My second du Maurier’s novel after Rebecca; and it did not disappoint.
The plot was Philip, an orphan, raised by his uncle, Ambrose. The boy grew up with little to no contact with female; his uncle didn’t even keep female servant in the estate. His only female companion was possibly his childhood friend, Louise. Due to health problems, Ambrose spent most of his time abroad (Italy). One day, came the most disturbing news ever (at least to Philip), Ambrose married his cousin, Rachel, who was a widow. Despite having never met Rachel, Philip hated and resented her. Then, Ambrose died of brain tumour, and Philip concluded there was more sinister reason to his death, despite the fact that Ambrose’s father also suffered of the same illness; not to mention, the man been sick for years!
Philip went to Italy but didn’t find much about the death of his uncle. Rachel too was gone by the time he got to the mansion. He returned home and soon, he got news of Rachel coming to visit the estate. His initial intention to be cruel to her was never met. Instead, he began to fall for her, which dangerously turned into an obsession. He refused to ‘share’ her with anyone and preferred to keep to themselves in the estate. (ugh!) He even transferred all the fortune to Rachel, wholly believing that she would later marry him. It took no brainer for us to know no such thing will happen.
Philip was such a noob and foolishly naïve to the point I think he was pathetic. He also hurt my eyes with all the eye rolling I had to do at his expense. However, he did serve his part as unreliable narrator well. That’s about all I can think to say for him.
Rachel, on the other hand, was an intriguing, fascinating character. At first, I was wary of her. Philip’s initial hatred for Rachel made me prejudice against her. I was fully on his side and convinced that she did poison her husband and the story would soon be all about Philip discovered the truth. How wrong I was! By the end of the novel, I sympathised and felt pity for her. I even cheered for her when she got the fortune and hoped that she’d soon leave Philip and move back to Italy or wherever she fancy.
She changed the two men’s lives, and afterwards, they both suffocated her with their affections, in my opinion. They became obsessed with her; it blinded them and changed them into someone capable of violence.
“He was like someone sleeping who woke suddenly and found the world...all the beauty of it, and the sadness too. The hunger and the thirst. Everything he had never thought about or known was there before him, and magnified into one person who by chance, or fate--call it what you will--happened to be me.”
It was quite clear that she was devoted to Ambrose. But the man’s sickness probably turned him mad and suspicious of everyone around him, particularly Rachel. He might have abused her towards the end of his life. Philip was no different; at some point in the story, he came close to strangle Rachel just because she refused his proposal or something. Also, his final act that sealed his and Rachel’s doom was proof enough of how far his mind had gone off course.
My theory was that Rachel saw Philip as a child, probably only has tender feeling for him because he resembled Ambrose, and also because she needed him to support her expensive lifestyle. And then, she realized what his obsession had turn Philip into, which made her try to poison him (yes, I did believe that she poisoned him) in order to escape him.
I think of Rachel as a desperate woman, who forced by awful circumstances, made bad decisions. In the end, whether she was a manipulative murderess or just unfortunate woman, I think this quotation summed her up properly.
“There are some women, Philip, good women, very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch turns to tragedy.”