So after finishing up listening to Station Eleven I knew my next audiobook couldn’t be just anything. You can’t go from such excellent prose straight back to the Iron Druid Chronicles (delightful romps as they are, not exactly on the same level). I’ve had My Cousin Rachel since the fall, but hadn’t been in the right mood till now to listen, and what a listen it was! First, it was narrated by Jonathan Pryce. Yes, that Jonathan Pryce. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find he has a very attractive voice, which I believe actually colored some of my opinions about characters. Second, this was my first du Maurier, but definitely not my last. She wrote quite a thriller with this, and I look forward to finally reading Rebecca soon.
On to the plot! This is the story of Philip Ashley, cousin of Ambrose Ashley and his heir to a nice estate in Cornwall. Ambrose raised Philip, who was an orphan, in his own image in a house completely devoid of women (including maids). As they get older Ambrose is required to winter elsewhere due to his rheumatism and abroad meets the titular cousin Rachel. Ambrose stays away longer and longer until he writes to tell that he has married Rachel and is staying in Florence with her. Philip is obviously jealous and mistrusting, which only deepens as in the months after the marriage Ambrose’s letters become stranger and stranger. Philip decides to see what’s up and heads to Italy, but he is too late: Ambrose is dead and Rachel has fled. Philip swears to destroy her for what she has done to Ambrose.
Philip then returns home, and shortly thereafter hears that Rachel is in England. Good manners forces Philip to invite her to her widow’s home, and that’s when the story really starts rolling. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not read it, but suffice to say there’s jealousy, anger, lust, duplicity, possible murder, a psychotic break and so much more!
I quite enjoyed it. The characters were well rounded and real, sometimes too real. I was regularly emailing a friend who recommended it that I wanted to punch Philip in the face, but that’s how human they were. Some were innocent, some manipulative and some a**holes, but you’ve known people like them. There are multiple twists and turns to keep you guessing, and even though you know it has to all fall apart, when it does, it’s in a spectacular fashion.
There’s a big, ambiguous question at the end, and for anyone else who’s read it… do you think she did it? I’m currently flip flopping every hour whether or not she did, but I appreciate a book that’ll keep me guessing for hours afterwards. Also I discovered when googling an image for this that it’s a movie with Olivia de Havilland and a very young Richard Burton. Heck yes I’m watching it!
So my overall review, if you want a layered, masterful, noir thriller then this is one to definitely check out.