Monday, October 13, 2008

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

This gem of a novel full of mystery and suspense is set in Cornwall during the 1840s and is told by Philip Ashley. Orphaned at a young age, Philip’s care and training were given over to his young bachelor cousin, Ambrose, whom he adored.

At a doctor’s recommendation, Ambrose begins to spend his winters abroad in warm climes on the continent leaving Philip, his heir, to run the manor. One such trip takes him to Florence, were he meets a distant relative, Cousin Rachel.

Through his letters home, Philip, learns of Ambrose’s high regard for this woman and soon Rachel and Ambrose are married. After some financial business has been concluded they plan to journey back to Cornwall. The letters from Ambrose become confused and few and far between, calling Rachel “his torment”. Philip discovers that Ambrose’s father died of a brain tumor.
Full of unease, afraid Ambrose is deathly ill and jealous of Ambrose’s new relationship, he goes out to Italy only to find Ambrose is dead and buried and Cousin Rachel has disappeared.

On returning home, He learns all has been left to him to be inherited on his 25th birthday, 6 months away and nothing to his Cousin Rachel.
When Philip receives a letter from Rachel that she is in England and wishes to come to the house, Philip is hostile, but lets her come. He and his guardian provide Rachel with an allowance, and slowly Philip comes to like and even to love this mysterious woman. Putting aside Ambrose’s fears as the ravings of a dying man Philip becomes reckless with his inheritance, but after a disastrous birthday and an illness of his own Philip’s unease returns. How did Ambrose really die?

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