Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, knowing he will treasure his grand house. But Philip’s world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.
Before long the widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – arrives in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she have caused Ambrose’s death?
Should I or should I not even review this modern classic? After all what can I add to everything that has already been said and written about My Cousin Rachel. Shall I confess that this is my first du Maurier since reading Jamaica Inn in secondary school? I was prompted to pick this up due to my love of these VMC Designer Collection editions, that was why I bought the book and Clair who blogs here who last month I read Excellent Women with suggested this one next.
The story was superb, I loved the sense of foreboding that was ever present as the story progressed, my concern for Philip Ashley as he swiftly finds himself smitten with Rachel. The suspicion surrounding her, the death of Ambrose, what had really happened, could she be trusted…
The story is known and I suspect many here will have read it so except for commenting on how much I liked it, I won’t say too much more, narrated by Philip his views on women were interesting, reflecting not only his sheltered and wholly masculine upbringing but also the patriarchal society of the time. Rachel was unusual in terms of her background and her lifestyle, a more contemporary female than any previously known to Philip and he was immediately enamoured with her. The strength of the narration left the reader uncertain throughout as to Rachel’s motives, was Philip blinded by love or was the suspicion misguided?
I will say no more about the story but must comment on the beauty of the VMC Designer Collection, physically attractive and flamboyant, the hardback books are beautifully bound in vibrant patterns by contemporary designers including Orla Kiely. These editions have introduced me to modern classics including Valley of the Dolls review here and Excellent Women here which I would otherwise not have picked up – had I not been so tempted by the beauty of these editions. Reading these books is sublime and the paper quality is exquisite. My favourite book collection I think with a terrific range of modern classic titles.
About the Author
Daphne du Maurier (1907-89) was born in London, the daughter of the famous actor – manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and granddaughter of George du Maurier, the author and artist. Educated at home with her sisters and later in Paris, she began writing short stories and articles in 1928, and in 1931 her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. But it was her novel Rebecca that made her one of the most popular authors of her day. Besides novels, du Maurier published short stories, plays and biographies. Many of her works were made into films, including, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, My Cousin Rachel, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Birds‘. She lived for most of her life in Cornwall, the setting for many of her books, and in 1969 was awarded a DBE.