Thoughts: My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel is, I think, the fourth novel I’ve read of DuMaurier and again I’ve teamed up with Jo from Bibliojunkie for a read-along of DuMaurier goodness. I have to say that this is one of those books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, but have put off many times because I didn’t want the anticipation to be over. Still, I had to give in at some point and I’m already looking forward to a slow reread.

My Cousin Rachel was first published in 1951 and is like so many of DuMaurier’s works set mostly in Cornwall. Rating-wise I have to say it comes in a very close second after Rebecca.

As for the story: Philip Ashley grows up in the all-male household of his Uncle Ambrose, groomed to take over the estate after his guardian’s death. However, when Ambrose takes a trip to Italy, he meets and marries ‘cousin’ Rachel and shortly after dies abroad. Devastated and alarmed by a letter his uncle sent him before his death, Philip travels to Italy. However, Rachel has disappeared and before long, she shows up on Philip’s doorstep in England.

This book is just as perfect about atmosphere as Rebecca, it’s nearly a character of its own! It is also a fantastic mystery with so many layers and twist and turns that I couldn’t help but race through it (my thesis be damned!). It also makes for a wonderful study about youth and models of femininity and masculinity. The story is told from Philip’s perspective, who is young, has grown up without significant female company and has introduced himself as something of a dreamer. As such, he is more than a little unreliable and his descriptions and thoughts of Rachel really say much more about himself than his ‘cousin’. He has more or less internalized Ambrose’s distrust and fear of women and his friendship with the daughter of a neighbor is that of siblings, so when he is confronted with half-Italian Rachel, it throws him badly. Even without his uncle’s mysterious death I think this would have made for an interesting story. As it is, My Cousin Rachel has it all – suspenseful mystery and study of gender representation.

Other thoughts:


25 thoughts on “Thoughts: My Cousin Rachel

  1. I read this last year and enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I think I might like it a little more than Rebecca! Philip’s unreliability kept me on my toes all the way through—it was really well done.

    1. So well done! I have to admit it’s a very close tie with Rebecca, but I have a soft spot as that was my first DuMaurier 🙂

  2. Great review. I like this better than Rebecca. I look forward to reading another one with you. What about from the start? FRom her very first book?

  3. I just recently read this one as well and I LOVED it. LOVED IT!!! It made me want to reread Rebecca so that is what I’m planning on doing 🙂 I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it as well. She is now one of my favorite authors after reading these two books!

    1. Happy to hear you loved thos one, too. Did you read Rebecca? It was my first DuMaurier and made me want to read everything else by her 🙂

  4. So far I have only read Rebecca, and The Birds and Other Stories of Du Maurier’s. Both of which I loved, I really really must read more, and after such great reviews from you and Jo I know I must give My Cousin Rachel a go.

  5. Wonderful review, Bina! Interesting to know that Philip is an unreliable narrator. I love unreliable narrators 🙂 I will add this to my ‘TBR’ list.

    1. I love unreliable narrators as well, keeps you on your toes! 🙂 Perhaps you want to join us on our next DuMaurier read?

  6. I think My Cousin Rachel is the best book I’ve read for being ambiguous – and Rachel is such a fascinating character; impossible to make your mind up about. Your review reminds me that I must read more Daphne.

    1. Hi Simon! Rachel is really fantastically ambiguous, it makes for the best characters. Definitely read more DuMaurier, which ones have you tried?

  7. So many wonderful blog posts here, to catch up with! I had a quick glance through and: I hope you got all the books you wanted for Christmas; I hope you enjoyed the Terry Pratchetts, though DH says the ‘The Colour of Magic’ and the second one aren’t as good as the others. I’ve read several of the others and enjoyed them a lot. We’ve got them all… I started the kids with ‘Moving Pictures’ and that was them hooked!

    It’s MANY years since I read ‘My Cousin Rachel’ and now, after your wonderful review, I’m going to have to read it again! My copy is a very old ‘Book Club’ issue. 🙂

    1. Hey Penny! Enjoyed TCoM and will definitely read more Pratchett books:) Haha, I got lots of books for Christmas, though mostly from my other list, but I love them all. Rachel is should be a great reread, so you can look for all the clues one misses the first time around!

  8. Hello!
    What a lovely blog you have! I haven’t read anything by DuMaurier, but this review makes me want to, right now! Following you!
    I do amateurish (!) book reviews too. Please have a look at my book review blog. It’s pretty new, but I’m working on it.
    If you like the blog, please follow! I would love to have you as a regular reader!

    1. Hi Amritorupa! Thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment 🙂 Had a quick look and your reviews don’t look amateurish at all, love the one about Persepolis! Hope you’ll love DuMaurier, Rebecca is always a great way to get into her works.

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