This begins in true to form Du Maurier style. A slightly macabre scene involving a hanging in the first chapter is our introduction to Ambrose and his heir Philip, the bachelor residents of a large estate in Cornwall.
Ambrose, struggles with the winter weather in Cornwall and as an antidote to this chooses to winter in Europe. His choice of Florence brings him into contact with Rachel, the sophisticated lady who becomes his wife. After a short while he becomes ill and dies from a brain disease never making it home to Cornwall. When Rachel arrives in Cornwall, Philip grief-stricken following the death of Ambrose resolves to have nothing to do with her. Within a short few hours of her visit however he finds himself drawn to this mysterious woman. Despite his misgivings, Philip becomes obsessed with Rachel to the detriment of relationships with everyone else in his life.
Rachel gradually moves into the grand house and charms everyone with her flair for gardening, conversation and healing the sick. I switched between sympathy for Rachel and the fact that she was saddled with the simpering Philip to annoyance with the way she seemed able to win over any member of the male species that came her way.
As the novel develops Du Maurier drops clues to the possible motives behind Rachel’s visit and yet the reader is always left with an element of doubt as to what might really be happening. Consequently I finished the novel feeling a little unclear as to who was the most deplorable Philip or Rachel.
I love Du Maurier novels for many reasons but mainly because they are such good stories and keep me turning the pages into the early hours. My favourite is still ‘Jamaica Inn’ but I loved this too and would recommend ‘My Cousin Rachel’ to anyone who enjoys a good plot, strong character and a darker, shadowy story.