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.
Frenchman’s Creek is the third of Daphne DuMaurier’s books I’ve read and the second one I’ve read alongside Jo of Bibliojunkie. She’s my DuMaurier reading buddy! 🙂
About the novel, our heroine is Lady Dona St. Columb who can’t take polite society life in London any longer and flees with her children to her husband’s estate in Cornwall. There she runs into a French pirate with whom she embarks on all kinds of adventures.
I have to admit I both dreaded and looked forward to reading this one. The mere mention of a dashing French pirate made me giggle, and the romance sounded very Gone with the Wind to me (I know everyone loves it, but I’m rather allergic to grand dramatic romances), but surprisingly DuMaurier kept me reading and I even enjoyed the story.
The pirate and Dona’s romance was not for me but if you like romances you’ll love this one. Can’t remember the pirate’s hair color but he’s a typical case of tall, dark and handsome. Also, he’s educated and well-mannered. What interested me and made me keep reading was Dona’s desire for life, adventure and freedom. Women have been and are restrained by their roles of mothers and wives and Dona trying to shed the constraints put on her was the highlight of this novel for me. But of course both women and men are to some degree un-free. Despite the realities of the pirate’s life, it must have been amazing to take to the sea with a sense of free.
DuMaurier is really at her best when she describes Cornwall, her writing is so visual it was easy to imagine the Frenchman and Dona there chasing freedom.
So this novel is quite fantastic if you enjoy romances and swashbuckling fun, but even if you tend to avoid books like that, make an exception for Frenchman’s Creek.
My next DuMaurier read will be Cousin Rachel which I’m very much looking forward to. DuMaurier writing a mystery has to be amazing!
I got my reading mojo back (I gave it tea and cookies I was so happy!) thanks to P.G. Wodehouse.
Stole Borrowed my dad’s kindle and downloaded the first book in the Blandings Castle series Something Fresh/New (which one is the correct title? I don’t really get why there’s any need to change it around).
Luckily, since I’ll probably finish it today and I don’t want to rush through the series, Jo of Bibliojunkie together with Bibliophile by the Sea is doing a readalong of Daphne DuMaurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. So I know what I’ll be reading the next couple of days.
Readalong starts September 1st and reviews will be posted on the 18th. So head over to Jo’s and /or Diane’s blog and let them know if you would like to join them!