My Cousin Rachel written by Daphne du Maurier the celebrated author of Rebecca in 1951 is a suspense thriller from the beginning to the end. The narrative of this story begins by the hero of this story, Philip Ashley. He is aged twenty-four and an heir to the estate with its riches at the age of twenty-five that will be left to him by his generous cousin Ambrose.
The story has a fairytale setting, until Ambrose’s health begins to fail. Doctors attending to him suggest a dose of the hot sun in Italy would do him a lot of good. Ambrose set sail from England to reach Italy, where he chances upon his long lost cousin Rachel.
Rachel is a widow living in Florence. Her husband a rich Italian noble has died under strange circumstances. Ambrose and Rachel take a liking to one another. They find that they both find they share the same hobbies, gardening, which is their favorite pastime. Before long Philip receives a letter from Ambrose saying that he has wed Rachel.
Soon after, Philip starts receiving disturbing letters from Ambrose that leave him worried and anxious. Ambrose believes that his wife is poisoning him. To find out the truth, he set sails for Italy, where he finds that he has arrived too late. Ambrose is dead and his wife Rachel has disappeared from the scene.
Convinced that Ambrose has been done to death, Phillip sets sail for England and at home, and soon he is shocked to receive a visit from Rachel. Soon, Philip is captivated by Rachel’s charming personality and he find that he is madly in love with her.
Discarding all caution to the winds, Philip goes to the bank on his twenty-fifth birthday, withdraws all the precious family heirlooms and jewels and presents them to Rachel with his cousin’s property and proposes to her blinded by the love that he feels towards her.
Shortly, Philip finds that he has the same disturbing symptoms that plagued his cousin Ambrose before his death. He falls down unconscious and is carried to his room, where he is nursed by Rachel for weeks until he finally recovers back his health. Rachel tells him that he was suffering from brain fever.
The book is written with full plots and counter-plots, where Philip suspects Rachel of infidelity. One fine day, Rachel takes a walk in his garden and before her arrival; Philip is surprised to receive a letter from the bank thanking Rachel for returning the precious jewels and souvenirs of the family. Philip is now in a state of confusion, thinking long and hard whether he is guilty of misjudging her intentions.
When the letter arrives, Rachel is taking a walk on the terraced garden in the estate, where she slips on a sunken bridge and falls to her death. Philip finds her lying down in a heap with a mass of broken bones and at the verge of her death, she looks up at him and calls him, ‘Ambrose’ before meeting her end.
Now, the author leaves the reader confused about the possible endings to this story. Did Ambrose meet a natural death, whether his suspicions of Rachel are well-founded, or based on wild imaginations and his letters to him the mad ramblings of a demented sick mind? If she was a gold-digger, why did Rachel return all the jewelry and other precious things to the bank, without working to consolidate the hold on the family’s estate? Why did she nurse Philip back to health if she was intent on murdering him?
The novel raises a host of other questions that will keep the reader trying to unravel the unique personality of Rachel and its superb story-line will haunt him for a long time to come, leaving him midway in the lurch, its ending built after the reader’s own imagination!
I HESP M