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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.

Text: Rachel Jacobs

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 nov- “She understands the power of an enels with sinister overtones. While relationships vironment in determining the character become stronger and characters become more dependent on each other, some other force or and the actions of an individual.” person is enmeshing itself into the relationship to disrupt it in some way. The strange and the unex- A fascinating study of human character, although pected appear in the common place. In this way in an outdated age the emotional trajectory that Phillip follows is reminiscent of the emotional up“My Cousin Rachel” develops. heavals and trials that men and woman have to together even today. Like a lot of her “Every thought and every word uttered negotiate books not a lot happens during the middle, life by them is entirely believable.” slides along with the pages, but they aren’t uninteresting. Her use of language is such that she Phillip’s cousin Ambrose, who raised him, mar- creates her written images in your imagination. ries, while convalescing in Italy, a woman called Rachel. Ambrose unexpectedly dies and Rachel Published in 1951, made into a film in 1952, earntravels to England to meet the cousin. Thrown into ing Richard Burton (as Phillip) a Best Supporting this very sedate story line are a couple of letters Actor Oscar nomination, which is ludicrous as written by Ambrose before his death that cast as- Phillip is the protagonist, but I’m not analysing the persions on the character of Rachel, claiming that politics of the Oscar’s here, this book has been her arrival is driven by a desire for an inheritance almost subsequently forgotten. It was remade for from her dead husband, who not having changed television in the 80s but it has not had the perhis will, left her nothing. vading remembrance that “Rebecca” has had on our collective consciousness. Whether this is “My Cousin Rachel” as in most of Du Maurier’s because “Rebecca” was immortalised by Hitchbooks is a study of character. She creates the cock or because it was genuinely a better novel I world and the mind of our narrator so perfectly that hesitate to guess. Of the books I have so far read, every thought and every word uttered by them is neither of these two take the crown which would entirely believable in the make up of the charac- be tossed between “The Scapegoat” and “The ter. But the location, the setting of her story is an Parasites” but that does not mean one should not additional character that cannot be forgotten. The read this book. location, the estate on which Phillip has grown up, is as much a part of the story as the characters It is engaging. It is sinister. It asks questions that are. The land provides the wealth and the living it does not always answer. But above all it makes thereby shaping the characters. This is the beau- you think about the simple manipulations of the ty of Du Maurier’s literature. She understands the human being, in contrast to the complex creapower of an environment in determining the char- tures that we are. acter and the actions of an individual. “My Cousin Rachel” is out now.

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The Kaje - Issue 2 (June 2010)  

The Kaje is all about the arts - from the upcoming and underground through to the commercial mainstream. Issue 2 takes a look at: The Bang...

The Kaje - Issue 2 (June 2010)  

The Kaje is all about the arts - from the upcoming and underground through to the commercial mainstream. Issue 2 takes a look at: The Bang...

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