This is the third of du Maurier’s books that I’ve read. I do love the way she writes, it draws me into the story completely. My Cousin Rachel is told from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a young man of 24, who was brought up by his much older cousin Ambrose after the death of both of his parents. They live in a large estate in Cornwall, and for the past few winters Ambrose has had to travel to warmer climates to prevent him from becoming too ill. During one of his yearly travels, he ends up in Italy, only to meet and fall in love with Rachel – a widower who, soon after marrying her, he grows to hate and fear. Not too long afterwards, Ambrose dies, and Philip believes that Rachel is the cause of Ambrose’s death.
When Rachel comes to live at Philip’s home, he goes from hating her, to falling in love with her, to fearing that she is attempting to poison him like he believes she poisoned his older cousin.
While it took a while for me to get into the book, as soon as I hit about a third of the way in, I devoured the rest of it. The setting – ah! I love books that take place on estates in the English countryside. And the characters were wonderful. It was hard seeing them all through the eyes of Philip (the narrator) however, as his moods changed frequently, so he either saw only the good in people or (more often as the book went on) only the bad (in everyone else but Rachel). It can be hard, though, when reading a book that takes place through first person to know how accurate what they are telling you is – because you know that they’re not always going to tell you exactly the way things are, but more how they appear to them.
I loved that I was left wondering whether Rachel was really as at fault as Philip believed her to be, or whether Philip was dealing with the same sort of brain tumor (leading to delusions) that people believe Ambrose died of. It’s very ambiguous, and I want to go back and read the book again to see if I can gain any more evidence either way.
In fact, as soon as I finished the book, I went back and reread the first chapter. Like Rebecca and The Frenchman’s Creek, the first chapter of My Cousin Rachel takes place after the actual events of the novel. It gives the outcome of the whole book, but not how we get there, which is in this case the most exciting part (as it is with Rebecca). So yes, as soon as I finished, I reread the first chapter to see if there was anything I had forgotten that would shed a little bit of light on the final outcome.
But, I do have a question for those of you who have read all of du Maurier’s books (ahem, Rachel): do all of her books start after the story takes place and then go back to the beginning of the story?
The Bottom Line: I definitely liked this better than The Frenchman’s Creek, but not as much as Rebecca. As mentioned, I will definitely be keeping this on my shelf in order to read again in the future. I would recommend this book to people who did enjoy Rebecca and were looking for some more du Maurier to read.