My 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 😉