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My Cousin Rachel (Virago Modern Classics) by…

My Cousin Rachel (Virago Modern Classics) (original 1951; edition 2003)

by Daphne Du Maurier, Sally Beauman (Introduction)

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2,124603,084 (3.89)236
Title:My Cousin Rachel (Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Daphne Du Maurier
Other authors:Sally Beauman (Introduction)
Info:Virago (2003), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 352 pages
Tags:january 2013, modern classic, women, murder

Work details

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (1951)

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» See also 236 mentions

English (57)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Six-word review: Dazzlingly confident display of storytelling finesse.

Extended review:

Here's a virtuoso performance: an author who expertly manages her reader's perceptions through what's said--and how it's said--and what's left unsaid.

I'd call this a doozy of a psychological thriller, one that had me going right from the first page. Deftly interlacing love and madness with doubt and delusion, du Maurier raises ambiguity to a fine art. Is Rachel what she seems or isn't she? And what, exactly, does she seem? Does she change, or is she the constant, the touchstone, the reality with which other experiences collide?

Is the first-person speaker simply an unreliable narrator, trapped in assumptions and false conclusions, or are there layers to his ingenuousness? Whose suspicions are warranted? Whose is the voice of reason?

If you don't find yourself going back and rethinking things after reaching the end--and more: if you saw it coming--then my hat's off to you. I'd say it was done with mirrors, but in fact it was done with consummate skill.

Published about midway in du Maurier's fiction-writing career, My Cousin Rachel tops both The Scapegoat and the better-known Rebecca in my book. After the letdown of The House on the Strand, I'm glad I gave this author's work another try. ( )
3 vote Meredy | Dec 1, 2014 |
Philip Ashley has always looked up to his older cousin Ambrose as almost a God figure. Ambrose, haven taken in his orphaned cousin when he was just a toddler, has raised him in his image in a male-only environment, where the company of women was only tolerated when absolutely necessary. Having no other dependents, Ambrose has long ago decided Philip is to be his heir. The two have almost never been apart, save when Philip went to school and university, but when he returns home the older cousin must travel to warmer climes for health reasons, and it is decided Philip must stay behind in Cornwall to look after the estate. While away in Florence, the impossible happens, Ambrose meets a woman, half English, half Italian and a distant relation and falls in love with her, and shortly after, marries her. But things quickly take a dramatic turn, and within eighteen months, Ambrose's health has suffered a terrible decline and his letters are more and more frenzied, even accusing his wife of poisoning him. Philip hurries off to Italy at Ambrose's request, but arrives there too late, Ambrose has just been burried and his cousin, Ambrose's wife Rachel, has packed all his things and left her villa and gone no one knows where. Discouraged and in deep grief, Philiip returns to Cornwall and to the estate he will come to inherit soon, on his 25th birthday. He has vowed to take his revenge upon Rachel, whom he imagines to be a horrid old crone. Until Rachel arrives in England, and Philip feels compelled to invite her to stay over so he can exact his revenge upon her. Of course, he could not have expected he would fall in love with Rachel too, petite and unassuming, despite his terrible suspicions. And after all, it doesn't seem quite right that Ambrose hasn't made any provisions for her in his last will and testament.

This was a terrific page-turner and I felt compelled to read on to discover who this enigma that is Rachel really is. Is she an angel or a devil? Is she a little bit of both? Is she loving or calculating? Is she playing games? And what are Philip's real motives? Is he really Ambrose's clone as everyone else seems to think he is? This novel has all the suspense and taut atmosphere I loved in Rebecca, to which it has been compared to, only here we have a living woman to puzzle over as opposed to a mere ghost. All the same, she is impossible to pin down.

My rating (just under 4 stars, which the LT system doesn't allow for) perhaps doesn't reflect just how much enjoyment I got out of this reading experience, and perhaps leans a bit too much on the disappointment I felt with the ending, which left many questions unanswered. But as I think it over, I wonder if this doesn't on the contrary add to the charm the book operates on the reader, who might feel compelled to return to it time and time again to try work out a little bit more of the riddle that is Rachel, as is sure to be the case with me. ( )
2 vote Smiler69 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Read during Winter 2003/2004

Ripping Good Yarn (or perhaps a Thumping Good Read) with a bit of mystery, romance, and curiously enignmatic ending. I'll have to go find the movie, Oliva de Haviland, I believe.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
An enjoyable psychological drama. In my view, this novel compares favourably to Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. ( )
  cazfrancis | Apr 23, 2014 |
My Cousin Rachel is a great suspense novel - I think it is even better than du Maurier's Rebecca. Unlike Rebecca, this is a historical fiction set in mid-nineteenth century Cornwall. Although du Maurier never specifies the exact date, she leaves clues which set the timeframe (such as the opening scene of the book, in which Philip Ashley describes seeing the body of a criminal hanging at a crossroads when he was 7). I believe that this absence of dates was deliberately done to add to the timeless feeling of the psychological drama which plays out.

One aspect that raised this book from 4 to 5 stars is the way du Maurier leaves the question of Rachel's guilt or innocence open. I know that I believe as Philip did at the end, that Rachel had been poisoning him and had poisoned Ambrose, but as Louise points out, there is no evidence. du Maurier also leaves us to judge whether Philip is justified in the actions that he takes - is he guilty of murder (or more accurately manslaughter)? If Rachel really had poisoned Ambrose and gotten away with it, is it poetic justice for Philip to cause her "accidental" death? What if she was innocent of poisoning but guilty of manipulation of Philip's emotions for mercenary gains?

Ironically, although Rachel is described many times as being impulsive, Philip is the one who actually acts impulsively throughout the story. ( )
1 vote leslie.98 | Mar 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daphne du Maurierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pryce, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.
My Cousin Rachel is a novel of great technical assurance. (Introduction)
She has done for me at last, Rachel my torment.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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 come to love his grand house as much as he does himself. But the cosy world to two have constructed is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to FLorence. There he falls in love amd marries - and there he dies suddenly.

In almost no time at all, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to a flame. And yet...might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440159938, Mass Market Paperback)

Ambrose Ashley, Philip's cousin, married Rachel in Italy, and died there. 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. The author also wrote "Rebecca".

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn ...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. In almost no time at all, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet ...might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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