I bought this book a few months ago while I was in a gothic fiction phase. This is not unusual for me because gothic fiction and romance is one of my favorite types of books to read (there’s something about sinister characters and spooky manor houses that I can’t get enough of) but sometimes I go through these little phases where I’ll read several in succession. Well I happened to be at Target and saw the movie cover version on sale and I bought it. (Though I typically hate movie covers this one wasn’t terrible and it was on sale… OK OK I JUST WANTED TO READ IT GEEZ)
Philip Ashley, the cousin and adopted son and heir of Ambrose Ashley is devastated by the marriage and shortly after, death of Ambrose while on a long trip to Italy for his health. Ambrose, a confirmed lifelong bachelor travels to the continent each year for his health, leaving Philip to run the estate in his absence. On his final trip, he meets and falls in love with a distant family connection and then marries her. He writes home to Philip delighted with his new wife but after several weeks he sends Philip paranoid letters home asking for help claiming his wife is spying on him and keeping him under lock and key. His health declines further and he dies before Philip can make it to him. Grief stricken, Philip suspects the wife of foul play and makes up his mind to hate her while everyone else puts Ambrose’s death and strange behavior down to a brain tumor which is how his own father had died (also having behaved strangely before his death). When Rachel comes to visit the estate, Philip is convinced of her guilt… until he meets her. She is graceful and attractive and devastated over the loss of her husband. Surely she can’t be guilty? Or is she?
The tension in this book is wonderful. I think this is something that Daphne Du Maurier excels at in all the books I’ve read of hers. The whole first section of the book we can understand Philip’s thoughts and we are dying to meet Rachel. When Rachel finally appears, we are constantly left wondering if she did it. We become convinced of her innocence and her guilt in turns. Certain incidents appear to repeat themselves and we are unsure whether it is coincidence or whether Rachel has a hand in it. The atmosphere alone makes this book what it is.
There are several key characters in this book and often it is difficult to see what their motivations are. Rachel is both fascinating and complex. Philip is naive and probably the most annoying character I have ever encountered in fiction. There were many times that I wanted to reach through the pages and smack some common sense into him or just smack him in general. If you prefer character based stories, Philip may turn you off the entire book but I am a plot reader so I kept it up. Meanwhile, characters like Rachel’s lawyer (whose name escapes me at the moment) seem very sinister while Philip’s friend Louise seems like the only normal character in the book.
The book was a page turner for me but it is seldom that a character annoys me the way Philip did. I enjoyed the read, but I thought the ending just a little flat. Though some might argue that the ending is what makes this book so great. To sum it up, I guess I’d say that the story was great, there were some good characters (and one really annoying one), but that personally I found the ending just a bit unsatisfying. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.
Thanks for joining me and happy reading 🙂