My Cousin Rachel
By Daphne Du Maurier
The House on the Strand and Rebecca were truly wonderful books full of atmosphere with dark characters and deep emotional triggers that had me holding my breath till the end of the book. I wasn’t disappointed by My Cousin Rachel but I didn’t feel the same emotional response as I did with the others. Yet I was still happy to see the somewhat ambiguous ending. Hmmm… No worries. I’m not telling. Honestly, I think Du Maurier is the only author that can do that and leave me feeling OK with it. Wonder why that is?
Ambrose Ashley and his heir, Philip, are two men leading bachelor lives on their estate in Cornwall, England. When Ambrose’s health begins to fail, he goes off to Italy for the weather and health benefits and finds a wife in Rachel, a recent widower and countess. When Ambrose sends Philip a strange letter saying his wife may be poisoning him, Philip goes to Italy to help Ambrose but doesn’t arrive in time. Sullenly, Philip returns home to find out Ambrose’s widow will soon be landing in England. Philip has no love, and only a slight respect, for this woman but he welcomes her reluctantly. Somehow, this mysterious woman finds a way into his life.
Philip is so naïve that Rachel’s actions seem perfectly normal to him but all the time you’re wondering why he doesn’t stay true to his original assessment of Rachel. You want him to go on mistrusting her and when he doesn’t, it’s infuriating and there’s nothing to do but stand back and watch the wreck happen. And you know it’s going to happen.
Rachel begins wrapping Philip around her finger. He becomes more possessive and somewhat deranged. Very much like Ambrose which has you wondering who and what Rachel is. He keeps finding letters from Ambrose accusing his wife of poisoning him and warning Philip of her abuse of money. But Philip heeds none of them. He ignores all the signs Ambrose sends him from the grave.
This was a very satisfying read but it didn’t have the same intrigue, buildup, or emotional pull. The notes and Philip’s feelings just aren’t the same here but they do add an otherworldly element, persistent but ignored though they are. If I had read this one before Rebecca, I may have felt differently about it. I keep trying to stop myself from making comparisons but I can’t. That happens with me when I start reading an author’s backlist. I have Frenchman’s Creek on my list and know my library has a copy and I’ll try to keep an open mind while reading that one.
All in all, a good read and I’m glad I’m working my way through Du Maurier’s books. It’s a fun little challenge.