FORGOTTEN GEM: Daphne DuMaurier “My Cousin Rachel”

On my twelfth birthday I was gifted two books from my cousin Rebecca. Wrapped up in wrapping paper were Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and My “Cousin Rachel”. Thirteen years later I read “My Cousin Rachel” (and about time too). I love Du Maurier’s work. After reading “Rebecca” when I was fifteen I went on a Du Maurier buying spree. In between reading an additional five books over the years, “My Cousin Rachel” continued to be bypassed until recently when scanning my bookshelves I realised I needed another Du Maurier fix.

“My Cousin Rachel” does not disappoint. It is as formulaic as a Daphne Du Maurier book can be, while still being its own distinctive narrative. She is famous for her ability to create romantic novels with sinister overtones. While relationships become stronger and characters become more dependent on each other, some other force or person is enmeshing itself into the relationship to disrupt it in some way. The strange and the unexpected appear in the common place. In this way “My Cousin Rachel” develops.

“Every thought and every word uttered by them
is entirely believable.”

Phillip’s cousin Ambrose, who raised him, marries, while convalescing in Italy, a woman called Rachel. Ambrose unexpectedly dies and Rachel travels to England to meet the cousin. Thrown into this very sedate story line are a couple of letters written by Ambrose before his death that cast aspersions on the character of Rachel, claiming that her arrival is driven by a desire for an inheritance from her dead husband, who not having changed his will, left her nothing.

“My Cousin Rachel” as in most of Du Maurier’s books is a study of character. She creates the world and the mind of our narrator so perfectly that every thought and every word uttered by them is entirely believable in the make up of the character.

But the location, the setting of her story is an additional character that cannot be forgotten. The location, the estate on which Phillip has grown up, is as much a part of the story as the characters are. The land provides the wealth and the living thereby shaping the characters. This is the beauty of Du Maurier’s literature. She understands the power of an environment in determining the character and the actions of an individual.

Phillip has never had prolonged contact with women. He has known no mother and therefore the arrival of Rachel at his home is the first time he has lived with a women under his roof. This premise allows Daphne Du Maurier to explore how a woman’s emotions influence a man’s, especially when the man has no previous experience of these manipulations. I was engrossed in the mind-set that she created in Phillip; in each analysis of the words or actions that Rachel performed and how these actions where analysis by a man unused to a women, sometimes accurately and sometimes not. As a woman it made me analyse things I say and actions that I perform and reflect on how these would be interpreted.

“She understands the power of an environment in determining the character and the actions of an individual.”

A fascinating study of human character, although in an outdated age the emotional trajectory that Phillip follows is reminiscent of the emotional upheavals and trials that men and woman have to negotiate together even today. Like a lot of her books not a lot happens during the middle, life slides along with the pages, but they aren’t uninteresting. Her use of language is such that she creates her written images in your imagination.

Published in 1951, made into a film in 1952, earning Richard Burton (as Phillip) a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, which is ludicrous as Phillip is the protagonist, but I’m not analysing the politics of the Oscar’s here, this book has been almost subsequently forgotten. It was remade for television in the 80s but it has not had the pervading remembrance that “Rebecca” has had on our collective consciousness. Whether this is because “Rebecca” was immortalised by Hitchcock or because it was genuinely a better novel I hesitate to guess. Of the books I have so far read, neither of these two take the crown which would be tossed between “The Scapegoat” and “The Parasites” but that does not mean one should not read this book.

It is engaging. It is sinister. It asks questions that it does not always answer. But above all it makes you think about the simple manipulations of the human being, in contrast to the complex creatures that we are.

Words: Rachel Jacobs

June Issue Still Available!

June Issue!!

Where our May issue was great, our June is even better! Cover stars this month are “The Bang Bang Club” providing their own insights into their evolution into a duo.

Issue 2 has it all – features, reviews, prizes(!) and much more.

Read it here!

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Issue 2 contains:

Leo Richardson, “If someone is young and talented then it needs to be nurtured.”Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle, “Alliteration is always good in a band name.”Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, “Most of us have felt powerless at some time in our lives.”
Phantom Limb, “You get some of the best music from pain.”
Jenny Westbrook, “Art is quite often put off by people until the right time.”
Lucinda Belle, “Luck is opportunity meets dedication.”
Naoko Mori, “I’ve always believed she was treated rather unfairly.”
Tim Turner, “I don’t want to write about myself.”
Boy & Bear, “It’s like a big inbred kinda family.”
Cerith Flinn, “I am starting at the deep end, with a cannibalistic play.”Lachlan Buchanan, “I never plan to grow up, so for now, I’m happy acting.”
WIN!!!!; Signed Polly Mackey CDs, The Baseballs CDs, Phantom Limb CDs, Newcastle: Australia DVDs, Tim Turner Books
The Bang Bang Club, “It came to a point where everything in the music industry was a band, but we wanted to be a duo.”
Forgotten Gems:Album: The Go-Betweens ’16 Lovers Lane’
Book: Daphne du Maurier ‘My Cousin Rachel’
Film: Haunted Honeymoon
Jason Newton’s Life Lessons: “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
Designer of the Month: Disorder
Steal My Style: Nikita
The Way I Saw It: Athens
Mathew Jonson “Agents of Time”; Lissie “Catching A Tiger”; Noblesse Oblige “Malady”; Sophie Hunger “1983”; Hanson “Shout It Out”
Singles of The Month; Kylie Minogue “All The Lovers”, Jil Is Lucky “The Wanderer”
Live Music; The Radio Dept., Hawksley Workman, Boyz II Men, Ingrid Michaelson
Theatre; Noises Off!, Signs of a Star-Shaped Diva, Canary, Naughty!
DVD; Alice in Wonderland, Precious, A Single Man, Sherlock Holmes
Books; Tim Thornton “Death of an Unsigned Band”, Neil LaBute “Seconds of Pleasure”, Tim Turner “First Time I Met The Blues”, Giorgio Faletti “I Kill”
The Kaje Previews Festivals; Rockness, Serenata, The Secret Garden Party, Blissfields, Lounge on the Farm, Hop Farm, Moseley Folk

Read it here!

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