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Monday, August 25, 2014

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

One definition of Gothic: "of or having to do with a type of fiction that uses remote, gloomy, settings and a sinister eerie atmosphere to suggest horror and mystery." While "My Cousin Rachel" is not set in a dark, crumbling medieval castle, the overall atmosphere is rather dark and with the sense of some impending disaster. Philip Ashley is the heir to his cousin Ambrose's Cornwall estate. Orphaned at a young age, Ambrose is like a father figure to Philip and they are very close. Because of his health, Ambrose goes to a warmer climate for the winter and on this trip meets and marries Rachel. Ambrose's letters to Philip from Italy become more and more infrequent after his marriage. The tone of these letters also changes from ones of being happy and content to ones of being frightened of his wife and a concern that she is trying to harm him.

Philip goes to Italy only to find his cousin has died. He blames Rachel for his death and is determined to not welcome her when she comes to Cornwall. On her arriving though, his attitude changes and he is mesmerized by her. As his infatuation and passion for Rachel grows, Philip seems to lose all common sense as his 25th birthday approaches and when he has full control of the estate.

The story is told from Philip's perspective so you get a view into his thoughts and emotions. You feel more and more as the story goes on that it will not end well and some disaster will happen. There is a quote in the book that describes Rachel well and stated by Philip's godfather. "There are some women, Philip," he observed, "good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster."

A very well written book that uses suspense in the plot to keep you going throughout the story. Daphne Du Maurier is also the author of "Rebecca" which is similar in style to "My Cousin Rachel."

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