Daphne DuMaurier. My Cousin Rachel (1951).
When I discovered Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, I read it three times within a few months. Recently, wandering backwards through the alphabet, I spied this title on the library shelves. A new-to-me title and an irresistible author.
The aspects of DuMaurier’s craft that I have come to appreciate most are her profound ability to create an atmosphere, to add depth to a protagonist, and to construct a gripping sense of suspense. She did not disappoint. This is the only novel of hers I have found so far that is reminiscent of Rebecca in its ability to hold up a human being in all its complexity and reveal the role that perception plays in our judgements of others.
My Cousin Rachel is the story of Philip Astley, a young man who inherits the estate of his cousin and guardian, Ambrose Astley. Ambrose marries a woman younger than himself on a visit to Italy and dies before he returns home to his English countryside estate. Philip does not trust his widow, even suspecting her of a role in his cousin’s death. Then she comes to visit. We watch the relationship that develops between the two and we wonder if things are always what they seem. The strands of the story are involved enough that we cannot be entirely sure what is being woven, even if we think we know. But we must be there when it’s finished.
For those who loved Rebecca.
This would be a fantastic book club read–there’s a lot of wealth to discuss and explore.