Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – Book Details
TITLE – My Cousin Rachel
AUTHOR – Daphne du Maurier
YEAR PUBLISHED – 1951
PAGE COUNT – 383
MY RATING – 4 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 3.97 of 5
To be completely honest, the only reason why I picked up My Cousin Rachel was because Daphne du Maurier has gained a lot of attention lately with her other gothic mystery novel – Rebecca. I’ve heard so many amazing things about it, I just had to try it out. And autumn, and specifically October, seemed like the perfect time for it.
But, I couldn’t get a copy of Rebecca in time for this year’s pre-Halloween read. So, I decided to leave it for the next year and read something else by this author.
Daphne du Maurier is known as a queen of dark, gothic, unnerving novels in which not even the end brings a full reveal. I’ve also heard many praises of her writing style, setting the atmosphere and character work.
There are also a few very well-known adaptations of Du Maurier’s novels. Hitchcock based a few of his movies on her writings, including Rebecca and The Birds.
There is also My Cousin Rachel from 2017 (starring Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz), as well as Netflix’s 2020 version of Rebecca (Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kirstin Scott Thomas).
I’ve never seen an adaptation of any of her work or read anything by her. But a quick search through Google, and I was convinced Daphne du Maurier would definitely be an author I’d want on my bookshelf.
I picked up My Cousin Rachel with my expectations set pretty high even before checking out what the book was all about…
What It Is About
Philip Ashley has been raised by his somewhat eccentric uncle Ambrose. Firmly decided to never marry, Ambrose only wishes to spend the rest of his life on his estate with Philip, who is to be his heir, and with no women to try and mess with their bachelor lifestyle.
But a trip to Florence suddenly changes everything. The first letters Ambrose writes back home talk about him meeting their mysterious cousin Rachel, falling in love with her and getting married.
But then the letters become more and more sinister, eventually inviting Philip to come and help. By the time Philip reaches Florence, his uncle is dead and there’s more than one mystery to be solved.
And now Ambrose’s mysterious widow is expected at the Ashley’s large estate in Cornwall. Grief-stricken and barely knowing anything about her, Philip has one desire and one desire only – to make the woman pay for whatever has happened to his uncle…
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – My Review
I don’t remember when was the last time the beginning of a book gripped me so fully from the first few sentences.
This is one of those books I feel I should read at least twice. It is full of hints and hunches you don’t fully understand when you read it for the first time, but they are so teasing – you really, really want to know.
Plus, the atmosphere of this book is so gripping! Du Maurier masterfully sets the scene. Prepares an unsettling, untrustworthy environment full of such subtitle intrigues and manipulations, you can miss them if you blink. Small acts that have a great impact and inevitably lead to the tragic events.
It was gothic. It was immersive. Very confusing. Full of foreboding. Just brilliant!
But here’s the thing – while I appreciated the subtlety and while it made the story as amazing, believable and relatable as it was, I’ve been often catching myself needing… more. I wanted some spice. Something truly juicy. A scandal to make this story a bit more edgy. To make the whole thing a bit more exciting.
As it was, it was great. But maybe just a little bit dull. Especially the middle of the book that rolled down slowly and steadily without anything to interrupt it.
The ending, though, was absolutely phenomenal. Ambiguous in the best possible way. It made me wonder for days what did I really know about these people. And I still have no clue whether some of my assumptions were true or not.
So, there was a gripping beginning and a perfect ending, and then the middle that was… It was not boring. Or at least it wasn’t written in a way that would bore you to death. You just read, and you keep reading, and there’s nothing super exciting going on, but there’s always something that holds your attention and makes you go on and on and on…
And then, after 200 pages, you suddenly ask yourself – wait, what was I reading this whole time? Cause I’d bet it could all fit in a few chapters.
My Cousin Rachel is a character-driven book with strong atmospheric, gothic moments. And both these parts were done brilliantly. Plus, the slow buildup definitely has its purpose in this book. It creates a hunting, untrustworthy environment better than any isolated incident ever could.
But I still needed just a little bit more.
I read somewhere that Rebecca is the other way around – a bit lower quality writing, but more interesting story. And to me – that sounds just perfect. Now I really, really can’t wait to read that one…