After having read and loved Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, I decided I’d read more of du Maurier. Thus, My Cousin Rachel. Once again, du Maurier managed to suck me into a story, despite having intimated the ending at the very beginning of the book. It felt a bit like it did when I was a child and had to know the end, so I started with the last 10 pages of the book and then went back and read the rest. However, instead of actually knowing more than I had before, I actually knew nothing at all about the book as the subsequent pages made clear.
Philip Ashley is the devoted cousin and heir of Ambrose Ashley. When Ambrose goes off to Italy for his health, Philip stays behind to hold the fort. While Ambrose is travelling, he meets, falls in love with and marries another cousin of theirs, Rachel. All seems well for a while, until Philip begins to receive strange letters from Ambrose, which lead him to believe that something is wrong, but are so vague as to make their meaning unclear. Shortly after these letters arrive, Ambrose dies and Philip inherits the estate. All seems over until one day, Rachel arrives in England.
Du Maurier weaves a web of intrigue and suspicion in this book. Is Rachel the kind, loving wife she would like everyone to believe or did she have more to do with Ambrose’s early demise than she’s admitting. Is Philip risking all by allowing her to stay? It’s all very cleverly written. By putting Ambrose’s sanity towards the end of his life in question, she leads the reader down a rocky path of suspicion, all the while dangling face value and innocent until proven guilty in the air. I probably changed my mind about 4 times while reading the book. Just as I was about to make my final decision, she threw something new in and I had to rethink everything. It’s very skilfully done. The woman is a master.
Having said that, I have to rant a bit about two things: The first are her stupid men who throw caution to the wind and chuck everything away regardless of the work generations before have put into what they now own and the second is that the ending of this book is maddening. Absolutely maddening. I don’t know whether to applaud her genius, or feel cheated. I suppose both really. It is genius, but it was terribly unexpected and didn’t give me what I want. After having put up with Philip for the whole novel, I felt like I was owed, but du Maurier obviously didn’t feel obligated to pay up. Bloody geniuses! Sheesh!
Good mystery and style, this one earns 4 out of 5. It missed out on 5 because I liked Rebecca better.