My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. As part of my quest to read more Daphne du Maurier books this year, I finally got around to reading it.
The story is written from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a young man on the cusp of turning twenty-five who has a lot to learn about the world and a lot of maturing to do. Philip was raised by his cousin, Ambrose, after the death of his parents, and grows up on a beautiful estate in Cornwall. But Ambrose suffers from ill-health so must spend the winter months over in Italy where it’s warm.
While in Italy one year, Ambrose suddenly marries a widow named Rachel. This surprises everyone as Ambrose seemed like he would always be a bachelor. Philip stays in England until one day he receives a letter that says all is not well between Ambrose and Rachel. By the time Philip makes it to Florence, he learns that Ambrose is dead and his widow Rachel has gone away.
Back in Cornwall, Philip is trying to come to terms with his loss and the fact that he will inherit the estate on his twenty-fifth birthday. Until then it’s being held in trust by a family friend. Ambrose left nothing in his will for Rachel. Philip was always jealous and mistrusting of Rachel, who he never met, so when she writes to say she is visiting Cornwall he doesn’t know what to expect. Nor does the reader. Who is this mysterious Rachel? Was she somehow involved in Ambrose’s death? And why is she now in England?
My Cousin Rachel was a slow burn read. I picked this up during a busy time in my life and it took a while to get through. I really needed to just sit down and read this without distractions. It’s the kind of book that you think about long after reading — especially with that ending! I think it’s on reflection that I realise what a clever and twisty book it is. Daphne du Maurier is a master at leaving her readers feeling troubled.
I felt like My Cousin Rachel was written in the same vein as Rebecca (though I loved Rebecca more). Rachel is an intriguing character with many layers. You see her through the immature eyes of Philip and other characters in the book, but you never really know what’s going on in her head. Is Rachel a femme fatale who plays men like a fiddle so she can claim their fortune? Or is she simply a woman who is charming, passionate, independent and misunderstood?
The character Philip got on my nerves. But I think he was meant to. Daphne du Maurier very cleverly created a young man who thinks he is more worldly and smarter than he actually is. In reality he is terribly naive. The reader can see things that he can’t see. We know what is happening to him before he knows.
The ending is what everyone talks about with this book. I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll say nothing. If you have read My Cousin Rachel, please feel free to chat with me about it in the comments. To be honest, I don’t know what to think. But maybe I don’t need to decide.
Verdict: My Cousin Rachel is another brilliant book by Daphne du Maurier which I highly recommend.