My Cousin Rachel (book)

This article has some SPOILERS about the Daphne Du Maurier book My Cousin Rachel, which will be a movie this July with Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin.

Okay, I seriously couldn’t put this book down. It’s 350 pages that feel like 12, and as you near the last couple pages, you find yourself thinking: No! Don’t end! Tell me more about these people!

The story: Young Englishman Philip Ashley plots revenge against the mysterious Italian cousin who may have killed his beloved uncle/guardian, to whom she was briefly married. But when he actually meets her, she looks like this: My-Cousin-Rachel-Rachel-Weisz-1200x520and he finds himself falling into a sexually-charged obsession with her, not sure if she returns his feelings, or is just using him as she used his uncle.

Things I hope they keep in the movie version:


my-cousin-rachelThis was a seriously sexy book. I’m surprised it wasn’t banned (it was published in 1951). I can’t remember the last time I found such sexual tension in a book. (And, note to self, the fabulously rich “pre-code” references to them doing it are so much hotter than straightforward sex descriptions.)

landscape-1490131896-hbz-my-cousin-rachel-newThe “Is she or isn’t she” element. We really don’t know in the book if Rachel is a duplicitous whore hell-bent on killing her victims for their money, ie: the Black Widow, or if she’s a totally misunderstood, modern lady trying to make it in a sexist world. The trailer to the movie looks fantastic (seriously), but it kind of tips its hat towards: “Don’t do it, hot guy from the Hunger Games movies; she’s totally going to kill you.” Let’s keep everyonoe guessing a bit, shall we?

The herbs. As everyone who’s read my Outlander articles knows, I’m obsessed with horticulture, mostly because I know absolutely nothing about it. What was quite brilliant about this book was how many set pieces and facts Du Maurier throws in the early on, which seem at the time to be merely window dressing, but which pay off in spades later. It reminded me of that French movie Swimming Pool, where you kind of think it might be boring at first, and then everything pays off brilliantly. Can’t wait to see the sets for this one, with the gardens and everything.

Rainaldi Rachel’s Italian confidante, who may or may not be her accomplice and/or lover in the possible poisoning of her husbands, adds a great layer to the book. We never really know where he stands, or where Rachel stands as a result. Curiously, no actor is credited on IMDb Pro as playing this part. I hope they haven’t cut him.

And finally, I’m interested to see if this adaptation is able to keep the most effective part of the book: our connection to Philip.


This book plunges you headfirst into the mind of its protagonist. We feel ourselves becoming obsessed with Rachel just as he does. By the end, despite all evidence that she may be hiding quite a bit from him, we can’t help but hope, as he does, that maybe she loves him after all. It all really hinges on the chemistry between Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, two very pretty human beings.

We’ll see. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking for this book at your local library. Can’t wait to talk about it more when the movie comes out in July!

Follow Rebecca Phelps on Twitter @DownWorldNovel, “like” us on Facebook at Novel2Screen, or just follow this blog for more on your favorite novel-to-screen adaptations.

To read my Outlander Voyager series in its entirety, click here.


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