THOUGHTS ON: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

My contribution to Daphne du Maurier Reading Week

How soft and gentle her name sounds when I whisper it. It lingers on the tongue, insidious and slow, almost like poison, which is apt indeed. It passes from the tongue to the parched lips, and from the lips back to the heart. And the heart controls the body, and the mind also. Shall I be free of it one day?

MY COUSIN RACHWhen Ali Hope, the blog mistress at Heavenali, announced she would be hosting her first-ever Daphne du Maurier Reading Week from the 13th to 19th May, I knew instantly that the time had come to pluck the 1951 novel, My Cousin Rachel, from the uppermost reaches of my library shelves.

I received my copy of book number 491 in the Virago Modern Classics’ collection as a gift, when it was republished to tie-in with the 2017 film starring Rachel Weisz (which I haven’t seen) – though, along with many a literary masterpiece, it had hitherto lain slumped on my TBR list for donkey’s years.

The story focuses on the sexually inexperienced Philip Ashley – orphaned at an early age and raised by his wealthy and resolutely single cousin, Ambrose. Treated as a son by his guardian, he is heir to his big house and beautiful Cornish estate, where he feels at ease in their emphatically male bastion. His tranquillity is destroyed, however, when the older man travels to Florence for the sake of his health and there falls in love, marries and just as suddenly dies of what Philip believes to be poisoning.

Following his death, Ambrose’s widow (Philip’s cousin Rachel) sails to England. He expects to despise her but, like Ambrose, he is drawn by her charismatic, if unfathomable personality and serene beauty. He soon yearns to possess her – but could she be a murderess?

Du Maurier wrote this book when she was at the height of her creative brilliance. It is frequently described as a thriller, equally often as a romance, occasionally as a tragedy, but her bewitching work is so much more than mere genre: it is a complex, serpentiform, devilishly clever story of female sexuality, in which the tables are briefly turned in favour of the woman. The male perception of Rachel is at the centre of everything.

So, was this novel worth the wait? Absolutely. My only regret is that I deferred for so long.

She has done for me at last, Rachel my torment.”


This is my tenth choice for The Classics Club.

Categories: Readathons / Challenges

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43 replies

  1. I really hoped to get to this last week – it sounds so good.

  2. Luckily for me I haven’t read this yet!

  3. I love this book too! It’s been so long since I read it but it’s an all-time favorite. I haven’t seen the movie either, I wonder if it’s worth watching.

    • I’m afraid I don’t know much about the movie, Rennie. Nor have I seen the earlier film starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. I’m quite glad really because they would probably have spoiled the reading experience.

      • I’ve seen the earlier one, but after reading the book. Definitely better to read it and form the picture in your mind first. I remember liking it but not much about it, really. Curious how the new one adapted it.

  4. I adored this as a teenager, almost as much as I loved Rebecca, but I’m not sure I’d get on with du Maurier so well now – I’d have to re-read to see.

    • I absolutely loved this book. Hopefully Ali will run #DDMreadingweek again next year and I will try something else by du Maurier. These reading events seem to give me fresh impetus to read the classics.

  5. Bewitching is right, I found it a hard one to put down. There’s so much going on in this novel. I really must get around to watching that film, I think I was worried it would spoil my love of the book.

  6. This sounds very promising, Paula, glad you put it on my radar!

  7. Glad to see you enjoyed this so much, Paula. Bewitching is great way of describing it. I read it many years ago but can still recall that intriguing sense of ambiguity. A masterclass in construction and plotting.

  8. It’s so, so good – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book more carefully ambiguous about the nature of one of its characters. Absolutely addictive!

  9. I loves this book! It gripped me til the end, much as Rebecca does every time I read it. I was so enamored with it, I watched the film whose lead actress is on the cover of your book. It was a great disappointment to me, varying significantly from the novel in that it left grave doubt as to Rachel’s complicity in evil intent. The book convinced me of her machinations toward self at the exclusion of all others.

  10. It’s a disturbing story, as is Rebecca, in that the evil that lays below the surface is presented in such a beguiling form. Du Maurier knows how to write compelling characters.

    • She sure does. Such an impression did it make, I found it difficult to pick up another book after finishing this one. In the end, I went off and read something short and factual before picking up my next novel!

  11. I’m afraid I wasn’t wowed by this one. I thought it would be a lot darker than it turned out to be

  12. This sounds so good Paula! I’ll have to read it, DDM week has definitely whetted my appetite!

  13. I think this one may be my favourite of the big du Maurier novels. And you’ve given it the review it deserves, Paula 🙂 So glad you enjoyed it so much. You’ve made me want to pick it up again now but I shall resist. Time to give DDM a break for a while I think! 😂

    As for the Rachel Weisz film – I was underwhelmed.

    • Thank you, Sandra. I wasn’t sure what to expect but found it utterly absorbing. I can well understand why it’s your favourite du Maurier. Hmm, I think I may skip the film after all. 😏

      • It’s not a bad film, just not quite what it might have been. Worth a watch if it comes your way if only for the scenery and in order to critique it against the book! 😀

  14. Very nice review. This book was bewitching! I couldn’t put it down even though I loathed Rachel!

  15. This is a book I have been meaning to reread for ages . Great review w

  16. I loved this one a lot–especially the ending (as I wrote in your wrap up too). One really doesn’t know what to think after you put it down!

  17. This has been on my list forever!


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