My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

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“The point is, life has to be endured, and lived. But how to live it is the problem.”

After reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and falling in love with her writing, I was eager to pick up another one of her books. Alongside Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel seemed to be one of her most well-known novels so it was an easy choice. It is told from the perspective of a young man named Phillip Ashley, whose world is turned upside down following the death of his older cousin, Ambrose. After losing his parents as a child, Phillip was taken in by the wealthy and benevolent Ambrose, who became the most important figure in his life. The two created a somewhat solitary life for themselves, and one with which they were very content with. Upon a trip to Florence, Ambrose does the unexpected by falling in love, getting married, and in an unfortunate turn of events, dying quite suddenly. Pretty soon Amborose’s widow, Rachel shows up in England, and despite his suspicions Phillip can’t help but be drawn to her, even as he questions her hand in the death of Ambrose. 

“He was like someone sleeping who woke suddenly and found the world… all the beauty of it, and the sadness too. The hunger and the thirst. Everything he had never thought about or known was there before him, and magnified into one person who by chance, or fate — call it what you will — happened to be me.”

My Cousin Rachel was an interesting read, especially because I read it soon after reading Rebecca. It has that same intrigue, mysterious tone, and page-turning quality. I connected to the story from the beginning and truly enjoyed all the unknown qualities within. The book keeps you guessing and second-guessing Rachel’s character and her intentions, but as with Phillip, you can’t help but be charmed by her. While it had a strong start, I found the story did start to drag during the last quarter or so and it needed something to capture the attention and keep the reader engaged. Instead it began to feel repetitive and I soon became tired of Phillip’s narration and overall voice. For me, it would have been a much stronger novel as a whole if it had either been shortened a little bit, or had a twist or something occur to keep me engaged to the story. Interestingly enough, this was the opposite of my experience with Rebecca, which had a slower start for me but completely grabbed me in the second half, whereas here, I loved the beginning but it lost me later on. However, it is an enjoyable novel and Daphne du Maurier’s writing is wonderful. I am very much looking forward to reading more of her books soon.

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