My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Classics
Maturity Level: 3
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I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn …Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet …might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?
What a unique love story! Even though I felt like I kind of knew what to expect (curse you movie trailer!!!!!), it kept going in directions that took me by surprise. However, I didn’t find the atmosphere quite as brooding and mysterious as I expected to, which was a little disappointing.
Phillip was a fun main character in that he was younger and more naive than a typical hero. He is constantly changing his mind about the other characters and his own values, causing him to be a rather unreliable narrator. He’s easily influenced by the thoughts and opinions of those around him, which makes him seem wishy-washy. And he falls in love with Rachel so easily! It’s like reading a high school romance, but set in 1800s England!
Rachel was appropriately mysterious. Although I was certain as I was reading the book that she was no murderess, I was not ever sure of her motivations. Is she in love? Is she gold-digging? Is she really just “impulsive” as she in constantly described? Her relationship with her financial advisory, Rainaldi, was also suspicious. Though, again, I doubted Rainaldi was evil, he seemed to have some ulterior motive in everything he did. I didn’t trust him any more than our heroes did.
My biggest disappointment was with the surprise ending. I understand that this is one of those books that people argue about. Did Rachel poison her husband or not??? But to me it was clear throughout the story, and especially at the end, exactly what du Maurier intended us to think. I don’t think it’s supposed to be questionable at all. And so the big reveal felt anti-climactic to me.
That being said, I very much enjoyed this book and its characters. I’m happy to give it a place on my shelf, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes a historical fiction romance.