Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cozy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries—and there he dies suddenly. 
Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose's letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin's widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet . . . might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?

Review: Daphne du Maurier is brilliant at writing introverted characters. I relate to them so hard. Well, I can relate to everything except the cousin-on-cousin lovin’. That’s . . . not socially acceptable in modern times.

“Ambrose used to say to me in Florence that it was worth the tedium of visitors to experience the pleasure of their going. He was so right.” – My Cousin Rachel

Phillip and his older cousin, Ambrose, are lifelong bachelors. They’re happy with their quiet, private existence in their English mansion. One winter, Ambrose decides to leave the cold of England and visit Italy. There, he meets another cousin, Rachel, and marries her. Phillip is confused. Why would his loner cousin suddenly decide to get married? Soon after the marriage, Ambrose dies, and Rachel comes to visit Phillip in England. Phillip believes that Rachel murdered Ambrose, but he has no proof. As he reluctantly gets to know Rachel, he slowly starts falling in love with her. Is Rachel a nice girl with a tragic past, or is she manipulating Phillip to get his money?

“We were dreamers, both of us, unpractical, reserved, full of great theories never put to test, and like all dreamers, asleep to the waking world. Disliking our fellow men, we craved affection; but shyness kept impulse dormant until the heart was touched. When that happened the heavens opened, and we felt, the pair of us, that we have the whole wealth of the universe to give. We would have both survived, had we been other men.” – My Cousin Rachel

This is one of those books that don’t have much of a plot, but have memorable characters and a lot of atmosphere. The tension builds slowly. The reader is kept guessing about Rachel’s true motives and is always on the lookout for clues about what she is planning. Did she murder Ambrose? Is she trying to con Phillip out of his inheritance? Is Phillip sick because Rachel is somehow poisoning him? Rachel is a funny, charismatic person, so I was inclined to like her, but I was always looking for proof that she’s secretly evil.

To make things more interesting, Phillip isn’t a reliable narrator. At first, he hates Rachel and refuses to see anything good about her. Later, he becomes obsessed with her. He doesn’t want her to leave the mansion or meet other people. He always refers to her as “my” Rachel, like she’s his property. He even convinces himself that she’s in love with him. Phillip is so willing to overlook her flaws that she could commit murder, and he’d just blindly go along with it.

“Here is Tom Jenkyns, honest and dull, except when he drank too much. It's true that his wife was a scold, but that was no excuse to kill her. If we killed women for their tongues all men would be murderers.” – My Cousin Rachel

This is my second Daphne du Maurier book. I read Rebecca earlier this year. I liked My Cousin Rachel more than Rebecca. I think the plot is stronger in Rebecca, but the writing is stronger in My Cousin Rachel. The writing quirks that annoyed me in Rebecca aren’t present in this book.

Since the pacing of My Cousin Rachel is so slow, I expected a big reveal and a big payoff at the end. I didn’t get it. Some parts of the ending are predictable, and the book ends so quickly that it doesn’t give the reader much closure. I still have so many questions! Not enough was resolved for me. That’s my only complaint, though. I really enjoyed this story and the characters’ screwed-up relationship.

I have a few issues with the ending of My Cousin Rachel, but I’ll happily read more of Daphne du Maurier’s work (when it turns up at the used bookstore). I’m especially eager to read her short stories. Also, I think My Cousin Rachel is a movie now? I need to see it. Since so much of the story takes place inside Phillip’s head, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that in film form. 


  1. I read Rebecca recently, too, and I enjoyed it so much I added a bunch of du Maurier's other books to my TBR, including this one. Great review, I'm looking forward to reading My Cousin Rachel!

  2. I put this on my TBR after seeing the film - I loved it! (Partially because anything with Holliday Grainger gets an extra point from me - even if she was woefully under-used!) :)

  3. Maybe I should see the movie :)

  4. I read this earlier in the year, and absolutely loved it! I've also read Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, and whilst I still think Jamaica Inn was my favourite, I really did like the slow build in this one, and the constant uncertainty about the characters. I found myself quite liking Rachel as a character too, and became convinced she couldn't possibly be a murderer, but then stuff happened and I kept changing my mind... I liked all the twists and turns, although I do feel like it all just ended quite abruptly. I really need to try and watch the film soon! :)

    1. I need to read Jamaica Inn. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  5. I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't gotten around to reading Du Maurier! Hopefully, I'll get to one of them soon. The one I hear about the most is Rebecca, so I'm glad to read your take on this one!