanted to go with, he ended up going alone. According to his letter to Phillip, he met a lady who happens to be a distant relative… “our cousin, Rachel”. Further correspondence revealed that Ambrose fell in love and married Rachel. About this Phillip wasn’t too happy, but then he received some more letters… this time a bit disturbing, because Ambrose mentioned that he suspects he is being poisoned.

Phillip travels to Florence, Italy upon Ambrose’s request, however when he gets there he finds out that Ambrose died – from a brain tumor. His godfather, Nick Kendall, seem to believe that this is possible, because his father, Phillip Ashley, died from a brain tumor too. Upon finding out that Rachel, also known as Countess Sangaletti, is due for a visit to the Ashley mansion, he is set on making her life and her stay miserable. He hates her or so he thinks, but when he meets her she isn’t the woman he had in his mind. He later falls in love with her and forgets that he hated her, as well as further letters he received from Ambrose (which he wrote while he was alive) warning him against her.

Yes, Phillip is a typical man in love. In one of my updates on Goodreads I’ve said: “A man in love can really be stupid. It only takes a conniving and beautiful woman to bring them to ruins!” In the entire novel I was so angry at the plans that Phillip had made to make her hapy and to give her everything that he feels Ambrose neglected to do, because upon his death Ambrose left everything to Phillip. I also felt sorry for Louise, his childhood friend, who evidently has a liking towards him. You could also see how quickly Rachel’s attitude towards him changed the minute she got what she wanted. Ambrose said “Rachel, my torment…” and he is right in saying so, because she comes across as manipulative. However, when the story progress you do wonder, did she really do whatever Ambrose (and Phillip) accused her of? Of course the storyline changes and gives you an conclusion that you really didn’t expect.

What surprised me is that I never once compared this novel to Rebecca, which is something that sometimes happens. My Cousin Rachel was a good novel, a book and story I consider to be a great read,  incomparable to her prior novel’s success, YET I don’t think it’s as good as Rebecca. Her writing is lovely, the suspense was done well and the characters colorful. I would recommend that you read this book if you enjoy classics. Du Maurier is a good storyteller and I really enjoyed this book. If you haven’t read anything by Du Maurier yet, you really should and you obviously must read both.

Have your read this book? Are there any other Du Maurier you think I should read? Do you also think men are easily manipulated by a beautiful and smart* woman?

* I say smart, because the art of manipulation doesn’t require beauty alone 😉

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  • I only read Rebecca by du Maurier. Her other books are still on my should read someday list!

    And are men easily manipulated? Hard question.. not sure if it is only men. Most people can be easily manipulated if they want to believe the person is good.

    • Rebecca is a gem! I hope you get to read more by Du Maurier!

      You are right, anyone can be manipulated, but I think women are just a little bit more devious and dangerous 🙂

  • My Cousin Rachel was the first du Maurier novel I read, then The Scapegoat. She also wrote a lovely little story (sort of literary fiction/sci-fi/time travel) called The House on the Strand.

    • How was The Scapegoat? I saw that title (The House on the Strand) on goodreads, I didn’t know it was a short story.

      • Sorry if I misled you, Melinda! “Lovely little story” was just an expression like “gem of a story”. It’s not a long story but nor is it a “short story” in the usual meaning of the term.
        The Scapegoat is a suspenseful story of a not-so-nice man who takes advantage of his double and leaves him to mop up his mess. It’s a few years since I read it so probably would have difficulty reviewing without re-reading.

        • Ok. Thanks for the clarification.

  • I’ve not read any Du Maurier, but Rebecca is on my list for this year. Sounds like this one should be added as well.

    • I hope you will enjoy Rebecca!

  • Thanks for the reminder. So long since I read this book. I enjoy going back and re-reading old favorites. They rarely fail to still please.

    • You are so right! That’s one of the reasons I don’t have a review for Rebecca – I’m planning on re-reading it for the classics club and then reviewing it. I hope you get to read this one again 🙂

  • I’ve read Rebecca and loved it… This one sounds interesting too. Good review, thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • You’re welcome. I hope you enjoy this one and Rebecca is an awesome book!

  • I read Rebecca recently (my review will come someday. . . ) but I’m not sure if I would pick up more by the author. Not because I didn’t really enjoy Rebecca, I did, but I think because I know Rebecca is a classic and I have so many other classic books to try to read first before picking up another book by du Maurier. . . it only half makes sense, I guess.

    Thank you for linking up to the Spread the Love Linky Party! Even though it’s my last week of hosting, April @ The Steadfast Reader will be taking over, which is super exciting! More info to come. . . 😀

    • I understand. There’s just so many books on our shelves that even though we keep adding, we must add different authors. You can always consider this one if you ever feel to read more du Maurier… I am looking forward to your review on Rebecca! 🙂

      I will look out for the new Linky party on April’s blog. I think that was a really great initiative from you.

  • This was a great review, and I seem to be hearing a lot about du Maurier lately, so I should hurry up and read Rebecca! I also read a good review about Jamaica Inn not long ago (maybe on Shelf Love?).

    • You must read Rebecca! 🙂
      I will definitely explore more du Maurier books, because I love her writing.

  • I have somehow made it my entire life without reading any du Maurier. That is shameful 🙁

    • Shameful indeed 😉 I suggest you start with Rebecca…

  • A fine review, Melinda. I’ve been wanting to read Rebecca for a while now but has not gotten to it yet and now this. Another pile on my TBR. 🙂

    • I’m glad I can add to your pile 🙂 I hope you read Rebecca soon – it really is a good book. One of my absolute favorites!

  • One of these days I need to read a book by her, but the one the library had had tiny text..tiny!

    • This one I had was a small book with tiny text too! Think it was printed in the 60s… What was the title of the one in the library?

      • It was Rebecca and it was old…might have been the same publisher

  • I’m excited to try this one in light of loving Rebecca, though I doubt anything could actually hold a candle to Rebecca. It’s good to have realistic expectations. 🙂

    • I liked this one a lot, but Rebecca remains my favorite du Maurier. At least you know this one is a nice read (according to me) I hope you enjoy this one, I can’t wait to try more books by her.

  • I read Rebecca many years ago and loved it. Thank you for reminding me there is more Daphne du Maurier to read.

    • You’re welcome! Hope you will find many more du Maurier’s to read.

  • Loved this post. I am yet to read anything by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve always wanted to read Rebecca and I see it all the time on my bookshelf, but I have not committed to it. Your post has inspired me. I think I’ll add it to my list for 2014 and hopefully branch out to other works.

    • If you have Rebecca, you should really read it. You will probably wish you read it sooner if you finish it! (or I hope you will feel that way) 🙂

  • I really liked Rebecca, I should make this a priority!

    • Ok! I will look out for your review on this one 😉

  • Brona

    I read this book for one of my Classic Club spins. I loved it. Rachel was truly awful, but she was written so well, there were times when you wondered if she could really be as manipulative and deceitful as you first thought.
    But, of course, that’s the thing with people like Rachel…they have a sweet/sexy side too which is how they get so good at getting what they want regardless.

    I confess that I prefered Rachel’s story to Rebecca’s. It had more of an emotional impact.

    • I’m glad that you brought up which character you prefer between the two books. I think you the only one from the commenters who read both, and it’s nice to see how your opinion differs from mine. I like Rebecca as a book more, but I do prefer Rachel’s story more as well. It might be because Rebecca was dead and the female protagonist were such an enigma, but I do that that’s what made the book good.

  • I liked My Cousin Rachel even more than Rebecca. It seemed something like a modern Othello…consummate piece of storytelling from du Maurier.

    Great review.

    • Thanks! It’s interesting to have different opinions on these 2 books.

  • I really need to read this! Years ago, when I was working retail, a customer brought me a box of books and it had a set of Du Maurier books in it, including this one. They’ve been sitting on my shelf for years but I have yet to get to it. Maybe I will, now 🙂

    • If you have the book then why not. Go ahead and read it. I hope you like it though 🙂

      What a thoughtful customer!

  • litandlife

    Sounds like I need to read this one – but it would really take a great book to top Rebecca so it’s good to know not to expect that.

    • Enjoy it, if you get to reading it. Yes Rebecca was a good book, but there are some people who prefer this one (as per comments above)

  • Isi

    I haven’t read any of her novels yet, but now with your reviews I want to 🙂
    I think I should read this first, and then Rebecca, since you seem a little bit disappointed because Rebecca is really good.
    Thanks for your review!!

    • They are both good, Isi, but Rebecca remains her best novel. I think you will love Rebecca, so you must read that soon! 🙂