Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel was my lucky number #4 for the latest Classics Club Spin.

It's a book I've been wanting to read ever since 2007, when I read my first Du Maurier - Mary Ann whilst travelling around the UK.

I was so ready for Du Maurier's gothic, romantic style of writing after a spate of factual, matter-of-fact books recently. I loved every minute of reading it. I took it everywhere with me, including the hairdressers (photo). I couldn't put it down.

My love for this story was also influenced by the edition that I read - one of the gorgeous Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection. The cover was designed by Neisha Crosland and is called 'Flamenco'. It also featured an introduction from Sally Beauman (which was giving away too many plot secrets so I didn't read it through!)

None of the 3 main characters were people I would like to spend any time with in real life. The boys with their selfishness, misogyny & arrogance and Rachel with her money-grubbing, manipulative behaviours would drive me crazy! But together, in a book, they were compelling reading.

Du Maurier left loads of room for doubts about all their intentions & motivations. The reader is therefore, never quite sure who was being wronged or who was being used & abused. By the end though, I couldn't help but feel that nowadays Rachel would be diagnosed with some kind of personality disorder. Philip and Ambrose didn't really stand a chance against her scheming, sexual advances.

I've read a number of articles about the feminist nature of the book and the number of women's issues that it explores. Obviously financial security and independence were (& still are) major women's issues.

Rachel lived in a world where women had to marry for money (as opposed to love) to secure their futures. But choosing a manipulative 'heroine' who was irresponsible & extravagant with other people's money (& feelings) wasn't likely to endear her to modern audiences.
At least not this particular audience! I've met one too many Rachel's in this modern world to make me feel much sympathy for her position.

But maybe that's just my personal biases showing and I've missed the point completely...?


7 comments:

  1. Great review! I LOVE this book. I have definite opinions as to who was the wronged party, but it always amazes me that other readers can feel so differently. I think one of the great things about this novel is that everyone who reads it has a different view of what actually transpired, and who was responsible for events. Believe it or not, I actually like this book more than Rebecca (although I love that one too).

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    1. I think I enjoyed it more than Rebecca too Melissa.
      I'd love to hear your views on who was wronged and why. I was very aware of my bias against Rachel the whole time I was reading it.

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    2. I think Rachel was the villain in the book. I think she manipulated events to suit her needs and then played the victim to have everyone feel sorry for her and think she couldn't possibly done anything wrong. Phillip certainly wasn't an innocent party, but I think he got himself caught up by a master manipulator (Rachel).

      I knew absolutely nothing about the book before reading it, so my views were formed completely on my own without other views.

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  2. I've only ever read Rebecca (and The Birds, but it was for school and I was reluctant), and I need to make it a point to read more of her work. I don't think I ever hear negative things about it. This one sounds really engaging! The characters and issues sound interesting and I definitely believe the writing is great! Thanks for the great review, definitely need to put this one on my TBR list!

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  3. I recently picked up a copy of this book at a used book story, and after reading your review, I'm even more curious about it! Looking forward to reading it for myself now!

    Lisa

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  4. I love this one too, but I think I love Rebecca a tiny bit more because it was my first of her books. Great review!

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  5. I don't think we're meant to like her, but she possesses that fascination that the very ruthless often have! One is somewhat in awe of what they think they can get away with. ;-)

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