My Cousin Rachel: Book Review by Asha Seth

I would love to believe that it is this very thought that set the tones for ‘My Cousin Rachel’ for Miss Maurier. One likes to wish!

I wondered how it could be that two people who had loved could yet have such a misconception of each other and, with a common grief, grow far apart. There must be something in the nature of love between a man and a woman that drove them to torment and suspicion.

Let’s get on with the review, shall we?

Is Rachel evil or not? Is she responsible or not for Ambrose’s death? Is she innocent or guilty?

The one mystery that’s left unanswered!

my cousin rachel
Image Credit: Goodreads

Philip Ashley is orphaned at an early age and is raised by his old cousin Ambrose Ashley in Cornwall. Due to health constraints, Ambrose makes a trip to Rome to spend the winter there and while traveling he meets his distant cousin and widow Countess Rachel Sangaletti, a woman Philip has never heard about before.

Quite to Philip’s surprise, Ambrose falls in love with Rachel and they get married. While away, Ambrose keeps writing to Philip and telling him about his whereabouts. Slowly, the letters grow infrequent and once or twice, Ambrose mentions that he has fallen sick and no matter what treatment, he does not seem to recover.

By the time, Philip reaches the villa where his ill cousin and his wife had stayed, he is dumbstruck to know that Ambrose is dead and that his wife along-with an old friend by the name Rainaldi has left the house. Gradually, as the story unfolds, Philip cannot stop but fall head-over-heels in love with Rachel. Towards the end, Philip starts to suffer with the same headache and fever pangs like Ambrose did.

But who is responsible behind everything, the reader has to find out.


My Cousin’s Rachel is the work of a genius with the kind of intricately woven tale of mystery that it is. A psychological thriller that keeps you awake right through the nights so that you finally uncover the mystery – Is Rachel really a shrewd woman responsible for her husband’s death or merely a weak woman mourning his death?

Very few writers, have such a profound reach into the feminine psyche as Miss Maurier. What makes me say this, you ask? Her quotes as these.

If we killed women for their tongues all men would be murderers.”

And this,

“I would not be young again, if you offered me the world. But then I’m prejudiced.’
‘You talk,’ I said, ‘as if you were ninety-nine.’
‘For a woman I very nearly am,’ she said. ‘I’m thirty five.”

The story and scenes are all brilliantly worked upon by Miss Maurier. The settings, characters, their psychological anomalies in different situations, are all impeccably built and portrayed.

The steady suspense keeps growing intense with each page and you are left to wonder if the climax will ever end. It may very well appear tedious and too demanding of concentration, but we must remember that it is a classic at the end of the day. So it does tend to get slow but not once does the reader feel left out.  The intriguing mindful manipulations of Rachel make even the silliest look smartest.

In short, it is one of those cozy books that you can read through the day sitting on the porch with infrequent sips of tea and enjoy it tremendously despite the ambiguity caused by the author.

If you happen to read ‘My Cousin Rachel‘ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.

©The Musing Quill