This is the third book by Daphne Du Maurier I have read in the last few months, alongside Jamaica Inn and Rebecca. The former I loved, the latter…I didn’t. So I went into this book with pretty average expectations. And I was pleasantly surprised by most of this book, until the very ending.
Synopsis: Young Philip Ashley was raised by his older cousin Ambrose to be his heir. They are extremely close, until Ambrose goes to Florence and meets and marries a woman named Rachel. In a short time, Ambrose is dead, and Philip receives a letter from his uncle of his suspicion that Rachel is poisoning him. Thus, Philip sets out to find out the circumstances around his cousin’s death, just as his cousin’s wife arrives.
There is a lot of intrigue in this book. There is the constant question of what kind of person Rachel is, as one moment Philip will have a positive opinion of her and the next he discovers something dark about her. Philip himself is such a stupid character, letting himself be manipulated. Though I guess the point is that he is young and sheltered. So while I can understand him, so many of his actions throughout the book frustrate me. Anyway, the haunting atmosphere is simply perfect though, and unlike Rebecca, I found that the rising intensity did continue to rise gradually, keeping me interested. But oh, the ending was so unsatisfactory.
I’ll get to the ending in a moment, but let me talk briefly about Rachel and Philip, as they were the main focus of the book. I briefly touched on Philip before, but I want to elaborate a little bit. He is the most erratic character. When he learns that Rachel may have had something to do with his cousin’s death (before he meets her), he is determined to get revenge before he even knows the truth. And when he meets her and begins to fall in love with her, he goes in the opposite direction, making foolish decisions with his inheritance because of her. He goes from one extreme to another, and many of the horrible things that happen in the book are more his fault than hers.
Rachel herself is an enigma. She is pleasant, though she spends too much, and has a mysterious past. She is motivated by money. Besides that, it’s never answered if she actually killed Ambrose or what she is actually thinking. In many ways, I just found Rachel to be a selfish person, while Philip was the one who struck me as the main villain, especially considering the ending.
That is the main complaint I had with this book. The ending. Big SPOILER!!!!!! Philip, believing Rachel is poisoning him, arranges for her to walk on a dangerous bridge which will collapse. She does, and dies, only after he finds out the letter she was hiding didn’t say anything suspicious. So, pretty much, his obsession for her ends in him murdering her. In some ways, I like this ending. It is more about Philip’s slow descent into madness, as well as the lingering question of whether or not Rachel had something to do with it.
However, I also wanted more closure. Did Rachel really have something to do with Ambrose’s death and Philip’s illness? Nothing was explained for sure. I have lots of theories, but theories mean nothing when they are not a certainty.
When you read mysteries, do you need to find out the truth, or do you not mind a little of ambiguity in the end? Have you read this book or seen any of the movies? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,