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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)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,037None3,264 (3.88)187
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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English (53)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  leslie.98 | Mar 29, 2014 |
I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I found myself involved with the characters very early on, and I found the book to be a very quick read, difficult to put down. There were many plot twists - some that I saw coming and some that I definitely didn't. While the theme and tone is similar to Rebecca, this story has it's own uniqueness. I would recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries and love stories. It was well worth reading. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  Laurie.Schultz | Mar 15, 2014 |
From my blog

I read Rebecca in 2012 and it is now an all time favourite, top 3 of all time. After reading this one, My Cousin Rachel I realize the amazing Daphne Du Maurier writing is memorable. It should be read slowly and fully enjoyed. Just like the best tasting wine or tea that you smell, allow to stay on your tongue, enjoy while steaming hot but is just as good when luke warm, the older it gets or the longer it steams, the better, ohhh yes, Du Maurier takes you on an incredible journey with her writing. Even though I didn't love the story as much as Rebecca I appreciated her writing even more.

Phillip told the story of him and Ambrose's life, living in the mansion without any females, including the help around the home. When Ambrose goes away and marries, Phillip doesn't understand but this is where the mystery starts as Ambrose dies suddenly and Phillip receives letters from him that allows you to assume on the circumstances and make judgments on his widow. Phillip wants to hate his cousin Rachel but once she comes to visit you see the spell put over Phillip immediately.

The naïve, no experience with woman Phillip was done so well, completely irrational and funny. I enjoyed laughing at his expense and rolling my eyes at him. I also felt sorry for him because in my opinion Rachel was a manipulator. The great suspense throughout the story is surrounding Rachel, is she what Phillip believes, is she to blame for Ambrose death? Then comes the unethical puppy love, due to his lack of experience, it was embarrassing to read but suspenseful to see how it all comes together. I thought oh Rachel, you are good.

The ending is mysterious, you know something bad is going to happen and when it does you are left with so many questions, in an amazing way. I think both Rachel and Phillip are impulsive. The difference is in experience, understanding consequences to actions, Phillip needs time to mature.

You will enjoy the debate thoughts you have at the end. Was Rachel to blame or not - what do you think?

Favourite Quotes

It was happening so quickly that I had no time, no moment for reflection back upon the hundred images I had formed of her during the past eighteen months. The woman who had pursued me through the night and days, haunted my waking hours, disturbing my dreams, was now beside me. Page 87

'There are some women, Phillip,' he observed, 'good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch, somehow turns to tragedy. I don't know why I say this to you, but I feel I must.' page 282

...truth was something intangible, unseen, which sometimes we stumbled upon and did not recognize, but was found, and held, and understood only by old people near their death, or sometimes by the very purse, the very young. page 316 ( )
  marcejewels | Jan 16, 2014 |
Episodes of reading a lot make me more discerning / more picky/ refine my taste. After all I've read this year - and perhaps before that - most of My Cousin Rachel seems "a bit better than mediocre", and nothing more.

In my teens I owned a couple of non-Rebecca du Mauriers which I never got round to reading, and got rid of just before I went away to university. I think this was one of them. When I read the synopses of some of her books I was interested in back then, especially Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, The House on the Strand and Mary Anne, they still for a moment sound exciting, before I remember I'd probably find that story cheesy now.

My Cousin Rachel isn't what I'd call cheesy, but "meh", "middlebrow", "a bit dull", "safe" and so forth do come into it. It's not a book that plays with form, style or language and the first 200 pages are not spectacular enough in any way for me to have found it particularly engaging. I can see why du Maurier's work was, when I was that age, frequently recommended for 11-14 year old girls who could and wanted to read some grown-ups books, by those who definitely would not want to alarm their parents. There's little more salacious detail than you'd find in a Victorian novel, and she's less hard work to read.

As with a lot of 3-stars, I find it easier to say what's bad than good, although overall the book is reasonably done.
- Serious shortage of historical atmosphere. It's set in the mid-nineteenth century (Civil War damage to buildings occurred 200 years ago) but aside from oddments like that, long dresses and horses and carriages, the whole thing reads like it's set in the 1920s-1950s. Historical fiction is always in part about the time when it was written as well as the time it's set but the best examples can still work much later - e.g. The Go-Between, which was published around the same time as My Cousin Rachel and still conjures the very-late-Victorian beautifully.
- The narrative gives too many clues as to what will happen, and surely, more observant readers will experience relatively little suspense.
- The narrator is not always convincing; his character is changing through the novel but I am not sure that the personality he has would ever become one of romantic self-annihilation. Not one of the better examples of an author writing an opposite-sex first person narrative I can recall. (Outstanding male narrators by female authors I've read this year are in Iris Murdoch's The Sea The Sea and Clear by Nicola Barker - both of whom like du Maurier in this book, wrote men who are fairly arsey. Being fond of my own space and cantankerous enough myself, I found them somewhat relatable, especially the Murdoch and this one.)
- I did think about abandoning the book several times because it never felt in any way necessary, and I didn't especially care what happened. However, I decided not to wimp out on such an easy book when I had the time available - especially as it's probably one I'd failed to read before. It improved greatly after about page 200.

Good things:
- I quite liked Rachel, and enjoyed seeing the character of a woman who tends to get on with "difficult" men because she's a strong and somewhat iconoclastic personality herself. Yes, we exist. So of course from that viewpoint I didn't especially like what the author did with the character later on, when I identified more and more with Philip's emotions: wanting to be shut away in the remote house with only each other or solitude - an impossible fantasy in the days of the internet. And the feeling of wanting to give her everything and be her servant whilst really just wanting everything exactly the way he imagined it. (Topping from the bottom but being clearly in charge of some things. Bloody nuisance for everyone relationally.) The ones I feel that way about never want stuff or money though, skilfully frugal and too scrupulous even to borrow 20p sometimes.
- The difference between the idea of a person and who they are, and the way these evolve.
- The theme of having a relative who is paranoid and not being quite sure what to believe. (Though handled so mildly I felt very little suspense or confusion from it.)
- The intensity of having another person around, someone you love, when you are very used to being on your own, and the extreme joy and focus on them, contrasted with pain and irritation at other times.
- The final third or so has some similarity to what I loved in Confession of a Child of the Century - a destructive relationship between two dark characters, seen from the inside.

First 200 pages barely scrapes 3 stars, 4 stars for the rest, including the final paragraphs, which had greater subtlety than I expected after the rest of the book. ( )
1 vote antonomasia | Dec 20, 2013 |
Perfect book to read on a winter's evening in front of a log-fire. The opening of the novel has echoes of Great Expectations as a young boy is frightened by the startling image of a criminal, setting the atmosphere.

Du Maurier skilfully manipulates the reader, so that you only gradually become aware of how unreliable a narrator Philip is.

We are set a puzzle, guided by an unworldly, unwise and increasingly obsessed man in a country-house, period setting. And most appealing of all, playfully, Du Maurier doesn't spell it all out. Put another log on the fire, I'm still tying to work it out. ( )
  LARA335 | Dec 10, 2013 |
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Pryce, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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?
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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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