To think that just a few short months ago, I was under the impression that Daphne du Maurier only wrote one novel worth reading, the splendid Rebecca. I could not have been more wrong.
My Cousin Rachel is a wonderful read. A psychological thriller, the novel is set in 19th Century Cornwall and in Florence. The narrator, Philip Ashley, falls in love with – or rather, becomes obsessed with - his cousin’s widow, Rachel, who may or may not be a murderess. The development and consequences of Philip’s obsession are at the heart of the novel.
There is so much to admire about this work. Firstly, there is the beautiful descriptive language in which Maurier evokes the natural beauty of Cornwall and the drama of Florence. Secondly, there is the superb use of a male first person narrator, who reveals things to the reader of which he is himself unaware. Thirdly, there is the fascinating ambiguity of the characters and the narrative. While Rachel’s character and actions are open to question and interpretation, so is Philip’s reliability as a narrator.
Overall, this is a gem of novel. It is easy to read and hard to put down, a totally engaging page-turner which gives readers plenty to ponder at the end. Contemporary thriller writers could learn a thing or two from Daphne du Maurier. Another enjoyable buddy read with my friend Jemidar.