New Read: My Cousin Rachel

I have been meaning to read more by Daphne du Maurier for some time (my last was Jamaica Inn back in 2015!), and after getting some feedback from other bloggers, it was pretty conclusive that I should read My Cousin Rachel next. Started back in March, it wasn’t till the sun emerged in May that I found myself really in the mood for it.

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised solely by his older cousin, Ambrose; a resolutely single man that delights in Philip as an heir. But as a young man, his cosy world is shattered when Ambrose is forced by ill health to leave Cornwall for the warmth of Florence. While there he falls deeply in love and marries – and then dies suddenly. Leaving Philip grief-stricken at his loss, and racked by jealousy and suspicion of his cousin’s widow, Rachel. Despite himself, on meeting each other, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet… might she have had a hand in his beloved Ambrose’s death?

This is the question that Philip, the narrator, and so in turn us, the reader, comes back to again and again. It a rollercoaster ride for us, as Philip tries to grapple with the prejudices he holds; the damning rumours he has heard and the changing opinions around him, while trying to tally that with how different Rachel seems in the flesh. Is she a money grabbing, man-eater? Or is she the wronged widow? Personally I always felt there was something not quite right about her.

However we, the readers, only ever get to see Rachel through the eyes of Philip, but is he a reliable narrator? He clearly loved his cousin Ambrose very much, and vice versa, however the secluded, privileged bubble that they lived in has allowed Philip to grow up naïve, impulsive and spoilt. Do his suspicions simply come from his jealousy of having to share Ambrose’s love? On the other hand, does Rachel’s strong, emotional affect on him stem from the fact he is uneducated in love and women? I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him! Especially when the advice and opinion of his trusted godfather on Rachel does a full 360 in a matter of weeks too.

Around these two imperfect characters and their intense relationship, Daphne du Maurier has beautifully weaved another captivating, gothic mystery, which is full of secrets, rumours, tension and passion. All set  against the stark, atmospheric coast of Cornwall, that du Maurier loved so much and which she can describe in such vivid, realistic detail. I may have taken a while to be the mood for this book; once I was though I was swept away, gripped firm and finished reading it in a matter of a few days! Might have been quicker if I didn’t need to eat and sleep!

Overall, I thought My Cousin Rachel was a wonderfully atmospheric read, right up there with the pure quality of Rebecca, which is a very strong contender for my top ten reads of the year. I look forward to reading even more from du Maurier – I already have Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand on my to-be-read pile. Great read.

Have you read this? What do you think I should read next?


25 thoughts on “New Read: My Cousin Rachel

  1. Have loved all of DdM’s books for years – re-read them ar regular intervals – one favourite is ‘The Scapegoat’

    1. Margaret, even though I have only read a few of du Maurier’s novel, I can already see myself enjoying many re-reads of her work too. While The Scapegoat is definitely on my wish list, I already have copies of Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand so it is a choice between these for my next read. Do you prefer either of these?

      1. Probably is pushed would say Frenchman’s Creek of these two.

  2. Never read the Frenchman’s creek but liked the House on the Strand though. I enjoyed my cousin Rachel but I remember thinking that I missed something. The movie will be out (well, another one) as you probably know so I am curious to see it.

    1. Catherine, I am also curious to see the new film adaptation, however I only found out about it once I was nearly finished reading the book…I couldn’t have planned it better really 😛

  3. I love this book, I’m not sure which I would say is my favourite of her novels to be honest but of the ones I’ve read, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel and Rebecca are the ones that really stand out for me.
    Lynn 😀

  4. I loved this one – I have to say that I preferred it Rebecca. That circular ending… and the different mood and weight we give it at the start and at the conclusion of the book always gives me goosebumps. I loved Frenchman’s Creek as it’s more of a swashbuckler – she has also written a fantastic collection of short stories – I hope they are still in print. But I don’t think I have read The Scapegoat – I’ll have to track that one down. The House on the Strand is a bit moodier – perhaps next read Frenchman’s Creek as it is a bit more of a contrast to My Cousin Rachel… Thank you for a lovely review:)

    1. Aw you are very welcome Sarah – thank you for stopping by and recommending Frenchman’s Creek 🙂 Do you know which short story collection of du Maurier’s you enjoyed? I have read two of her short story collections: The Birds & Other Stories and The Doll: Short Stories.

  5. This sounds great! I’m almost certain I’ve read it way back – I have a visual memory of it on the bookshelves in the family home and I read everything on there – but so long ago I really don’t remember the story. I’m hoping to read more du Maurier over the coming months so I’ll stick this one near the top for a re-read… 😀

  6. This is one of my favourite du Maurier novels, so I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it so much! The other two you have on your TBR are both great as well, but I preferred The House on the Strand.

    1. Helen, good to hear that Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand are both great, with your recommendation though I have touched the latter into the lead to read first 🙂

    1. Thank you Judy 🙂 And as I said to Fran, while The Scapegoat is definitely on my wish list, I already have copies of Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand so it is a choice between these for my next read.

  7. I loved this one!! Of course not more than Rebecca, but enough that I want to read almost all of Daphne du Maurier’s books! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Thank you Melinda 🙂 I have to agree that this is a great book, but I didn’t love quite as much as Rebecca, and I also look forward to reading all of du Maurier’s books too!

    1. Fran, while The Scapegoat is definitely on my wish list, I already have copies of Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand so it is a choice between these for my next read.

      1. Hmmm. I think that Frenchman’s Creek is more “fun” but The House on the Strand is more thought provoking. So it depends what you’re in the mood for.

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