Sunday, 2 October 2011

'My Cousin Rachel' by Daphne du Maurier (1951)

Synopsis: Philip Ambrose was orphaned as a child and was then brought up by his wealthy, older cousin Ambrose. Ambrose then leaves the family estate in Cornwall to go travelling in Italy for his health. Philip then learns that Ambrose has married a woman called Rachel, the widow of an Italian count. Philip is devoted to his older cousin and feels jealous and put out by this. But just months after the marriage, Philip receives some very strange and unsettling letters from Ambrose. Philip heads off to Florence on impulse only to find that Ambrose has died and Rachel is nowhere to be found. Philip grows suspicious of Rachel and believes that she is to blame for Ambrose's death. However, Rachel then travels to England to meet Philip and turns out to be very different from what Philip had expected her to be. Philip ends up falling in love with her but the evidence that she may have been behind Ambrose's death continues to grow.

Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is a masterpiece. Yet, it would be a shame if she was remembered for just that book alone. My Cousin Rachel is a very good book as well. It has a very brooding and mysterious atmosphere, has an interesting story, and is a very well written page-turner. There's plenty of suspense too and I thought du Maurier did a really good job writing from a male POV. Her narrator, Phillip Ambrose, felt very believable. What's also interesting about My Cousin Rachel is that it's one of those books that can be read in multiple ways: Is Rachel a sweet, charming and misunderstood woman? Or is she really a cold-hearted, manipulative bitch who murdered her husband for financial gain?

My Cousin Rachel certainly doesn't equal Rebecca by any stretch of the imagination. The ending was a bit too abrupt and convenient for my liking. Also, the question of Rachel's guilt is never entirely answered even by the end of the book - which made the story intriguing but also quite frustrating at the same time. However, although My Cousin Rachel is definitely no Rebecca but it's still an excellent book and is definitely worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

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