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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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2,191632,962 (3.9)256
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 256 mentions

English (60)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Where I got the book: my local library. A book club read.

After I’d finished this novel, I went back and read the first chapter again, to enjoy the foreshadowing. A wonderfully layered chapter it is, haunted by the shadow of a swinging gibbet and the events of the distant and recent past. The gibbet, of course, does the job of setting the story in a pre-industrial past, but history doesn’t enter into it—the novel plunges us into a timeless world of travel by coach and the lower orders knowing their place, like one of those traditional Christmas cards.

The narrator is Philip, who has been raised by his cousin Ambrose in an almost entirely masculine world. When Ambrose’s health forces him to leave England for sunny Italy, young Philip is sufficiently well trained in the ways of a gentleman farmer and squire to take up the running of the estate, but his world is rocked when he learns that Ambrose has married a widow called Rachel. Philip resents Rachel for keeping Ambrose from returning to England, but when Ambrose’s letters take a darker turn, full of vague accusations against his wife, Philip travels to Italy to find out whether Ambrose is being tormented by a she-devil or a brain tumor, as his godfather thinks.

Ambrose is dead by the time Philip reaches Florence, and he returns to England without seeing Rachel. But then she turns up for a visit—and the young man begins a gradual journey from suspicion to infatuation. This part of the story takes up a large part of the book, and is a delight because the reader—and the other characters—can clearly see what Philip doesn’t, and the clues that Rachel may not be all that she seems to Philip keep you turning the pages. The ending is also heavily foreshadowed, so that the enjoyment to be had from this book comes from the gradual revealing of things first seen behind a gauzy curtain. The reader is left in a state of delicious ambiguity about Rachel—whose view of her was correct?

The air of mystery surrounding Rachel is delightfully framed by the very complete picture you get of Philip, who is the very embodiment of gaucheness and transparent, youthful moodiness as Rachel undertakes the job of twisting him around her little finger. The ending is, perhaps, a little unlikely, but the slowly unfolding psychological drama makes an ending almost unnecessary. ( )
  JaneSteen | Oct 28, 2015 |
This Daphne du Maurier classic is full of intrigue and secrets, and driven by the dangerous charisma of a woman whose motives and aim are essentially unknown. With an unreliable narrator and a fascinatingly complex title character, it's a tantalising and unsettling novel. For a full review, please see my blog:
http://theidlewoman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/my-cousin-rachel-daphne-du-maurier.ht... ( )
  Leander2010 | May 10, 2015 |
A classic Daphne du Maurier tale which keeps you gripped until the end. The story is narrated through Philip Ashley, who becomes obsessed with his cousin Rachel, the Italian widow of his late uncle. Philip is an unpleasant and misonyistic young man who is self centred and easily riled. Following his displeasure at his uncle's marriage, he decides to snub his uncle's widow but on her arrival, he falls under her spell and becomes infatuated with the exotic other - his Italian aunt. His obsession knows no bounds and he takes one wild decision after another until all falls apart. Du Maurier never lets us know too much about Rachel and it's unclear whether she is a femme fatale and gold digger or whether she is a free spirit who has to be tamed by the stuffy class sensibilities of the Cornish gentry. Wonderful story telling. ( )
  sianpr | Apr 6, 2015 |
I should start off by saying that I have loved every Daphne Du Maurier book that I have read, and even though it has been years since I‘ve read one of hers, My Cousin Rachel was no exception. Once again Du Maurier exceeded my expectations and delivered an atmospheric, spellbinding story that kept me on the edge of my seat with anxiety over the “Did she or didn’t she” question that saturated every page.

Set in 19th century Cornwall and Florence, Italy, this psychological suspense story builds slowly as we read about the main character, Philip Ashley and his obsession with his uncles’ widow, Rachel as to whether she had a hand in his uncles’ death. Before meeting her he is highly suspicious but after she has come to his estate in Cornwall, her beauty, gentle manners and humor sway him in another direction entirely.

Of course, Philip is an unreliable narrator as he only believes what he wants to and adjusts his viewpoint according to his mood. His angst along with his puppy-dog devotion and his juvenile way of looking at things made it difficult to see the real Rachel. Was she the gentle Madonna or the evil fortune hunter or does the truth stretch to encompass both these views?

An expert at manipulating her readers, Daphne Du Maurier draws us along, setting the mood to match the well described weather and changing our viewpoint accordingly. This constant feeling of unease had me looking at Philip and his immaturity at one moment and in the next peering with distrust at Rachel. As Philip was drawn to the woman, Rachel, like a moth to a flame so to was I drawn into this story. And as to the final outcome, well suffice to say Daphne Du Maurier was a great storyteller and certainly knew how to portray the dark side of human nature. A rich subtle read that I highly recommend. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 15, 2015 |
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. ( )
4 vote Meredy | Dec 1, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daphne du Maurierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pryce, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My Cousin Rachel is a novel of great technical assurance.
They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.
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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:43 -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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