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BOOK REVIEW: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Wednesday, November 08, 2017



The Blurb (From Goodreads):

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 cosy 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?


My Thoughts:

I first read My Cousin Rachel as a teenager, and decided it was definitely time for a re-read. This was partly prompted by the new movie starring Rachel Weisz in the title role, which I wanted to see, and partly because I re-read Rebecca last year and was absolutely thrilled by it.

I bought the book at Hartchards in the St Pancras International train terminal in London, ahead of a day trip to Paris, and was utterly absorbed in it from the first word. I was just beginning to worry that I was reading it too fast and would have nothing left for the return journey, when we arrived. I had not even noticed the kilometres slipping past.

My Cousin Rachel is told from the first-person point-of-view of Philip Ashley, a young English man who has been brought up on a large country estate in Cornwall by his cousin, Ambrose. Suffering in the cold damp English winters, Ambrose decides to spend some months in southern Europe for the sake of his health. He writes regularly to Philip, and soon informs him that he has met, in Florence, a family connection of the Ashleys, the widowed Contessa Sangalletti. It is not long before Ambrose begins to call this cousin by her first name, Rachel. By the time spring arrives, Ambrose and Rachel are married and living in Italy, much to Philip’s distress. Then another letter from Ambrose arrives. It is strange and paranoid in tone, and accuses Rachel of always watching him. Philip travels to Italy, but arrives to find Ambrose dead and Rachel gone. He suspects she has murdered Ambrose.

Philip returns to England, and within a few weeks his cousin Rachel arrives on his doorstep. Determined to hate her, he finds himself falling in love with her. As new pieces of evidence are revealed, Philip swings back and forth between trust and suspicion, adoration and animosity, and the reader swings with him, never quite sure of the truth of the matter.

It is a masterpiece of slow-burn suspense, and also, I thought, an early and shining example of what is now being called ‘domestic noir’ – books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which feature unreliable narrators, shifting ground, and crimes committed behind closed doors. Just brilliant!


You can read my review of Rebecca here. 


Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts! 



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