Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who does Gothic better than du Maurier??? No one!

I picked this book up as a part of the Winter Classics Challenge (which, by the way, I'm failing at miserably!!) My Cousin Rachel is by Daphne du Maurier (288 pgs) and was written in 1951. There is something about the way du Maurier writes that makes it hard to put one of her books down. And this is no exception. From the opening sentence, I was utterly and completely enthralled!!


The story is told by Philip Ashley, a young orphan who was taken in to raise by his cousin Ambrose, a young man not much more than a boy himself. And it was just the two of them for many years. No women around at all....not even on the staff. There was never a need, when the men could get along so well without them! When Ambrose's health starts to falter a bit, he is pushed to spend the cold, damp winters in a warmer climate. Imagine Philip's surprise when, one winter, Ambrose writes that he has married a woman from Florence! Her name was Rachel, a widow that was struggling to survive the debt her first husband had left. Not only was Philip surprised, he was jealous. Ambrose had always been his and his alone. He never had to share him with anyone.


When Ambrose decides to stay in Florence to help settle some estate problems for Rachel, Philip is upset. And when Ambrose's correspondence starts falling behind, he even starts to get worried. About this time a letter arrives for Philip that is shaky and completely unlike Ambrose. Philip quickly decides to make the trip to Florence. Ambrose complains of being sick and is having doubts about Rachel, his torment. But when Philip arrives at the villa in Italy, Ambrose has already passed away, and Rachel has left the country. With revenge on his mind, Philip goes back to England to find he will inherit the entire Ashley estate on his twenty-fifth birthday, which is only 6 months away. No provisions at all have been made for Rachel, Ambrose's widow. This is just how Philip would have it, until the day that his cousin, Rachel arrives in England. She is not at all the type of woman he expected.


The thing about this book is that once you read it, you will have more questions than when you started!! Is Rachel the sweet, innocent angel she seems to be? Flirty, but naive? Or is she a calculating, evil temptress, who only uses men for her personal gain? And what about Philip? Is he driven mad by jealousy and obsession? Or is there something else at work? The ending is anything but straightforward, and the reader is left to his own to answer these questions. The mystery surrounding Rachel unravels slowly, but in such a way as to keep you on the edge of your seat. I actually liked this book far more than I did Rebecca, du Maurier's more popular work. Excellent, Gothic read for a stormy and dark night!! 4.5/5

9 comments:

Chris said...

I haven't heard of this one. I have a 3-in-1 du Maurier book somewhere that I am going to read. I just loved Rebecca so much, I don't want to be disappointed.

Stephanie said...

I actually liked this one better! I don't think you'd be disappointed if you read it!

Literary Feline said...

I had never heard of Rachel du Maurier until a few months ago. I definitely need to give her a try. Thanks for the review, Stephanie!

Marg said...

Sounds like one I need to read! I have read and enjoyed Rebecca, and I own another one of hers as well. Thanks for the review

Andi said...

It sounds positively yummy!

I'm ashamed to say, I've never read any du Maurier! I have Rebecca on the shelves, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

And I didn't know anything about My Cousin Rachel until I read your lovely review. You've definitely lit a fire under me to get a move on and try some of her stuff.

moonbeam said...

I've read My Cousin Rachael and Rebecca so long ago that I probably should do a re-read. I also remember one called Rule Brittania by Dapne du M that I really liked the best. I'll have to check, but I'm pretty sure it was written by Ms D.

Stephanie said...

There was a movie made in 1953 with Olivia de Haviland and Richard Burton. I can't seem to find it on Netflix though!!

Great book!! I liked Rebecca, but I liked this one much better. Not really sure why though.

Kailana said...

At least you are trying with the Classics challenge, I gave up! I just was not in a classic mood lately.

jake said...

I've just begun Jamaica Inn and know it will be a real corker. Just need some heavy rain on the window and some howling winds! Seen and read Rebecca way too many times so I know this is going to be good ...