Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Cousin Rachel - Daphne Du Maurier


I learned this late in 2009...if you ever want a creepy, atmospheric, character-driven piece of literature, you can usually find what you are looking for in a Daphne Du Maurier novel. Probably best known for her short-story The Birds, or her sweeping tale of Manderley in Rebecca, she is a master of suspense and storytelling. This is not the stuff of Stephen King; her art is much more subtle and seems to have a knack for leaving you hanging at the end, asking "wha???".

The story centers on young Phillip Ashley, orphaned at a young age and raised by his beloved older cousin Ambrose. While on vacation in Italy, Ambrose meets a cousin named Rachel, falls in love and gets married, all the while writing to Phillip, providing a detailed account of the whirlwind courtship. Suddenly, the letters become scarce, and start to sound like ravings of a paranoid madman, calling his new wife his tormentor. Concerned, Phillip travels to Italy to visit his cousin, but finds that he has passed away, apparently of a "fever" caused by a brain tumor. Hmm...

A few weeks later, Rachel comes a-callin', under the guise of delivering Ambrose's effects. Phillip is determined to despise her, but just cannot resist her easy manner, her beauty and vulnerability. He falls and he falls hard, acting like a complete lovesick fool, ready to offer Rachel a limb or whatever it takes to win her heart. It is under this disability that Phillip must answer some tough questions. Is he being used? Was Ambrose's death accidental? Just who, exactly, is this Rachel? What are her motives and are they pure? These are questions you will be pondering for days after you've turned the last page.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the plot of this book. In fact, if you have any sense of Du Maurier, it all becomes clear within five or six chapters. Still, this doesn't lessen the fun of the journey. The entire story is narrated by Phillip, who is definitely not without bias. We live inside his heart and breathe all of the emotions that a first love can bring...self-doubt, elation, jealousy, paranoia, depression. It's not long, though, before you begin to question his judgement. This is the thrill of "My Cousin Rachel" really - in figuring out the truth. To me, there is no better exercise for the mind. After finishing this one, you might just feel like you've run a few laps, envigorated and ready for more.

4 out of 5 stars


25 comments:

Melody said...

I'm very intrigued with this premise, and I've not read Rebecca yet! Need to remedy that, soon!

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I have a copy of this and will hopefully read it later in the year. I'm sorry to hear that it is predictable, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it anyway.

JoAnn said...

I loved Rebecca and want to read more of Du Maurier... this will be next. Sounds great!!

caite said...

I agree it is a fine read. You can always depend on du Maurier when you need a dose of creepy.

Kaye said...

Du Maurier is definitely mistress of the gothic feel. I've read Rebecca twice and will probably read it again in my lifetime.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I haven't read Du Maurier in years and years - I just remember a general sense of spookiness. Actually it sounds like her books would be fun for a readathon when you need something to keep you reading late at night!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not a fan of horror, but I think I would enjoy this kind of built up suspense.

Trisha said...

I adored Rebecca in an almost eerie way and this sounds wonderfully similar in tone. I am just forced to go to a bookstore today I tell you. :)

Anna said...

I own Rebecca but have yet to read it. Actually haven't read anything by this author, but I must change that! I love creepy stories, and this one sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

The Bumbles said...

Ah - that sounds like a fun romp through the psyche!

Dar said...

I haven't read this one but I've read a few others of hers and really enjoyed them.

Alyce said...

I still haven't read any du Maurier yet, and I really need to remedy that. This looks like it would be the perfect one to start with. :)

April (BooksandWine) said...

I have to thank you for holding the Rebecca ReadALong, I don't think I would have forced myself to read it you didn't. I'm now a DuMaurier convert.

Fantastic review :-)

I do love the atmosphere and subtlety of Du Maurier, but I feel like her books are best read in winter, is that bizarre?

Zibilee said...

I haven't yet read anything by Du Maurier, but I have this book and Rebecca on my shelf. I will have to get to this one soon, as it sounds very creepy and atmospheric. GReat review, Sandy. I will have to let you know what I think of it after I read it!

Kathleen said...

Awesome review Sandy and glad you enjoyed the book! I have come to count on DuMaurier to keep me guessing and entertained all the way through even after I have figured things out.

Catherine Ensley said...

DuMarier was my favorite author when I was in high school. Haven't gotten around to reading her since, but I sure loved Rebecca. Wonderful review!

Dana said...

I read Rebecca earlier this year and loved Du Maurier's writing style. I've been trying to figure out what to read next by her - this one sounds really interesting! Great review!

heidenkind said...

Sounds very mysterious! I'm surprised no one's turned this into a movie yet--I can just picture it starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Ti said...

I loved this one. Yes, it was predictable but the obviousness of all that goes on just made me want to jump right into the book to shake some sense into Philip (in a good way though).

Lisa said...

I've got this somewhere on Mt. TBR--I really need to dig it out!

Andreea said...

I just reviewed Rebecca and I loved it. I am looking forward to reading this book. Thanks you for this great review, Sandy!

Jenners said...

I have GOT to read this author. Sad that I haven't yet.

Alice Teh said...

I like the author's style after reading REBECCA and this one is another one I need to read. Unfortunately, I've just started another round of self-imposed BBB (book-buying ban), so this will go into my wish list first. Argghhhhh...

Nymeth said...

I haven't read this yet, but I really loved everything I've read by Du Maurier so far. She really is brilliant at creating the right atmosphere!

Serena said...

Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favorites for atmospheric novels.