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review 2017-07-13 17:51
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier
I listened to the audiobook for My Cousin Rachel, and it only took two hours to finish. I based my assumptions of this story off the two-minute trailer for the upcoming film adaptation.  While there were heavy implications that Rachel would be the villain, upon reading Daphne du Maurier’s book I can easily say that my sympathy for her supposed victim Philip Ashley is lacking and that his blindness towards others is the real evil.

The primary source of enjoyment when reading this story derives from the classic suspense plot and the Gothic undertones that remind me of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw or the movie Crimson Peak (especially when it comes to all that tea, am I right?) If I was already sensing this kind of literary layout, then I should have suspected that the protagonist would be a selfish and ever-so-slightly unhinged young male heir to a considerable fortune.  Philip hears only what he wants to hear, and honestly I can’t see Rachel’s actions as villainous, but rather powerful in the fact that a woman is claiming her right to live richly and well without marrying.

My two questions: what the heck with Rainaldi? Did anything happen with Louise?
 
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review 2017-07-09 12:56
The Scapegoat
The Scapegoat - Daphne du Maurier

‘What do you mean – five o’clock?’ I said.

I glanced at the window. It was broad daylight, and I could hear the sound of traffic outside.

‘It is five o’clock in the evening,’ said the chauffeur. ‘Monsieur le Comte has slept very soundly all the day. I have been waiting here since eleven o’clock this morning.’

His words held no reproach: they were merely a statement of fact. I put my hand to my head, which ached abominably. I could feel a swelling on the side of it which was agony to touch, but my head was not aching for this reason only. I thought of the drinks of the night before, and that last tooth-glass of cognac. Perhaps it was not the last? I did not remember.

‘I fell,’ I told the chauffeur, ‘and I think I must have been drugged as well.’

‘Very possibly,’ he said. ‘These things will happen.’

I had read the blurb of The Scapegoat many times but it never struck me as a story that might grab my interest. The setting in the post-war French countryside just did not appeal to me. I mean, what could ever be that gripping in the post-war French countryside? And surely, the premise of a mistaken identity has been done to death since The Man in the Iron Mask, too?

 

When a friend returned the book to another friend, I somehow ended up with it. Probably, because I started reading a few pages in the cafe where we met and I could not put it down.

 

And that is what happened - for the rest of the book I was hooked.

 

Du Maurier does what she does best in this book: she sets the scene, creates oodles of atmosphere and slowly, teasingly reveals the mysteries that lie behind the characters and their woes.

 

The only regret I have is that I read the ending. It was such an anti-climax. Such a let down. So disappointing.

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text 2017-07-08 12:03
Reading progress update: I've read 73%.
The Scapegoat - Daphne du Maurier

‘I hope that’s not the beginning of it,’ she said.

‘The beginning of what?’ I asked.

‘The beginning of my ferocious dream.’ Pushing aside the blankets she stood up, dusted her coat and put her hand in mine. ‘The Sainte Vierge is anxious about all of us,’ she said. ‘She told me Gran’mie wanted Maman to die. In the dream I wanted her to die too. So did you. We were all guilty. It was very wicked. Isn’t there something you can do to prevent it coming true?’

The suspense and slow reveal work really well in this one. I really want to know how all the different issues resolve...

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review 2017-07-06 18:35
My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

I thought to read this, my second du Maurier novel, after recently seeing the film adaptation with Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin. The story balances upon the question of whether or not Rachel is a villain. I was interested to know if the novel might be more definitive about the answer, and it seems to me it is. (Also, I enjoyed reading Rebecca.)

 

Perhaps because I saw the film first, it felt more like a mystery than the novel. The novel illuminates even more the influence of perspective, as it's written from Philip's (English, young, male landowner) first person point of view. I was most engaged with the novel in those moments when I questioned his perspective and instead considered Rachel's. I've started keeping a reading diary, and many of my notes focus on the ways in which Philip is ignorant: for example, he finds Rachel (like all women) to be mercurial and emotionally manipulative while he himself is often moody and simply ignorant of the effect his words and actions can have. Though almost 25, he's childish, and like a child, grows churlish when his immaturity is pointed out to him.

 

I was also interested by the character of Louise, the daughter of Philip's godfather. She's clearly interested in marrying Philip, and the whole county, including Rachel, is behind the idea. Philip is resistant; he at first wants to remain a bachelor as his beloved cousin and guardian Ambrose was for so long. He's also unused to the company of women and has a narrow view of them and marriage. What interested me most was that Louise is the first character to voice suspicions about Rachel; later in the story, at a key moment, she once again wonders about Rachel's character and possible misdeeds. This novel is not one in which all the men or all the women are wrong; it's more nuanced, thankfully.

 

My Cousin Rachel low-key critiques privileged male perspectives and women's roles through its storytelling techniques. The writing and narrative are engaging as well, and I look forward to my next du Maurier.

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text 2017-07-05 20:06
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
The Scapegoat - Daphne du Maurier

"Sometimes a fourth drink can have the temporary effect of clearing the confusion caused by the previous three, [...]"

My favourite quote so far. I wonder if the author penned this from experience? 

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