October 5, 2008

My Cousin Rachel

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For the RIP III Challenge, I decided to read more of Daphne duMaurier. My library was a little light on duMaurier but I did find My Cousin Rachel: not to be confused with My Cousin Vinnie, totally different vibe.

In My Cousin Rachel, Philip Ashley is laden with guilt and doubt as he remembers his mysterious cousin Rachel. Philip was an orphan from a very early age and grew up under the care of his cousin Ambrose. Ambrose is for lack of a better word a misogynist, to the point that even the household servants are all men. As Philip becomes a man, he also has these tendencies plus a fierce loyalty to his cousin who he looks upon with an almost unnatural admiration. Because of his health, Ambrose spends a winter in Italy where he meets a distant relative-another cousin, a widow named Rachel. Rachel's charm melts the heart of Ambrose who leaves Philip behind in England for a few years of wedded bliss, or so it seems. Philip begins to receive frantic letters from Ambrose. Is he suffering from a fatal illness or is his wife murdering him?

Ambrose succumbs to whatever his affliction was and his widow comes to England to pay her respects to the foster son of her husband. Despite his hatred of the woman he thinks caused the death of his cousin, Philip falls for Rachel herself until one night when everything changes. Soon, Philip will find himself in his cousin's place and he wonders, is Rachel innocent or guilty?

At first Philip is hard to like. He is anti-social and so determined to hate Rachel that I felt sorry for her. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Philip is insecure and inexperienced; Rachel is anything but. At first Rachel is all innocence, but DuMaurier is brilliant at placing doubt into not only the mind of Philip but in the reader's as well. A bit of gossip, a change in attitude. It's easy to see how Philip is confused by her. He becomes rather pathetic, ready to give her everything. Is he misreading her or is she deliberately deceiving him? I'm still thinking about it now and there is a case for both. We never see into the mind of Rachel so we can never know. She might be a fantastic con artist or a just a strong female.

Philip is no angel either. He does something so unforgivable that if not for that action, I'd believe Rachel was guilty. She has cause to arm herself, sort of speak, against him. DuMaurier constantly swings the pendulum of doubt back and forth throughout the novel.

Though not the classic gothic tale Rebecca is, My Cousin Rachel is a well written piece of suspense. I'm glad I read it for the challenge.

12 comments :

  1. I agree with you -- not as good as Rebecca but I don't regret reading it.

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  2. I've only read Rebecca and loved it...don't know why I haven't tried more DuMaurier. Thanks for review/reminder.

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  3. hmmm, i had this on my wish list but I have so many TBR books at the moment that I won't rush getting it. I loved Rebecca and had hoped Cousin Rachel would be similiar... oh well, it still sounds good!

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  4. I finished Jamaica Inn today and I have similar feelings. It's no Rebecca, but it was still a very enjoyable read. I need to pick this one up sometime.

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  5. I have yet to read a Daphne Du Maurier novel but I've heard such good things about Rebecca especially that I really need to move her up the list. This is a great review-makes me want to check this one out too.

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  6. I've read several Daphne DuMaurier books, but nothing will ever be able to top Rebecca in my book. In fact, everything else lagged far behind. I was disappointed in The Scapegoat particularly, and I haven't read the one you posted about here. Yet.

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  7. I have DuMaurier on my TBR, but sofar have not made it. Sounds like I should start with Rebecca ;-)
    I'm getting more and more curious!

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  8. Yep, I think I'm probably one of only 8 or so people on earth who still hasn't read a duMaurier title. Not one single book. Oy!

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  9. I finally started reading some other du Maurier this year, delving in to some of her short stories. I am enjoying them and look forward to getting to some of these other novels at some point.

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  10. I liked this better than Rebecca when I was young, but I don't think it stands up so well to re-reading. Atmospheric, though.

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  11. For all of you who haven't read Rebecca, please do. It's a classic.

    And like you Rebecca fans, I liked My Cousin Rachel but Rebecca is THE DuMaurier book.

    Carl- Her short stories are very good.

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  12. Another great review Chris! This one is on my TBR.

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