I picked up My Cousin Rachel because I always wanted to read something by Daphne Du Maurier, the author of the famously suspenseful novel, Rebecca. My Cousin Rachel had the same suspenseful plot right from the beginning. All of the elements combined to make me wonder whether Rachel was the murderous villain Phillip believed she was, or the sorrowful widow she claimed to be.
Phillip’s guardian, Ambrose, was only supposed to take a short journey, but instead he married Rachel and then died without ever returning home. His letters to Phillip insinuated that Rachel was an evil force attempting to ruin and kill him. They caused Phillip to question her motives and treat her coldly when she arrived at Ambrose’s estate where Phillip lived. Phillip’s impetuous decision to hate Rachel actually made me like him as a character because it showed his loyalty to Ambrose and his naive approach to live. Still, it only took one encounter where Rachel poured her heart out to Phillip for him to be completely taken with her. It was his lack of worldly experiences and relationships that lead Phillip to change his mind about Rachel and make devastating decisions. Despite several warning throughout the novel, Phillip continues to pursue Rachel and hopes to marry her.
The writing had that formal old world feel but was still easy to read. I found myself really getting into the story and soaking up the great descriptions of the home and surroundings. The absolute best aspect of the novel is that there are enough sinister events to make the reader cast doubt on whether Rachel is a good woman. The ending, which I both loved and hated, let the reader come to their own conclusion about Rachel. Such is the beauty of this suspenseful novel: that the actions must stand alone and no easy answer will be given.