Thoughts on My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier

My Cousin RachelLast night I finished reading My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier. It had been at the top of my to read list for the past several years, but I never got past the first several pages until last week, which is strange, because the first several pages are almost as gripping as the first pages in Rebecca, one of my favorite classic novels.

My Cousin Rachel begins in a place similar to Rebecca, with an orphan and a gothic, almost sinister, undertone. If I hadn’t been expecting great things already judging by the woman who wrote it, I definitely was after the first chapter, and I think ultimately this is what led to my disappointment in the novel.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is about a young man named Phillip who was raised by his cousin Ambrose. When advised to winter away from his damp home in Cornwall by his doctor, Ambrose goes south to the continent of Europe. He goes to Italy where he meets and marries his cousin Rachel. Having been a bachelor all his life, this comes as a great surprise to Phillip and their friends in Cornwall. The marriage seems to suit him until Phillip begins to receive odd letters from his cousin, and before he is able to see Ambrose again, he is dead. Did his new wife have something to do with it? How will Phillip behave once he finally meets this mysterious cousin? What about this woman caused a lifelong bachelor to finally ‘take the plunge’?

This novel lacked the feeling of suspense that I adored in Rebecca. There were no twists, no shocking revelations, and honestly once I set it down for the last time I was left wondering what the point of the book had been. I’m not saying it wasn’t compelling or well written, because it was, but there was never the sense of satisfaction in the end for me. After such a kick ass beginning, I expected more. I gave it three stars on goodreads because it is quite an entertaining book, I just took issue with the ending – it left things unresolved for me. I’m having the same issue with the ending of Gone With the Wind (I am still working on a post for that one).

For those of you who have already read it, here is a little more detail of what I thought of the story::

The beginning is excellent. It sets the tone beautifully and anchors the story in a gothic mood. The plot set-up is also perfect – a man meets a woman, marries her, has a crisis that leads to his death, and his family is left to wonder/discover whether or not this mysterious woman had a hand in it. I mean, that’s got to be an excellent story, right?

Eh.

I felt like I was turning pages in order to find out if Rachel had really had any fault in Ambrose’s death or not. Since I still don’t know for sure it just feels unfinished. I feel like the story leaves off in exactly the same place as it was after the first few chapters of the book. In the end, none of the plot really changed anything in the character’s lives. I guess I was expecting something equally mysterious and scandalous to happen to Phillip once Rachel came to town, but the only thing that happened is Phillip absolutely losing his mind in love and sabotaging himself. And yet, he wasn’t really sabotaged after all. It’s like everything that happened had the ability to be a complete disaster, but in the end Phillip is left exactly as he was after Ambrose’s death, a wealthy bachelor.

There was a looming mystery as to what Rachel’s big fault was, and all it turned out to be was a shopping addiction (who doesn’t know someone like that?). There was the giving of the estate to Rachel, and what changed for Phillip? Not a thing, except Rachel’s attitude was a bit colder (but that’s because he is a fool who expects her to marry him). There was the death of Rachel, but even that was unsatisfying. Did Phillip intend to let her die that night, or was he so preoccupied with his own mission that night that he completely forgot there was any danger in the garden? For me, it seemed like the emphasis kept falling on things that didn’t matter, and the things I was really interested in were only briefly mentioned.

In my group on goodreads, everyone seemed to agree with the implications at the end, that Rachel had been innocent the whole time and that she had done nothing wrong. But how can that be? Did he not find the poisonous seeds in her drawer? …..hello!? Was that just another figment of his imagination? …or mine? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!

This story just wasn’t for me in the end. I still adore Rebecca, and I for sure haven’t sworn off du Maurier by any stretch, but this one just didn’t sit well with me. However, it will be lingering in the back of my mind for quite some time, I’m sure. And maybe that was the point after all.

If you’ve read My Cousin Rachel, please share your ideas with me in the comments about your theories. This is a book that begs to be discussed!

E.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory

So here it is, a new start to an old blog…again. I’m going to try not to think about what this means about my basic personality and just get into it: I’m blogging again.

The Other Boleyn Girl

 

I recently read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is the sixth book of hers I’ve read and I find that, generally, I enjoy them very much. What I like about her novels is how interesting they are. The first one I read was The Lady of the Rivers (part of The Cousin’s War series). I remember being skeptical at first, but quickly became completely captivated by it. The same has held true for all of her novels I’ve read so far.

 

The Other Boleyn Girl is about the ‘middle’ of King Henry VIII’s reign; Queen Katherine was getting older and had still not given him a son (which made the King very nervous), and the Boleyn Girls had begun to catch his eye. The book is told in the perspective of Mary Boleyn, of whom little is factually known in the historical record. Mary served as one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting, giving her a close position to the higher ups of the royal court.

 

Mary’s family strategically plots a way for her to get close to the king in order to gain his favor and improve the family’s wealth, influence, and status. To achieve these means, they decide the best thing to do is use Mary as bait for an affair. In the novel, she is quite successful (though morally unsure about it), and her family is modestly rewarded for his affections…but they are hungry for more. Enter Anne Boleyn. While Mary is giving birth to Henry’s illegitimate son, Anne steps in to keep the King’s attention from wandering to another family. When it becomes obvious that he favors Anne over Mary once she is out of confinement, her family quickly changes strategies, and put all their hopes on Anne. Luckily (it seems), Anne has plans of her own, and it isn’t to just be a whore in the King’s bed.

 

There is quite a lot of hate on Philippa Gregory concerning ‘historical accuracy’. I’d like to quickly address this. First of all, I wouldn’t call myself a history buff, although ancient civilization is a passion of mine. But here’s the thing: Philippa Gregory is a novelist; in other words, one who makes things up for a living. I admire her work because she takes the bare bones facts we know, along with rumor and suspicion or events that may have taken place, chooses a narrator who would be able to tell the story she wants to get at, and weaves a story from there that is not only interesting to read, but also inspires readers (like me) to research the time period for themselves. I don’t pick up a Philippa Gregory novel in order to learn about historical facts, I read them to be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

This novel is fast paced, emotional, and exciting. I always find Philippa Gregory reliable to ‘pick me up’ when I feel myself falling into a reading slump. Although the book is over 600 pages long, the writing is good enough and compelling enough to make it seem half that length. It’s full of romance, ambition, revenge, and secrecy, I would highly recommend it.

 

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Book Review:: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights CoverWuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Classic Literature
Pages:: 337 Pages
Published:: December 1847
Goodreads Page
To By on Amazon

 

Summary::
Mr. Lockwood is the new tenant of a property that neighbors the landlord’s, Wuthering Heights. When he calls over to meet the man, who is known only as Heathcliff, he is astounded by how unapologetically abrupt he is, and by the strange ways about the three who live in the house. When a snow storm prevents Lockwood from going home, he is forced to stay at Wuthering Heights overnight. Convinced throughout the night that the house is haunted and that the occupants in the house are not quite sane, he leaves as soon as possible the next morning. Once home, Lockwood inquires about those who dwell at Wuthering Heights to his housekeeper, Nelly, who has been an occupant of the grounds since she was a little girl. And so, through the long winter nights, Nelly tends to Mr. Lockwood and weaves for him the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights. Through these dual narrators, the story of Wuthering Heights is unveiled to us, from the moment Heathcliff was brought to live there as a young orphan by Mr. Earnshaw, through the present.
Review::
Wuthering Heights is the type of book you feel compelled to describe simply by the tone: sombre, eerie, foreboding, sinister. It is exactly the type of story to read on a gloomy overcast day, curled up with a blanket a hot cuppa.
As far as classics are concerned, I don’t feel that Wuthering Heights is a particularly hard one to swallow. I read it just after finishing Mansfield Park, and I must say, this book felt like a breeze compared to that one (not that MP was particularly difficult or intense, more like dry). Wuthering Heights has a much more modern feel to it than many classics, and I feel like it would appeal to a wider audience than, say, The Scarlet Letter, and you won’t need sparknotes or a teacher to decode it as you read, like Shakespeare, or…The Scarlet Letter ;-)
Recommendation::
I would recommend Wuthering Heights to people who are looking for a good gothic page-turner to read, as I mentioned above, on a gloomy, overcast, reading-in-bed kind of day. It reminds me most of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, which I realize now draws heavily from this book. If you’ve read it and enjoyed how the story unfolds, you will definitely enjoy Wuthering Heights.