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My Cousin Rachel

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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. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose's letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin's widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet... might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?

352 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 1951

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About the author

Daphne du Maurier

324 books7,809 followers
Daphne du Maurier was born on 13 May 1907 at 24 Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park, London, the middle of three daughters of prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel, née Beaumont. In many ways her life resembles a fairy tale. Born into a family with a rich artistic and historical background, her paternal grandfather was author and Punch cartoonist George du Maurier, who created the character of Svengali in the 1894 novel Trilby, and her mother was a maternal niece of journalist, author, and lecturer Comyns Beaumont. She and her sisters were indulged as a children and grew up enjoying enormous freedom from financial and parental restraint. Her elder sister, Angela du Maurier, also became a writer, and her younger sister Jeanne was a painter.

She spent her youth sailing boats, travelling on the Continent with friends, and writing stories. Her family connections helped her establish her literary career, and she published some of her early work in Beaumont's Bystander magazine. A prestigious publishing house accepted her first novel when she was in her early twenties, and its publication brought her not only fame but the attentions of a handsome soldier, Major (later Lieutenant-General Sir) Frederick Browning, whom she married.

She continued writing under her maiden name, and her subsequent novels became bestsellers, earning her enormous wealth and fame. Many have been successfully adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn, and the short stories The Birds and Don't Look Now/Not After Midnight. While Alfred Hitchcock's films based upon her novels proceeded to make her one of the best-known authors in the world, she enjoyed the life of a fairy princess in a mansion in Cornwall called Menabilly, which served as the model for Manderley in Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier was obsessed with the past. She intensively researched the lives of Francis and Anthony Bacon, the history of Cornwall, the Regency period, and nineteenth-century France and England. Above all, however, she was obsessed with her own family history, which she chronicled in Gerald: A Portrait, a biography of her father; The du Mauriers, a study of her family which focused on her grandfather, George du Maurier, the novelist and illustrator for Punch; The Glassblowers, a novel based upon the lives of her du Maurier ancestors; and Growing Pains, an autobiography that ignores nearly 50 years of her life in favour of the joyful and more romantic period of her youth. Daphne du Maurier can best be understood in terms of her remarkable and paradoxical family, the ghosts which haunted her life and fiction.

While contemporary writers were dealing critically with such subjects as the war, alienation, religion, poverty, Marxism, psychology and art, and experimenting with new techniques such as the stream of consciousness, du Maurier produced 'old-fashioned' novels with straightforward narratives that appealed to a popular audience's love of fantasy, adventure, sexuality and mystery. At an early age, she recognised that her readership was comprised principally of women, and she cultivated their loyal following through several decades by embodying their desires and dreams in her novels and short stories.

In some of her novels, however, she went beyond the technique of the formulaic romance to achieve a powerful psychological realism reflecting her intense feelings about her father, and to a lesser degree, her mother. This vision, which underlies Julius, Rebecca and The Parasites, is that of an author overwhelmed by the memory of her father's commanding presence. In Julius and The Parasites, for example, she introduces the image of a domineering but deadly father and the daring subject of incest.

In Rebecca, on the other hand, du Maurier fuses psychological realism with a sophisticated version of the Cinderella story. The nameless heroine has

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,778 reviews
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,120 followers
March 10, 2017
WOW! I liked MY COUSIN RACHEL even better than REBECCA!

This dark old-fashioned style mystery gives the reader plenty of clues to contemplate, some suspicious evil characters to dissect and others who's naïvety and impulsive acts will make you want to scream with frustration.....or it did me.

As for the ending....I loved it, but you'll have to decide for yourself if Rachel is innocent or guilty of a crime(s)......but IMHO

What a great classic tale!

(recommend reading with no prior knowledge going in)

Update: March 7, 2017

Lucked out (Yes!) and caught the 1954 movie version with Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland on TMC just 5 minutes in.....

Really enjoyed it, but definitely not as much as the book. The written word was more mysterious and had a stronger undercurrent of evil.....Still a good flick though.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,852 reviews35k followers
June 6, 2017
I started reading Daphne du Maurier just this year.....a 2017 *du Maurier* newbie!
The first book I read was "The Scapegoat", then "Rebecca", then "The Flight of the Falcon".....and this morning I finished "My Cousin Rachel".

"My Cousin Rachel", is Daphne du Maurier's 3rd highest rated book.
"Rebecca" is rated as the #1 popular favorite-- followed by "Jamaica Inn" as the #2 most popular.

I won't be surprised with a new movie of "My Cousin Rachel", soon, if this book takes the #2 popular spot soon.

Regardless 'which' Daphne du Maurier book one chooses to read... the reader has NO QUESTION ABOUT THE AUTHORS TALENTS. SHE CAN TELL A STORY LIKE NOBODIES BUSINESS!!!

Since there are 17,462 Ratings on Goodreads - 1, 638 reviews- with an overall rating of 3.9 on Goodreads ..... rather than write another traditional review--
I'm going to write a little letter to three characters in this story and one dog.

Dear Ambrose,
I'm sorry your life was cut short. I'm happy you experienced romantic-soulful love....but again, I'm sorry it was cut short. I'm sorry you suffered just before you died - sounded like you were in excruciating pain physically- and mentally.
What I'm most sorry about though - disappointed - is the way in which you raised Philip. I don't think you did him any service. He idolized you - was dependent on you emotionally- spiritually - mentally - and even physically in ways. You feed him 'your' opinions and judgments about women.... which was basically they weren't needed in your lives. Given the size of your estate - and the many servants you hired - it would have made sense if some of your employees were men and some women. But.... you made sure that all servants in the house, including the Gardner we're all men.
How dare you project your views so rigidly upon this innocent boy. You molded him his life -- not just sheltered it - but actually spoon feed him your beliefs. Shame on you for doing that.
After you died.... Philip didn't have a healthy sense of 'self'. He was left alone in the world --- a younger clone of 'you'. But that didn't even work.... did it?? As Philip begins to discover he might not have known you as well as he thought.
Well, Ambrose.... what is done is done. Philip had to figure things out on his own --- which isn't SO BAD..... it's something we all must do, but in the best of all world's - you might have done things a little different by him while he was in your care.
Bottom line: Philip had some problems - you must have foreseen these showing up sooner or later......
AND..... Philip loved you. You loved him.
Rest In Peace Ambrose!!

Dear Philip,
Oh, how I worried for you. At times I adored you - other times I wanted to scream at you: "WAKE UP"!!!! Your life was so small you couldn't even see how much it had stifled you. I did respect your authentic struggle between feeling jealous of Ambrose and Rachel's happiness in their new marriage--- and your guilt for having such feelings. You were being real and honest with yourself - facing 'what's so'. You weren't blaming anyone - or lashing out negatively against anyone just because of your own negative feelings.
Philip you became mysterious to me once you turned 25 years old-- as if your birthday was THE LAUNCH you had been constructing -preparing for - your entire life. I wasn't sure who you were any longer. I not sure you knew either. It looked like you were acting out impulsively to me -- in ways that perhaps Rachel might do.....
but I don't think so, Philip. I actually don't think either - you or Rachel ever acted impulsively. I think you were both playing a master chess game.
I am sorry you lost Ambrose. I'm sorry you lost him the way you did. I was sorry that you hurt. I was very sorry for your loss of Don ( your doggie). I found it somewhat interesting that right after Don died the first thought that ran through your mind was noticing that Rachel was caring for you - for the first time perhaps - more than Ambrose. You seemed to deny your 'own' feelings for your loss as Don, saying to Rachel, ....."Don did not suffer". I was thinking ...."like hell". If you had something fall on 'your' head..... could you really say.... "oh I didn't feel a thing"?
You were so in chanted by Rachel at that moment, Philip, your dog who had been with you your entire life took a second seat. What a fool you were!
I don't think you really meant to do any harm.... yet I thought you were a insensitive..... like a child.....you were a little narcissistic about yourself. And why? You were woman- starved your entire life! I was hoping that he would just go f#%k your brains out! You needed time to catch up with 'growing yourself up'.
You certainly didn't need to even consider jumping into a marriage at age 25 as a virgin man! It was your own fault if Rachel had you tied by her little finger.

NOTE..... for friends who have NOT read this book.... I HAVE GIVEN NO SPOILERS AWAY!!!! None!

Dear Rachel,
Oh my dear woman..... aren't you the enchantress--mischievous aren't you? Bossy-endearing?......"Philip, Go to Bed"! How funny! I did like that line you said a 'few' times. I was wondering why you didn't just say, "come to my bed".... but I knew why really....( he would have)....you were not 'that' foolish! You had better strategic moves, didn't you?
Oh..... and how you familiarize yourself with the estate and stories after stories about Philip from Ambrose. Plotting were you? You could seem so delicate. The entire staff adored you....you were quite brilliant at being you. You had me believing in your thriftlessness--your unpolishedness. But you were actually quite skilled and sophisticated ....... You had a natural masterly authoritative way about yourself. Tears included. I'm not sure I fault you though --- Philip and you 'both' played a dangerous game with the hearts of love - money - and -control.

Dear Don,
I'm sorry you died so suddenly. You were 15 years old. I loved when you snuggled near the fireplace with Philip..... Rest in peace, Don! You were a treasure in this story.

The REAL WINNER .......goes to Daphne du Maurier....she knows how to develop characters - how to spin a story - how to involve the readers ...... A+

Oops... we don't grade these books - do we?/! - we rate them! 5 stars!!!
Profile Image for Julie .
3,978 reviews58.9k followers
July 26, 2017
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier is a 1952 publication. This version is the 2013 Little, Brown and Company publication.

A scathingly wicked masterpiece-

This book has a very heavy atmospheric quality that drew me in right from the start. In fact, I was so transfixed, I put aside everything else and gave myself over to its allure.

Phillip Ashley was raised by his cousin, Ambrose, a confirmed bachelor. They are content with their arrangement, and with Phillip’s role as heir to Ambrose’s legacy.

However, Phillip’s complacency is upended quite unexpectedly when Ambrose travels to Florence, meets ‘our cousin, Rachel’, a woman with a connection to their family, and immediately falls under her spell.

In a shockingly brief period of time, Ambrose goes from wedded bliss to death, leaving Phillip furious with Rachel, suspecting her of contributing to his cousin’s demise in some way, shape, or form.

But, when Rachel shows up at his doorstep with Ambrose’s belongings, Phillip too finds himself enchanted by Rachel and soon forgets all about his earlier jealousies and suspicions. Until…

I have several books in my collection written by this author, but the only one I’ve read is, ‘Rebecca’,

When this book began to recirculate due to a motion picture and a ‘great library reads’ promo, my interest was highly piqued.

Finally, I managed to work it into my schedule, but I wish I had discovered this gem sooner!

This book has so many layers, yet it progresses slowly, adding sinister nuances, bit by bit, until I found myself helplessly trapped in the author’s, oh so clever web before I knew what had happened, maybe a bit like Phillip, eh?

This book combines Gothic mystery, strong feminist undertones, psychological mind games, vanity, guilt, and suspicion, which nearly made me delirious with delight. But, it also left me with a plethora of theories and speculations.

Is Rachel guilty… or was it really Phillip? Or was she Innocent? Both? Was Phillip just a pawn in Rachel’s master plan? Did Phillip needlessly destroy his life?

While I would ordinarily feel extreme frustration with an author for this open- ended conclusion, in this case, it’s exactly what makes this book a classic. Written back in 1952, the book was a little ahead of its time, although some may have only taken it at face value. Nevertheless, here we are in 2017, still talking about it, still pondering on its mysteries, analyzing, and theorizing about it, which is a testament to the author’s talent and genius.

This book was practically tailor made for my reading tastes, so naturally, it gets five big stars!!
Profile Image for Icey.
146 reviews101 followers
January 2, 2022
Daphne Du Maurier is a master of atmosphere.
Reading her story was like staring through a clouded window, she planted uncertainty in your heart, and it gradually grew and blossomed.

With the opening chapter, Daphne Du Maurier transported you to her world with not much more than a dozen pages. She whisked you away, and suddenly you were there, standing in that pensive silence.

Ah, How youth is impulsive and foolish.
The ebb and flow of the murky water.
The poisonous enchantment.

After Rebecca, my expectation was sky high before reading My Cousin Rachel, and Daphne Du Maurier proved that I could always believe in her.
The story haunted me long after I finished it.

The toxic beauty of inexplicable things.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
376 reviews2,832 followers
June 30, 2022
Is this the most gullible character ever?

After reading and loving Rebecca, expectations were high for Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel. The premise is incredibly interesting. Philip, a 24-year-old orphan, discovers that his long-time caregiver, Ambrose, has fallen in love with his cousin Rachel. However, Ambrose succumbs to a sudden illness, leaving Rachel a widow. When Philip lays eyes on Rachel, he falls under her spell as well. But is Rachel as great as she seems or is she a black widow?

According to Book Sirens, I enjoy slow-paced books, but My Cousin Rachel takes slow to an entirely new level. Philip doesn’t even meet Rachel until page 77!

The characters, particularly Philip, are so poorly developed. What I loved about Rebecca is that it is so relatable. Almost every person wants to have a unique relationship, wondering if they are truly special to their significant other, and how can one compete with a ghost. However, Philip is not relatable. He seems to instantly take a shine to Rachel. Why? I still don’t understand what is so great about her.

Philip is one of the most gullible characters ever written. Maybe because I am extremely introverted, and I have been told that it takes me months to warm up to people, but Philip immediately trusts Rachel in 5 seconds despite repeated warnings from multiple people. It is so unbelievable.

Also, Philip doesn’t seem to do anything other than ride his horses around and pay his servants. What exactly does he do to deserve a fortune? Oh right. Nothing. Easy come. Easy go. I did not root for Philip. I was actually hoping that Rachel would take advantage of him, to teach him a lesson and perhaps motivate him to get a J-O-B. No wonder he falls for Rachel. He has nothing else to occupy his time.

The ending was such a let-down. Honestly, I finished this book an hour ago, and I already forgot the ending and really had to sit and try to recall how it ended. That is how lame the ending is. It is really bad.

On the positives, you can learn how to turn up the speed on the audiobook version.

In conclusion, the premise of My Cousin Rachel is amazing; however, the execution is so bad that it borders on laughable. Oh, Philip! Would you be interested in purchasing some land-locked oceanfront property?

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Feb Lord of the Flies
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Apr Of Mice and Men
May Memoirs of a Geisha
Jun Little Women
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Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,217 reviews1,008 followers
January 27, 2023
My Cousin Rachel was published in 1951, and is a gripping story of suspense. It very much recalls the feel and style of her earlier mystery novel "Rebecca" of 1938.

The novel's narrator is Philip Ashley, a young man who had been orphaned at the early age of seven. He was raised by his bachelor uncle Ambrose, the owner of a large country estate on the Cornish coast. In the first chapter, we learn Philip's life story up to the age of 24.

Ambrose had been a very unconventional guardian, teaching Philip his alphabet by using the initials of swear-words, for instance, but Philip clearly idolised him. As Philip grew up, they ran the estate together in an all-male household, where Ambrose taught Philip to have nothing to do with women; that they were a "race apart." Although Philip feels himself to be mature, the reader infers from the start that for much of the narrator's life he has been overprotected, and his experience very restricted. The only women in his life have been slight acquaintances, whom he usually found laughable. He does have one female friend, Louise Kendall, the daughter of his godfather, but he views her as young and immature.

During this chapter, in which Philip shares his thoughts, it is clear that something has gone badly wrong. There are frequent mysterious allusions. Philip is clearly tormented by feelings of guilt towards someone he calls "Rachel" - possibly the Rachel of the novel's title.

"No one will ever guess the burden of blame I carry on my shoulders;" he says, "nor will they know that every day, haunted still by doubt, I ask myself a question which I cannot answer. Was Rachel innocent or guilty? Maybe I shall learn that too, in purgatory."

The reader is intrigued to know whatever could have happened. The narrator seems bent on mentally torturing himself with reminiscences.

"Some instinct should have warned her that to stay with me would bring destruction, not only to the phantom that she encountered, but finally, in the end, upon her too."

Having trapped us in her web of mystery and intrigue in the very first chapter, Daphne du Maurier proceeds to use her mastery and control of the narrative to entice us further in.

She does this by slowing the novel right down. Although Philip is speaking in flashback, his memories of the events he is recounting from chapter 2 onwards feel very much like the present. The language is at times poetic; the images lush and beautiful, especially the parts set in Italy.

The reader too is firmly gripped in the author's clutches by now.

This part of the novel is lighthearted, providing some relief from all the previous tension. The reader sees Philip's dilemma.

The reader feels continually on edge reading this novel. Daphne du Maurier is in total control, manipulating our loyalties. In addition, one of the unusual and almost hypnotic elements of this novel is the changing moods created by the author. The main character's feelings are constantly mirrored by the manner of describing the locations, and especially the weather. When Philip is dreading the arrival of his visitor he goes walking in the wind and rain. He gets wet "nearly to the skin." Again after a violent disagreement we are again told that it is a cold, rainy day. The wind is blowing and by the time he returns home he is chilled and wet.

"The rain was lashing at the windows of my old room, and a patch of damp had appeared on the ceiling. The fire, which had not been lit since last winter, burnt with a false crackle."

And in the middle of this heightened tension, Nature seems held in suspended animation; in contemplative mood.

"My nights of vigil held a quality harder to bear. There was a sort of beauty to them, cold and clear, that caught at the heart and made me start in wonder. From my window the long lawns dipped to the meadows, and the meadows to the sea, and all of them were white with frost, and white too under the moon. The trees that fringed the lawns were black and still… suddenly from the hush and stillness I heard that high sharp bark of a vixen… away in the distance in the open park… and now the full moon toppled the trees and held the sky and nothing stirred on the lawns beneath my window… here about me was a wealth of beauty that we might have shared."

Although this passage is much shortened, the stillness is almost tangible; the reader almost feels able to reach out and touch it.

Later, when Philip feels that he has succeeded with an audacious plan to secure the future he desires most, he

"rode home with a reckless feeling in my heart… I would have sung aloud but I could not keep to a single tune. The hedgerows were green, and the willows were in bud, and all the honeyed mass of golden gorse in bloom. It was a day for folly and high fever."

And when Philip is again happy with anticipation,

"It was a night for walking. I did not run, but for all that I achieved the beacon hill. The moon, so nearly full, hovered, with swollen cheek, above the bay, and wore about his face the look of a wizard man who shared my secret… there were the flickering lights of the little towns along the western coast, and our own harbour lights to the east as well… I climbed down… and laughing to myself at this folly most sublime plunged into the water."

Contrast this with an episode when he feels himself betrayed and cannot see a way to proceed,

"The bluster that should have been in February and March had come at last. Gone was the mellow warmth of the past weeks, the smooth sea, and the sun. Great clouds with dragging tails, black-edged and filled with rain, came scudding from the west, and now and again with sudden bursting fury emptied themselves as hail. The sea was a turmoil in the western bay."

And later, "The clouds came lower than they had before, turning the mist, cloaking the trees on the opposite shore.

Threaded through the entire novel is the tension set up between the two main characters. Daphne du Maurier is a master at ambiguity as well as suspense. She holds her audience in thrall throughout, making the reader constantly sway between one theory and another, believing in one character and doubting another, only to have this turned on its head by a chance occurrence.

Is anyone duplicitous - or not? Is anyone impossibly naive - or anyone overly suspicious? The author keeps the doubts and suspicion going right until the end of the novel.

So does the reader ever discover the answers? Well now, that would be telling! One sentence maybe sums it up

"Only cold hard facts, twisted to distortion."

But which ones?

Edit: WARNING - Only click to expose this spoiler if you have already read the novel:

Here are links to my reviews of:

Jamaica Inn
The House on the Strand
The Scapegoat

and one play:

The Years Between
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
436 reviews655 followers
June 4, 2017
I loved this story! It reminded me so much of Rebecca, both have that gothic atmosphere, the bit of romance, the slow moving story that builds such tension, and the dimwitted main character. I thought briefly this might even surpass Rebecca as my favorite, but how can you top 'Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again'? Though not too shabby here with 'They used to hang men at Four Tunings in the old days'.

My Cousin Rachel tells the story of obsession. Philip is a young gent, who is grieving over the loss of his cousin, who also raised him, Ambrose. Ambrose was recently married to his cousin Rachel and became quite ill and died. Now Rachel goes to Cornwall to return the belonging of Ambrose to Philip, and the two finally meet. Oh there is jealousy, deceit, and such an obsession in this wonderful tale. I don't want to tell anymore as to give anything away. Just read this one and decide for yourself about cousin Rachel. Is she evil or not?

I listened to this one via audio and the narrator was awesome! Jonathan Pryce, the actor, adds so much to this story, building the tension even more as he reads this tale. If you are a fan of audios, I highly suggest this one. I loved every minute of this and the tension and suspense went right to the end. A top read and top audio for the year, and a new book to add to my favorites and list of those I would enjoy a re-read.
Profile Image for Robin.
474 reviews2,498 followers
March 4, 2020
You don't have to be a lover of the gothic to love My Cousin Rachel. First and foremost, this is scintillating, seductive storytelling by the author who brought us Rebecca.

I must say, while the plot of Rebecca is more complex, boasting an ending that twists and surprises, I think I liked this more. The simplicity of My Cousin Rachel makes it a pleasure to read. Such sly intimations, such lurking dread!

Quick synopsis: Philip's cousin Ambrose, a long time woman-hater, goes traveling and surprises everyone by sending news that he's met and married a woman (guess who). Then he surprises everyone by... dying. Under questionable circumstances. Soon after, Rachel turns up on Philip's doorstep. Did she or didn't she? She might have - but she's so pretty! The mystery is confounding.

It's naughty too, with erotic elements that bring to mind to the sadly under-read gothic treat Sweetheart, Sweetheart. Don't even try to tell me your heart isn't palpitating when dear Philip, in a great manly gesture, bestows to Rachel his 'family jewels' on the bed. Oh, this is old fashioned jewel-bestowing at its finest!

You'll turn those pages, gobble them up, because du Maurier is just that good. The ambiguity she creates is Turn of the Screw good. You'll change your mind about Rachel a dozen times before and after you've reached the story's end.

With all this mental ping-pong, you might not even notice you're reading a gothic novel, although it has all the classic tropes too - the old and venerated estate, (unreliable?) letters received after the sender has died, beautiful gardens, a long and mysterious seduction, the death of an animal.

It seems to me Ms. du Maurier is underrated as a writer. Her prose is elegant. Her story is addictive, and so well constructed, too. She's smart and stylish, both. Plus, don't forget, gothic as hell.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,286 followers
September 19, 2022
What's better than this book? What author on earth is better than Daphne du Maurier? What have we been doing, all this time? Reading impenetrable bollocks like Ulysses? This book has a scene where Philip throws a rope up to Rachel in her bedroom window and she, who might have murdered his family, hauls the basket on the rope up hand over hand, and then he climbs up after and watches while she spills all of his family jewels out of the basket onto her bed. And then they fuck on them. I realize that in real life this would be super uncomfortable for whoever's on the bottom getting gems in their shoulderblades, but in a book it's a scene of Tom Hardyan vividness. It's pure gothic magic.

Daphne du Maurier, deciding whether to poison you

And why do we talk about gothics as though they're second-class? Second to what? Mrs. Dalloway? Why? Most gothics are about relationships too, after all, from Lady Audley's Secret on down: families, and whether we know ours, and how trust can warp. They'll throw some poison or a ghost in to liven things up - and why shouldn't they? Wouldn't Mrs. Dalloway be a little better with a little poison? Their interests are in the home - home, as it grows around you like kudzu.

I wondered how it could be that two people who had loved could yet have such a misconception of each other and, with a common grief, grow far apart.

And what theme is more grand than that? Gravity's Rainbow? That book has its head so far up its ass that it's come out its own dick, which is coincidentally also its plot.

One of the things du Maurier is, here and in Rebecca, is a master of ambiguity. The basic plot here is that Philip's guardian, Ambrose, goes on vacation; meets a dark woman; falls in love and dies under suspicious circumstances. The woman arrives at what's now Philip's home and sets her eyes in turn on him. Or: Ambrose, and then Philip, rotted with malice and distrust, set out to destroy a powerless woman. Du Maurier is so good at laying hints in each direction - you change your mind from chapter to chapter, and she never makes you feel cheated. Each step is fair. She's even borrowed Wilkie Collins's old letter trick, embellishing and undermining the main story with a trickle of letters that fill in the backstory and which may not themselves be trustworthy.

“There are some women, Philip,” [Ambrose] observed, “good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch, somehow turns to tragedy."

Du Maurier deals with the subconscious a lot: she's brilliant at communicating to you things her characters don't even know themselves. Ishiguro is the only author who can match her for telling stories under stories. She has all the tricks: unreliable narrators, mysteries, epistolaries. She's the entire arsenal.

Rachel Weisz and who cares in My Cousin Rachel (2017)

We call du Maurier's prose "purple," but I reject that as a valid description of anything. I deny the term altogether. There are a lot of ways to write a sentence - Henry Jamesian circuitry, DFWianly footnoted, ornately carved Faulkner. Du Maurier's sentences are exciting, and they always do exactly what she wants them to. I have no interest in dividing sentences up into castes.

But if we're to divide authors into castes - and we are, that's what we do when we talk about classics - then why isn't du Maurier at the top? This is a flawless novel. It's perfect in every way. Every word is in service to the story; it's a real story about real things; it's always a page-turner. It's not a guilty pleasure, to be read when you're tired of serious literature. It is the serious literature.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,323 followers
March 8, 2018
This was a buddy-read with James (Jay), author of Watching Glass Shatter, and I'm so happy we read this. I'd rate it 4.5* just to distinguish it from Rebecca, which gets the full five.

The book actually began a little slowly for me, and it felt almost discombobulated, as if DuMaurier were shuffling toward the storyline. But then Rachel appears and everything clicks masterfully into gear. DuMaurier expertly conjures a brooding, ambiguous atmosphere, and from the very beginning we wonder about this bewitching woman who seizes our narrator, young Philip, in the grip of her Italianate charm. The fact that she may have been responsible for Philip's guardian's death is something he dismisses with the enthusiasm of the young, until....

Plot summaries abound, and I won't add to them here. The language of the book is utterly beguiling, those languid fluid sentences sweep us through the plot and make us take notice of all sorts of subtleties: the cut of a dress, the gleam of an eye, the inflection of a voice, and of course the natural world in all its infinite variety: "The wind of the day before had blown itself up-country, taking the rain with it, and at noon the sun had broken through and the sky was clear. There was a salty brightness in the air, lending a zest to walking, and you could hear the running swell of the sea as it broke upon the rocks fringing the bay."

Once I got past the first few pages, I felt myself in the hands of an expert storyteller. The plot moved through its gears with precision, and even when I knew or sensed what was coming, it was a sublime pleasure to see DuMaurier spin it out, taking her time, building suspense so perfectly.

Oddly enough, though, it was the very expert nature of the narrative that makes this book, for me, slightly less interesting than Rebecca. Rebecca has always seemed to me almost Sui generis, and it enchanted me equally yet surprised me more; it seemed more complex and difficult to pin down, a narrative of almost infinite slipperiness and ambiguity. My Cousin Rachel, by contrast, is less layered and more straightforward, even though it has its own twists and turns and beautiful ambiguities.

Still, this is a book that will reside with me for some time and one that I'll no doubt return to, if only to see and admire how DuMaurier handles a certain aspect of plotting or character, how she masterfully drops her clues into the narrative stream, how she keeps the pages turning, knowing exactly when to slow down and admire a landscape, and when to speed us through. This is a thoroughly pleasurable book, and one that I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,238 followers
January 3, 2018
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Du Maurier wields her audience like puppets, deftly stringing readers from truths to untruths in ways both delightful and maddening.

Profile Image for Baba.
3,506 reviews737 followers
December 19, 2020
It's the 19th century (I think) an orphaned Philip Ashley has lived in a female-less environment all his life, when his substitute father, mentor, indeed benevolent, older cousin Ambrose starts visiting Europe in the cold months of each year to ease his joint pains... until the time that he doesn't come back. In his place, his widow(!) 'cousin Rachel' comes a callin', and Philip and us readers, then buckle up for a delicious ride of flirtation, beguilement, female power and betrayal, or don't they?

A wonderful du Maurier read that leaves the reader, to be the interpreter and judge of the naive 24-year-old Philip's narration of the events that overtake his life before and after Rachel's arrival. A book of feints and innuendos, of comic relief and false smiles, of promise and despair. Come, come into the world of Our Cousin Rachel, where the woman may, or may not be, deadlier than the male. 9 out of 12.

That's three Daphne du Maurier's I've read, and I really enjoyed them all:
My Cousin Rachel, Rebecca and Frenchman's Creek.
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book193 followers
December 23, 2022
"How soft and gentle her name sounds when I whisper it. It lingers on the tongue, insidious and slow, almost like poison..."
― Daphne du Maurier

As I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen, thinking about all I’ve witnessed between the covers of My Cousin Rachel, I find myself missing Cornwall and wishing my adventure was not over. But every good story must come to an end, and what an ending it was!

This torrid tale is narrated by Phillip Ashley who, after the death of his parents, has been raised from infanthood by Ambrose Ashley, his bachelor uncle. Ambrose is a well-to-do English landowner, and as it turns out, these two fellows are kindred spirits, enjoying a life of having dogs in the house and smoking tobacco whenever they please without a woman telling them what to do.
Once Phillip has completed his education, his uncle determines that the time has come to hand the affairs of the Ashley estate over to his heir while he sets off on his travels. Doctors have suggested that Ambrose might enjoy better health if he spends his winters in a warm, dry climate away from cold rainy days in England. And so it goes for two winters, with Ambrose returning each spring laden with exotic plants and fascinating stories of faraway lands.

Ambrose spends the third winter in Italy. But as spring approaches, he writes that he will stay on because he has become acquainted with their cousin Rachel. Oh my, how this news throws our hero into a state! Phillip had never come second to anyone where Ambrose was concerned. Who is this cousin? And what spell has she cast to keep Ambrose for so long in Italy?

The tension in this story was scrumptiously persistent, and because I grew quite fond of Phillip, I read every page with my heart in my throat, hoping for the best.

Bravo again to du Maurier for completely wrecking me in the most beautiful of ways.

If you haven’t read this gothic thriller, don’t miss it. Your visit to Cornwall will be unforgettable!
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,693 followers
March 29, 2019
I have been struggling with this review a bit and I think I know why. If you have Rebecca as a point of reference before you read this one, I think you may struggle to review this one, too. If I did not have Rebecca, I would probably go with 4 to 4.5 stars for sure. With Rebecca, it is still great, but 3.5 to 4 instead. I am rounding up to 4 because it is still a very good book, just not Rebecca good!

While intense and mysterious, I found that the intensity and mystery plateaued early on in the book and kind of stayed there throughout. Even getting into the final scenes in the book, everything just unfolded at the same level. Now, this is just how it was for me. Others may find the resolution more intriguing and high intensity than I did.

Another thing about the plot and the mystery for me was that I don’t really feel it developed all that much. After the first third of the book I got the idea of what we as readers should be wondering about and that never really changed or grew; du Maurier just kept piling on more details about what was already going on and what had happened, and I was over here waiting for intricate and mind-blowing twists or side journeys. But, that didn’t really happen.

So far it seems I have focused on the negative . . . or at least what didn’t work for me. It is only right that I make sure to note that despite what I already mentioned, I did find the story to be interesting and I like du Maurier’s writing very much. As an overall experience, I am not sorry in the least that I gave it a try. Again, I think it mainly comes down to trying to follow up Rebecca being a very big challenge!
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,537 reviews259 followers
March 11, 2022
“There are some women, Philip, good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch, somehow turns to tragedy.”
― Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel

Did she? didn't she? It's driving me crazy!


I got lost in this book. I just read it recently. I liked it better then Rebecca.

I will not list the plot because most people already know. The thing I want to talk about is how amazing the book is. And how I was almost driven crazy by the ending.

I had already read this when I suggested it to my book club. I really wanted to see how people reacted to it and what each person's feeling was on the guilt or innocence of Rachel.

Most people seemed to feel she did it. I am not so sure. I have no explanation for how the seeds got in her drawer but there was nothing in the letter to suggest she had a hand in anything and the words written to her "if you can't bear to leave him behind" suggest that she too had feelings for Charles. So my take is a bit different then others.

I want her to be guilty. It is hard not to start to love Rachel as the book goes on so yes, I'd prefer it if she were a scheming manipulative psycho then the sweet and fun woman she may well have been. I guess we will never know as I read Du Maurier herself did not even have a clear answer on Rachel's guilt.

I was surprised it wasn't rated higher on here. I will scroll through some of the reviews as I am curious to see how others felt about Rachel and Phillip. (I could not stand Phillip but I understood, given his sheltered upbringing, how he might have misunderstood certain things.)

An excellent book. Now if I just knew the real scoop on the ending..
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
774 reviews554 followers
April 22, 2019
“She has done for me at last, Rachel my torment”

This line should be as well known as

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

& this novel is every bit as good as Rebecca. As a reader you twist and turn unable to decide.

Today I'm thinking Tomorrow I may think differently, but I know I will still find this book an amazing work of fiction - the best I have (re)read in quite some time.

Can't wait for the release of the 2017 movie.

Profile Image for Piyangie.
504 reviews362 followers
January 4, 2023
This was a fascinating read. Daphne du Maurier has made a name for creating ambiguous stories full of suspense, and My Cousin Rachel does justice to the name earned. I have read Rebecca a long time ago and had loved it but for some reason, I have not taken time to explore her other works. And when this book was brought to light by a group read, I felt it was time that I read more of du Maurier.

With her simple and colourful writing du Maurier crafts a beautiful story that talks full of human emotions and human follies. The story is half told and is left open-ended. But Du Maurier has laid the facts beautifully allowing the readers to draw their own conclusion. Although it taxes one, I liked du Maurier’s style of keeping the story ambiguous.

I have always told myself not to have first impressions on the characters, but too often I forget this resolution. So when Rachel was introduced, I saw her with a guilty eye. From that point of view, it was easy to dislike her. Then there were the characters of Ambrose and Philip. The former is a victim, but of nature or human misconduct is difficult to discern. While some accept the former cause as the reason for his death, Philip sticks to the latter relying on certain letters he received from Ambrose. Halfway through the book, I agreed with Philip. Philip is a naïve young man with poor knowledge of the world and especially of women. He was raised by a man who himself was reserved from female society. He was a “boy” for his age and was stupid beyond measures. His infatuation with Rachel makes him lose his reason and this allows Rachel to manipulate Philip to her own advantage. Although I liked and sympathized with Philip initially, soon this feeling was changed and replaced by annoyance. His stupid thoughts and actions were beyond my comprehension. However, as I reached the end of the story I was filled with unease that somehow I was fooled. Was Philip naive and stupid as I thought? Was Rachel guilty? Of greed, I was sure, but of murder? Was Rachel the villain or was it, Philip? I was left with a set of unanswered questions.

In any case, I couldn't like nor sympathize with Rachel and Philip. It is the supporting characters that I found interesting. They provided a colourful backdrop to the story and greater contrast to the main characters.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read and a very good beginning for my return to du Maurier.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,002 reviews351 followers
April 20, 2021
A Minha Prima Gioconda

Em Daphne du Maurier, é notória alguma  predilecção pelo jogo das aparências.
Já tivémos ocasião de o observar, brilhantemente urdido, em Rebecca, e eis que a façanha se repete na "Prima Raquel":

Há uma morte que parece homicídio, mas será que foi?...

E Rachel?
Quem será esta mulher carismática?
Uma calculista caçadora de fortunas que não olha a meios para concretizar  fins?!
Ou uma mulher mundana, cujo maior pecado é uma irreverente paixão pela vida?


Daphne du Maurier escreve uma história, susceptível de ser reescrita por quem a lê!
A ambiguidade impera nestas páginas, erguendo um vidro manchado entre nós e a narrativa.
E o trabalho de limpeza é nosso, se é transparência que almejamos!...

A verdade não nos é servida a pronto numa bandeja.


Na bandeja só encontramos ingredientes, e a verdade seremos nós a confeccioná-la!... 😉

Existem pistas disseminadas ao longo do texto, a partir das quais será possível intuir uma verdade.
Porém, uma análise meramente racional carece de provas concludentes.

Eu confesso que optei pelo trilho da intuição, pois tinha forçosamente, que dar com a verdade! 😉
Contudo, não sei se o veredicto alcançado sobreviverá a uma ulterior releitura (este é daqueles livros, que será de todo impossível não reler)!...

- E tu, Raquel querida?!...
- Que contas?
- Afundas-te com o fardo da culpa, ou flutuas com a leveza da inocência?!...

- (Silêncio Prolongado)

- Bem!... Forças-nos a desistir, então!...
- Esperem!... Esperem!...
- Os lábios parecem estar a mover-se! ���
- Oh, não!...
- Por favor!...
- Esse sorriso NÃO!...

Retratada, "A Minha Prima Rachel", daria uma excelente sósia da Gioconda 😉
Profile Image for James.
Author 19 books3,483 followers
March 8, 2018
Why This Book
After reading Rebecca several years ago, I placed My Cousin Rachel, another of Daphne du Maurier's famed novels, on my To Be Read (TBR) shelf. Earlier this year, a Goodreads buddy, Michael, and I were chatting about various books when we decided to do a buddy read together, selecting this wonderful Gothic edition. We were both interested to see if it lived up to the hype and how it compared to the author's other words. We agreed on early March and got to it this week. I've only started doing buddy reads in the last few months, but they are quite fun... I recommend them.

Approach & Style
I purchased the Kindle Reader version from Amazon to read on my iPad. It contains ~350 pages and took me four days to read. The novel is written in first person point of view and told from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a 24-year-old English man set in a somewhat unknown time, but likely the early/mid twentieth century given some of the details in the background setting. The language is intense and full of amazing imagery and astounding descriptions.

Plot, Characters & Setting
The novel centers around the Ashley family. Philip's parents die when he is less than a year old, but his cousin Ambrose raises him in their England home. At some point years later, Ambrose unexpectedly marries a widow named Rachel who is half-Italian and grew up in Tuscany. It's an odd pairing, as she has a bit of a reputation for husband-hunting and spending lots of money. After ~2 years, Ambrose mysteriously dies and Rachel disappears. Philip is distraught, but searches for her in Italy. Rachel eventually shows up in England looking to meet her pseudo-stepson, and that's when the story really begins to get interesting. There's an air of darkness concerning Ambrose's death--was Rachel involved? She has a suitor of sorts who follows her from Tuscany--yet both claim there is nothing but friendship. Philip intends to crucify his cousin Rachel after reading a few letters from his late cousin, Ambrose; however, things take a surprising turn when more secrets are revealed and there's a bit of romance developing in the background. Add in a few traditional English families, an inheritance upon Philip's 25th birthday, and a possible proposal to/from a neighboring family... and you've got quite a Gothic story unleashing it's power on you.

Key Thoughts
1. du Maurier truly engages the reader with lyrical and ethereal descriptions of everything going on in the story. You will feel like you are sitting at a table in the house watching everything occur around you. The super-fine details are what challenge your intellect to decide what is real and what is not.

2. As a plot, it's classic -- did she or didn't she kill him? But here's the interesting part... that question hardly ever comes up in the book. It's not a mystery in terms of researching the past to see if murder actually happened. It's entirely psychological in the relationship between Philip and Rachel... where you listen to the words or what isn't said, think about whether you trust either of them... and in the end, you just wish you could have spoken to Ambrose yourself to get the answer.

3. I went back and forth multiple times deciding whether I liked Rachel and Philip as characters and as human beings. Humanity and kindness are huge themes in this novel. Attitude and disinterest are also keen to make themselves present within the relationships. Sometimes I wanted to throttle both, other times, the tenderness was admirable. The last few chapters truly push the envelope in terms of engaging more doubt before there is a final reveal.

4. While reading the first ~75 pages, I was also editing my novel. I had on my 'writer glasses' and couldn't stop analyzing the word choice in du Maurier's initial chapters. It was disconnected and hard to attach myself, too. I also found a few words that were repeated a couple of times on the same page (a pet peeve for me in my own writing) and after the third or fourth, I slapped myself and realized it wasn't important. 99 amazing words on every page and 1 every so often that didn't work. That's way too high of a percentage to ever get stuck! Stick with it past that initial 15% mark and you're in for quite an intellectually stimulating ride.

5. If you love Italy or the quintessential proper English culture and decor, you will enjoy this novel. The only thing that bugged me from time to time was not really knowing enough about Philip prior to meeting Rachel, so I could form a strong enough opinion on who he was as a person, i.e. before he became mesmerized by his cousin Rachel.

6. My favorite part of the whole book... Philip ALWAYS refers to her as 'My cousin Rachel' until a certain event changes their lives... then she simply becomes 'Rachel.' The meaning of the novel is hidden in that ever-so-small alteration in their relationship and future.

du Maurier is quite skilled at creating scenery, characters, and undetermined truth. We really never know who to believe, even in the end. But it works. Whereas Rebecca was a stronger plot, I think My Cousin Rachel pushes the envelope more in terms of who should we believe. Either case, I really enjoyed the read, especially discussing it with Michael, who is an author you might want to take a look at (new book coming out in April '18).  I plan to review the author's bibliography this summer to see if there's another potential novel of hers I'd like to read. Overall, I'd give this 4+ stars as I really enjoyed it, but there was some repetition and missing pieces so I couldn't quite knock it up to a 5-star rating.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,369 reviews787 followers
May 30, 2019
“Ambrose had been so right when he used to say that women were a race apart.
. . .
This, I thought to myself, is another trick of women, to throw a Jest in the air that left a sting behind it.
. . .
That was the infuriating thing about a woman. Always the last word. Leaving one to grapple with ill-temper, and she herself serene. A woman, it seemed, was never in the wrong. Or if she was, she twisted the fault to her advantage, making it seem otherwise.”

Ambrose Ashley was the confirmed bachelor who raised his orphaned little cousin, Philip Ashley, on the family estate in Cornwall. They were clearly well-suited to each other, and Philip was raised enjoying their privileged status and their circle of friends. The estate collected rents from tenants and was a thriving business, with grounds running down to the sea. They give some cast-off clothing to the tenants (for Christmas!) – that kind of privilege.

“Ambrose at twenty-seven was god of all creation, certainly god of my own narrow world, and the whole object of my life was to resemble him.”

As Ambrose got older, he had to head for warmer climes in the winter for his health, and Philip assumed some responsibility for the day-to-day management of the business, but of course, it was the staff who ran the household and his godfather who handled the finances. He was pretty much fancy-free.

‘And now sit back in your chairs and be comfortable, gentlemen. As there is no woman in the house we can put our boots on the table and spit on the carpet.’

It’s all dogs and pipes and rambles and musings and missing Ambrose, until suddenly Ambrose writes that he has married a distant cousin, Rachel, and is not coming home this summer. Philip is jealous to the core, and when Ambrose dies of an undetermined illness, he is beside himself with suspicion and hatred.

I think I must have seen the 1952 film, because I kept picturing Olivia de Havilland’s expression changing subtly from sorrow and regret to joy and delight, depending on the circumstances. But I had completely forgotten Richard Burton as young Philip, and even now, I find it difficult to imagine because he had such a powerful presence as an older man.

Philip is not a country bumpkin. He was sent away to school and educated well. They often had dinner guests from among the other landowners and people of influence, but servants were servants, the working class was the working class, and he was pretty sheltered.

We meet him when he’s 25, remembering his boyhood and the past year. He grew up to look uncannily like his older cousin. It’s not such a surprise that he would behave like Ambrose, as he clearly idolised him.

I enjoyed this a lot and seeing how du Maurier deals with the light and shade of relationships. You can’t help wanting to shake and throttle young Philip from time to time, but that’s half the fun.

Her descriptions of the landscape, weather, the dust in the old rooms, the clothing and the changing thereof (or not) set the scene perfectly.

“The shocks of corn were golden in the last rays of the sun. The sea was very blue, almost purple where it covered the rocks, and had that deep full look about it that always comes with the flood tide. The fishing fleet had put out, and were standing eastward to catch the shore breeze. Back at home the house was in shadow now, only the weathervane on the top of the clock tower catching a loose shaft of light.”

I liked Rebecca better, it’s more suspenseful, but this is still a good story about a mysterious woman! And now, I’m going to watch the old film and see how well it stands up.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,065 reviews2,904 followers
December 9, 2022
Did she? Didn't she? Who's to blame? These are questions that seem to circle Daphne du Maurier's Gothic novel My Cousin Rachel. However, instead of focusing on the mystery of our enigmatic heroine, it seems to me that the novel rather reveals how dangerous rejected men can be.

Rachel, consistently struggling to accommodate her demanding, petulant cousin Philip, and continually struck, horrified, by his resemblance to her dead, abusive husband, is ultimately nothing more frightening than a woman fighting to carve out independence in a world designed to deny her it.

For a Victorian audience, this quest for self-hood would have indeed rendered Rachel frightening, threatening – even mad. Yet through the eyes of a twenty-first century audience it is Philip's entitlement that provides this discomfort. Philip is young but his sense of ownership over Rachel is disconcerting to the point of upsetting, and his misguided attempts to woo her become increasingly obsessive, suffocating, and even violent.

I'm not sure how an audience could see Philip choking Rachel on the stairs and be convinced of his innocence as a poor lamb driven to distraction by her womanly wiles. The very notion that Philip's behaviour is even slightly justified by Rachel's sensuality and complexity is part of a toxic narrative whereby men are incapable of controlling their "animalistic desires". It's the same societal drive that forces girls to cover their shoulders so as not to "distract" their male peers. It is the same rhetoric that blames victims for existing, and for being too tempting, too undressed.

Philip comes to the conclusion that Rachel is guilty within minutes of discovering his uncle's death, without a shred of evidence, seemingly motivated by a hatred of or total unfamiliarity with women. To Philip women are strange, alien creatures — the only women allowed in his house growing up were the dogs. Philip is perplexed by the idea that his uncle would ever want to marry, convinced that his own companionship is more than satisfactory.

It is not just women that Philip is ignorant to, but the idea that a man would ever be attracted to one, let alone need one. It is within this context that Rachel is portrayed as alien – while her gender is strange and mysterious to Philip, she is also foreign, from a foreign land, speaking a foreign tongue, drinking foreign tea, with foreign friends. It is this very "difference" that fuels Philip's suspicion. It is the unfounded concern that Rachel is somehow sending money abroad that leads Philip to question her motives (how unpatriotic! How frivolous! A woman spending her own income!). Indeed, Rachel is seen by Philip as a victim – frail, mourning, constantly on the verge of tears – until he gifts her with economic independence, and it is only then that she becomes a "dangerous" creature.

Philip is a rampant misogynist, a spoilt child, and emblematic of entitled manbabies everywhere who think they have a right to a woman's body. The sort of man who, in the twenty-first century, would start a sentence with "but not all men…" without a trace of irony. Philip is incapable of even beginning to process the idea that Rachel may not want him – may not want any man, may just wish to live her life the way she wishes to live it.

As a reader it is hard, if not impossible, to not lose your patience with Philip. Gradually "bewitched" by Rachel, he makes a series of decisions that threaten to capsize the reader's sympathies. He recklessly handles the family's heirlooms, he doesn't listen to his godfather, shuns the attentions of his caring would-be soulmate – and all this before legally entrusting his whole fortune into Rachel's name, with little to go on but puppy love. Philip's vehement belief that he is saving Rachel, and that she, in turn, should give herself over to him, is enough to drive any reader mad.

Even the term "manbaby", while an accurate representation of Philip's immaturity, seems to express too softly the determination with which he pursues Rachel, his hatred of her species, his desire to demonise her, villainise her, and ultimately fatally endanger her life, rather than accept that he cannot have her. It's the same reason why women are murdered by the men they reject. It's this sense of entitlement to and ownership of the objectified female body that renders the woman an archetype – angel, whore – rather than a three-dimensional human being.

Rachel is an angel when she allows Philip in her bed and a demoness when she denies him. The question is not "Did she? Didn't she?" because that question is redundant. It is not Daphne du Maurier's or the reader's decision as to whether Rachel is guilty, it is Philip's perspective of her, fluid and unstable and shifting, and entirely dependent upon how obediently she conforms to his desires and whims. We are trapped by his male gaze. Du Maurier doesn't allow her readers to look beyond it, to see the true Rachel. All we can see are distortions. A distorted narrative because it is written solely from the perspective of a shunned man.

This book is not about whether Rachel killed Ambrose or didn't – it's about whether she agrees to marry Philip, hand herself over to him, his whims and desires. To answer the question of "Who’s to blame?", the answer seems explicitly obvious – Philip, his puppy face, and the culture of toxic masculinity he represents. My Cousin Rachel is an underrated feminist classic of the 20th century. Its message and narrative technique were ahead of its time; the novel's complexity and true meaning are things that can only be caught from a modern feminist view point. Chapeau, Daphne, you really outdid yourself!
Profile Image for Sofia.
295 reviews5,958 followers
April 16, 2022
When Philip's cousin Ambrose dies suddenly, leaving his young heir and his widow Rachel behind, Philip is determined to hate Rachel. She is a mystery, always watching, always there, at times comforting or terrifying. She haunts him, some days belladonna and others bella donna.

Is that hatred in Philip's eyes, or infatuation? What is the difference between the two? When you have spent so much energy loathing someone, will your love always be tinged with resentment? For Philip, utterly unversed in interactions with women, malicious motives seem to hide behind Rachel's mocking smile. But his descent into paranoia is offset by his desperate adoration of his cousin's enchanting widow.

This book feels like running down an endless corridor, nothing but emptiness before you. Dusting off old silver, seeing a distorted reflection of your features in the dim light of a candle. Digging up buried hatchets. Cold sweat trickling down your spine. Sensing someone breathing behind you. The silence of shared loss.

Nothing could have prepared me for My Cousin Rachel.

5 stars
Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews202 followers
June 13, 2017
My Cousin Rachel

★★★ 3 ½ Stars

If you haven't read this novel yet here's a short synopsis from the book blurb:
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 cozy 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.
Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose's letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin's widow with hatred in his heart.
Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet . . . might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?


I suppose it is only inevitable that, once you read your first novel by an author, you find yourself comparing the subsequent ones to that first experience and, even subconsciously, hoping to replicate it. In this case, my reaction might be heightened by the fact that the one novel I'd read by Daphne du Maurier was probably her magnum opus, Rebecca.

I certainly enjoyed My Cousin Rachel and found it to be highly readable and engaging, but in my opinion, it lacks the elegance, intensity and clever structure of Rebecca.

After finishing the book, I learned how much of an influence the Brontë sisters had in Du Maurier's writing and, as you read Rachel it's easy to recognize that effect.
It's been a few years since I read Jane Eyre but in many ways, this book reminded me a lot of Charlotte Brontë's famous gothic tale. Both novels use a first person point of view and share an evocative atmosphere as well as a profound sense of foreboding that permeates throughout the narration.

Du Maurier was brilliant at building a feeling of apprehension that gradually envelopes the reader and, by the time you realize it, you are so wrapped in the story that the only way to get out of that "trap" is seeing the book to the end.

Most of the novel revolves around the mystery behind Rachel's motives: Is she the proverbial black widow? Is she truly looking out for the much younger Phillip or exploiting his naiveté? So, villain or not, that is the question. The ambiguity surrounding her character felt at times a little too manipulative, but I appreciate the clues Du Maurier drops, which keeps you invested in the story. Ultimately, the conclusion while not exactly surprising certainly seemed fitting.

What kept me from completely getting lost in the narrative was the character of Phillip, which I found rather immature and someone who seemed to be permanently carrying a chip on his shoulder. After Ambrose leaves for Italy, Phillip is somehow capable of managing a large estate and taking on all sorts of responsibilities and yet he behaves like a sophomoric teenager around "his cousin Rachel". His puppy love and overly dramatic attitude would be expected of a 15-year-old, not so much a 25-year-old man.

So yes, I am a bit disappointed with this book but I still thought it was a pretty compelling read if for nothing else because I'm still mystified by Rachel. Was she a cold-hearted schemer? An overly ambitious seductress? A product of her upbringing and environment? Just a complex woman with her share of virtues and flaws? All of the above? Du Maurier certainly resists to give us an ending with simplistic answers and moral certitude. Which is why I think this novel remains so fascinating to so many readers: the mystery of Rachel is never quite unraveled.

The audiobook, which is beautifully narrated by British actor Jonathan Pryce, gets 5 stars!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,116 reviews1,979 followers
October 30, 2016
My first reading of this book and unfortunately I did not like it as much as I like Jamaica Inn and Rebecca. I found it to be much too long drawn out and I was never able to become attached to either Philip or Rachel. Consequently I was indifferent to the eventual outcome, not being worried about what happened to either of them.
I was intrigued by the ending though. It is left totally to the reader to decide whether Rachel did it or not, an unusual way of concluding a book!
Obviously the book is well written. This is Daphne du Maurier after all. I did enjoy reading it but to me she has written better novels:)
Profile Image for Erin.
2,821 reviews494 followers
June 25, 2018
Was Rachel innocent or guilty? Maybe I shall learn that too, in purgatory.

I haven't been reading a lot lately because of exams, report cards, and all those June responsibilities that create tired teachers. Also I recently "discovered " Sense8 on Netflix. But My Cousin Rachel was the kind of book that once opened is impossible to put down.

My Cousin Rachel is narrated by 24 year old Philip Ashley. Raised by an older cousin, Ambrose, Philip has lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous. All is pretty swell in Philip's world until his cousin takes a vacation in Italy and encounters the widow-Rachel. At first, Philip(oh such a naive youth) believes that Ambrose is just taking pity on a lonely and plain widow. Imagine his shock when he discovers that the couple are soon wed. Then mysterious letters begin to arrive and indicate that Cousin Rachel might not be all that she appears to be. Philip journeys to Italy to discover his cousin dead and the young widow to have fled.

I swore that, whatever it had cost Ambrose in pain and suffering before he died, I would return it, in full measure, upon the woman who had caused it....Someday, somehow, I would repay my cousin Rachel.

So Philip returns to England all bent on revenge and filled with sadness, but everyone around him, including his godfather, caution Philip to not rush to judgement. Soon a letter arrives announcing Rachel's arrival in England and Philip Ashley sets out to discover the truth, but he might just not be able to handle his Cousin Rachel.

How simple it must be for a woman of the world, to twist a young man like yourself around her finger.

The mounting tension as Rachel and Philip Ashley settle into living under the same roof is pure DuMaurier gold. At times, I forgot that I was holding my breath. I love how she writes her characters in such a way that at times, I hate them and other times I feel empathy for them.

So many twists and turns that it will leave your head spin!
Profile Image for María.
144 reviews3,058 followers
April 19, 2017
Rachel, mi tormento...

Si me pidiesen que hablase sobre la ambigüedad, este libro sería un pilar fundamental. La compleja relación entre Philip y Rachel, el ritmo, la atmósfera asfixiante y la tisana; hacen de este libro algo fascinante y perturbador.
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Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,212 reviews453 followers
April 23, 2017
Wow, did Daphne du Maurier ever know how to tell a story! I read "Rebecca" a couple of years ago, more to fill in a gap in my reading history than for any other reason, but it was a riveting gothic suspense novel, and worthy of it's classic status. I bought "My Cousin Rachel" at the same used book sale, and just now got around to it. My word, I think it's even better. It combines a naive and arrogant young man with a worldly "cousin", who had been married to his uncle for a short time, until his untimely death brings his widow to England. The story builds slowly, with suspicions gathering in the mind of the reader, until (in my case, at least) you are screaming at Phillip on every page, "DON'T BE SO STUPID, OPEN YOUR EYES FOR PETE'S SAKE."

Well, but the ending! Was I, the reader, wrong? Was Phillip wrong? Who was Rachel, really, and what was she thinking? Did my cynicism and suspicion lead me down the wrong path, or was I too quick to jump to judgement? These questions will haunt me for a while.

As I said, this woman knew how to tell a story.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews913 followers
March 13, 2019
I don’t...

Ok so I recently read (and loved) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier & so imagine my excitement to read another gothic romance/thriller she wrote. I had such high hopes for this, especially given the number of people who I’ve seen consider this somehow better than Rebecca.

I’ll be honest here. 1 Star, that’s kind of an extreme rating. But giving it a 2 Stars or even a 1.5 Stars just doesn’t feel like it genuinely represents how bad of a time I had while reading this. I’m struggling to find even one thing I liked about this???

Plot? Boring.
Atmosphere? Boring.
Characters? Double Dog Boring.
Conclusion?? BORING & PREDICTABLE & DID I MENTION BORING? which honestly just put the shit cherry on top of this shit sundae.

Seriously I felt like I was just waiting & waiting for something even the slightest bit interesting to take place but I was disappointed right up to the very end.

I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of these characters but I especially did not give a rat’s ass about Philip Ashley. Wow what a dumb fuck?

I know like “young & stupid love” and “infatuation to the point of lunacy” are definitely themes here but watching Philip was like watching a kid break its own toy & then throw a crazy ass fit when realizing the toy is broken.

Alright I’m kidding there was one thing about this novel that wasn’t absolute garbage: the writing style! Of course Daphne du Maurier is wonderful at gothic English mansions & posh English dialogue. But even being written nicely wasn’t enough to keep me from groaning.

All the while I kept thinking that reading this novel felt like a reading assignment from high school that I was forced to slog through & pretend to like & pull some convoluted meanings out of my ass about. And you know what? A book that makes me feel that gross deserves a 1 Star.

If you’re struggling between Rebecca & My Cousin Rachel to begin your journey into Daphne du Maurier‘s work? It’s gonna be a Rebecca from me, folks.
Profile Image for Sarah.
144 reviews94 followers
May 22, 2021
I read Daphne Du Maurier's book "Rebecca" and fell in love with it. I read online that "My Cousin Rachel" had a similar feel as "Rebecca". So I decided this was the one to buy. I didn't think it would live up to Rebecca, but I was mistaken. It has the same dark, mysterious atmosphere to it, the same kind of wonderfully developed characters and a great storyline that captivated me from beginning to end.

I read somewhere that the Kindle version which I read, was shorter than the original version. I haven't checked that out totally, but now I think I might have to reread at a later date. Not a problem.

This emotional novel should most definitely be put in the category of one the greatest classics of all time. It displays the strength of love as a Englishman, Philip, will do anything to get love in return from an Italian woman, Rachel. The reader becomes deep into the story as the plot thickens as a result of the the book's realistic theme. The reader is desperately trying to discover the truth about Rachel until the end when a shocking event occurs. I did enjoy My Cousin Rachel, however, Rebecca is still my favorite of the two.

The thing about this book is that once you read it, you will have more questions than when you started!! Is Rachel the sweet, innocent angel she seems to be? Flirty, but naive? Or is she a calculating, evil temptress, who only uses men for her personal gain? And what about Philip? Is he driven mad by jealousy and obsession? Or is there something else at work? The ending is anything but straightforward, and the reader is left to his own to answer these questions. The mystery surrounding Rachel unravels slowly, but in such a way as to keep you on the edge of your seat.

This novel is a mix between mystery novel, dark Gothic and gender war, which were woven with clear description and provoking dialogue. Full with paradox and irony but not too full blown. Each character was well drawn: background, personality, way of life (vivid description of Cornwell), and mystery.

The ending is superb. I love this authors writings, and the older classics. A lot more than I thought I would. I highly recommend
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