I wish to thank Jov of Bibliojunkie for her great kindness in sending me this book.
My Cousin Rachel is the second work of Daphne du Maurier (1907 to 1981-UK) that I have read. My first of her works was Rebecca, her consensus best work. Like Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel centers on a sinister seeming woman who uses her wiles to deceive a wealthy but naive man into endowing her with wealth. Both of the women have nefarious men in their pasts who intrude into the future.
I do not wish to give away much at all of the plot of My Cousin Rachel. I loved the way du Maurier created the almost misogynistic atmosphere in the opening chapters of the book. Much of the book is beautifully written and there are some simply stunning sentences and turns of phrases. The lead male character, Philip was brought up by his wealthy bachelor uncle after his parents die. Uncle Ambrose, in his forties as the story begins, seems never to have had any but limited social contact with women. His nephew, in his early twenties also has had no contact with women other than social relations of a very proper sort. He does say at one point that he is not moved by the idea of any other sort of relationships with women. There is a great affection and bond between Ambrose and his ward and nephew Philip. The story is set on a stately mansion, just like Rebecca is, on the coast in England.
At every turn as the plot advanced I knew something terrible was going to eventually happen. I was sucked into the plot lines so well I was shocked by the ending. At the end I could see how everything was tied together though I was left with some unanswered question, not a bad thing in itself.
I did at times have trouble understanding why Rachel was so attractive to both Ambrose and Philip and I think this is not really well conveyed in the book. Maybe we are just meant to accept that they are and use our imagination to figure out why. I admit as I was reading I became very impatient with what seemed like the incredible naivety of the lead male character, twenty four year old Philip.
I enjoyed My Cousin Rachel a lot. If you are new to du Maurier as I am, then read Rebecca first. If you really like that a lot then I would say My Cousin Rachel would also be something you would enjoy.
It seems that du Maurier's early works (pre-1952 or so) are considered her best work. I would like to read one more of her novels soon and would appreciate any suggestions as to my next read. I read her The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte in early 2008.