This year (2017) I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca for the first time and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I also was curious as I wondered if du Maurier’s other works lived up to THAT novel. As you can see after reading Rebecca I rushed to my local bookstore to find another one of her novels but they only had the movie tie-in version of My Cousin Rachel, generally I don’t like movie tie-in covers but I was desperate to read more of du Maurier.
Du Maurier is a master of suspense. She likes to build up, leave clues and end her chapters in a startling way, usually revealing a character trait. There are some of these elements in My Cousin Rachel but instead of thrilling, it just felt irritating and bogged the narrative. Essentially the plot focuses on a young man who’s cousin and benefactor dies under mysterious circumstances and then his widow comes over to visit.
The novel is about obsession and is a jab at small town mechanics: gossip, rumours , village celebrations, people saving face in order to avoid being shunned and so on. By the end of the novel, the main protagonist, Philip discovers Rebecca’s true intentions, which has its own consequences but this is a slow build up and by the time I reached the last chapter I stopped caring for Philip or Rachel.
The novel is not a total dud. I like du Maurier’s writing style, I liked how neither her characters are totally good or bad. I also enjoyed the ambiguous character of Rachel. Although there clues and red herrings, we readers are not entirely sure if Rachel is a murderess or a victim of circumstance. Du Maurier is a clever writer so she pulls this off well. Like I said earlier, the tortoise paced build up and Rachel’s constant yo yoing in her decision to leave Philip’s manor just bugged me.
A disappointment but not a major one. I will be trying Jamaica Inn and maybe a lesser known novel as I still like du Maurier’s writing style and want to explore more of what she has written.