My Cousin Rachel Author:Daphne Du Maurier It is the story of a young man, Philip, 25, who has been brought up by his older, male, bachelor cousin, Ambrose. They are well-to-do and live on an estate in the Cornwall, England so beloved by Ms. du Maurier, and have a varied and busy life. Neither seems too particularly interested in women. As he gets older, Ambrose decides for health reason... more »s that he must begin to winter in Italy, leaving Philip behind to take care of things.
Ambrose, of course, writes to Philip, and eventually tells him he has met a woman--their cousin Rachel--with whom he has fallen in love with and whom he has married. As time goes by, however, the letters become less enthusiastic. She is spending too much. He is becoming ill. He no longer trusts her or the Italian friend who seems to be hanging around her all of the time. Philip decides that he must go to Italy, but by the time he gets there, his beloved cousin is dead and buried and Rachel is nowhere to be found. Philip returns to England, disconsolate, heartbroken and angry.
Shortly thereafter he learns that Rachel is coming to pay a visit. And this is where the meat of the novel begins: although determined to get to the truth of the matter out of her, Philip instead becomes smitten.
The reason the novel works so well--indeed, the reason all of du Maurier's novels work so well--is that the characters are perfectly etched. Philip is not unintelligent and he is not uneducated. But he is 25, and he has traveled practically nowhere. The story is written in the first person by him, and although he is clearly self-confident, the reader sees how easily he is manipulated by the beautiful Rachel. She has him, as a major character points out, wrapped around her finger.
Rachel, of course, is etched through the eyes of Philip, and she is also a distinct, memorable character. Always dressed appropriately, always made up perfectly, she knows precisely how she must act with the various persons in the community in which Philip lives. They are enchanted by her, as is Philip, to whom she is alternately bewitching and standoffish.
The suspense begins when Philip learns little things about Rachel’s actions that don’t seem to fit with her overall charm. She is spending too much. He discovers additional letters from Ambrose that never made it to him previously. He is beginning to feel ill. Philip does not want to believe the implications of these things and does his best to ignore them. And then the Italian friend comes to visit.« less