I'm almost ashamed to admit that My Cousin Rachel is my first book by Daphne Du Maurier. As much as I love Gothic Fiction, I should have read this a long time ago. For years I've been meaning to read the acclaimed Rebecca, but never got around to it. So when the opportunity arose for me to read this book, I jumped on it. And I'm so happy that I did.
They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days. Not anymore, though.
And so begins the dark and winding tale of My Cousin Rachel.
Orphaned at seven years old, Philip Ashley was taken in by his Uncle Ambrose. Under the care of Ambrose, Philip was raised as heir to Ambrose's Cornwall estate. Ambrose, just into manhood, taught Philip everything he knew and Philip looked up to his his uncle--Ambrose's ideals becoming his ideals, especially the ones about not having any use for women. Ambrose believed that he got along so well without a woman that there was no need for them in his life, and Philip took to this notion from a very young age.
The approaching winter of Philip's twenty fourth year, Ambrose retreats to the warmer climates of Italy for health reasons, leaving Philip behind to take care of the estate that he is heir to. Months later, Philip receives a letter from Ambrose stating that he has met a woman named Rachel--a distant cousin and widow left with the debt of her late husband. Later letters reveal that Ambrose has fallen in love with Rachel and married her. Philip is shocked by the news. His uncle had always been against women in general and to find out that he has married is unsettling. Philip, unable to grasp that Ambrose has actually fallen in love, thinks up many unsavory pictures of his Cousin Rachel.
When Philip begins getting letters from Ambrose reporting unsettling things about his health and new bride, Philip becomes alarmed and sets out to help him. He arrives in Italy to bad news, though: Ambrose has died and Cousin Rachel has left the country. Saddened by the news, Philip takes on his duties as head of the estate--heartbroken over Ambrose and convinced that Rachel is to blame for his death. Soon Philip receives news that Rachel is coming to Cornwall. His pride won't let him turn her away so he invites her to stay with him, still thinking her responsible for his uncle's death. But when Philip meets Cousin Rachel, she is not the woman that his wayward imagination thought her to be. This woman surely couldn't be capable of murder, could she?
What comes next is a twisty tale of suspicion, love, good and evil. Many questions come into play regarding Rachel. Is she guilty of Ambrose's death or an innocent? Is she out to get Philip now? Has Philip misjudged Rachel? What I loved about the story is that the answers to all of these questions are left ambiguous. The reader is left to draw their own conclusions from what can be learned through Rachel's stay with Philip in Cornwall. My Cousin Rachel has one of those endings that is deliciously bittersweet. Never getting a clear cut answer to Philip's suspicions, left me a unsure as to how I felt when the story came to a close. I replayed the story over and over in my head, attempting to come up with an answer that made sense. I think it's safe to say that I was haunted by this Gothic Tale long after I finished the book. Grade A.
As you can see, I really enjoyed My Cousin Rachel and I'm happy to share the news that one of you can have the chance to enjoy it, too. Today is the late Daphne Du Maurier's Birthday, and in honor of this special day and author Sourcebooks is giving away a copy of My Cousin Rachel. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment. It's that easy!
Note: After reading My Cousin Rachel, I looked up information on Daphne Du Maurier (May 13, 1907 – April 19, 1989). She is author of The Birds, a short story that was later made into a movie (I love this movie!) by Alfred Hitchcock. It has been said that she felt she lived a double life of both a loving wife/mother, and lesbian. The loving wife and mother being the side that she showed to the world, and her decidedly male (lesbian) counter-persona--the side that was the writer. Over the course of her life she penned over 20 books and wrote three plays. I think it's safe to say that she was an interesting woman.