Tuesday, November 22, 2022

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

💎 Another brilliant piece of work from du Maurier! Although not as magnificent as Rebecca, it's still brilliant.

💎 The story is told by one of the most unreliable narrators in literature: Philip Ashley; an orphan who'd been brought up by his cousin: Ambrose Ashley, the owner of a large estate in Cornwall, England.

💎 Ambrose is Philip's world; he worshipped him as brother, father, and guardian. They have each other, this two brothers, and Philip will be Ambrose's heir after he turns 25. But their world is shattered the day Ambrose left to Italy, in need of warmer weather. He met a distant cousin, Rachel, a widow in Florence. He was soon infatuated by her, and eventually married her, and stayed in Florence.

💎 Ambrose soon fell ill with terrible headaches. His letters to Philip changed tone; he didn't trust Rachel, and even called her his tormentor. At this point Philip, whose hatred toward Rachel has rapidly growing, departed to Florence to save Ambrose. But it's too late, Ambrose's dead and buried in Florence.

💎 When Rachel came to Cornwall, Philip has been planning a revenge, since he's sure that Rachel has killed Ambrose. But this spoiled boy, who had nearly no experience in dealing with women before, was soon falling in love head over heels with his cousin Rachel.

💎 Now history repeats itself, Philip began to have similar illness to Ambrose, right after his 25th birthday, when he handed over the estate to Rachel and wanted her to be his wife. The question is, did Rachel really poisoned Ambrose (and now Philip) for their money/estate? Or she's merely an impulsive spendthrift woman who loves gardening, and thus keeping a packet of poisonous laburnum tree seeds in her drawer?

💎 One of my biggest pet peeves in literature is ambiguous ending. I'd prefer a rounded up story, of which I could either satisfyingly happy or mournfully broken-hearted, so that I can immediately close the book, and move on to next one. An uncertain ending, however, left me uncertained, and it's really annoying. My Cousin Rachel is one of the latter. Du Maurier leave us to guess ourselves whether Rachel is really an evil woman, or it's all just Philip's sentiment because of his jealousy. Remember, we know Rachel only from Philip's perspective, and he's emotional and unreliable, and perhaps on the border of madness (as was Ambrose).

💎 On my part, I prefer to conclude that Rachel is not innocent. She's a spendthrift - that's a fact - and her relationship with the lawyer/best friend Rainaldi could not have as innocence as she said it to be. They never talk openly, and always talk in Italian when Philip leaves the room. And the laburnum seed.. why keep it in her drawer? There could have been simple reason, but it's rather fishy, don't you think?

💎 All in all, it's rather an appropriate gothic reading, beautifully written. I admired Maurier's tension building and psychological thriller around a mysterious woman (just like in Rebecca), but.. like I said, I hated the inconclusive ending.

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. I read this one a few years ago and like you I wasn't quite sure what to think about Rachel at the end. Philip's not exactly trustworthy as a narrator, but I don't think Rachel was exactly innocent either. It's a good book though. :D

    1. Yes, it's a book with no good character at all. I'm still not sure who's done evil to who. But, as you say, it's still a good work from Maurier, which is all the most important in the end, right?


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