I just finishing reading Daphne Du Maurier’s masterpiece of psychological misdirection, “My Cousin Rachel,” for the second time. The first was many years ago, when I found my mother’s Book of the Month Club edition on the living room bookshelf, so I must have been about 14.
What a difference point of view makes! Then, I was in the grip of the romance and wanted Philip and Rachel to live happily ever after in their Cornwall mansion-by-the-sea. Isn’t that how romance is supposed to go? Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl resolve their differences and find true love. The end.
Now, a writer myself, I was enthralled by the deft way Du Maurier builds her portrait of the immature, jealous Philip and by the fact that Rachel is only ever seen from the outside. Everything the reader knows about her comes from the reports of others, which are then filtered through Philip’s POV. Even the climactic letter Philip finds was written not by Rachel but by a person Philip mistrusts.
Contrast that to a recent novel by a popular and much-loved author. In the opening chapters, we see, through the hero’s eyes, an alluring, mysterious woman as she crosses the ballroom of his stately home. We share his speculations and his determination to meet her. Then we suddenly shift to her POV and in the many pages that follow, we are handed her name, her family history, her motivation for crashing the ball and more. Way too much more.
How disappointing! I put the book down days ago and haven’t picked it up since.
(Incidentally, that old copy of “My Cousin Rachel” (1951) went off to the library book sale a long time ago. The new edition I picked up this month is part of a reissue of Du Maurier’s works from publisher Sourcebooks Landmark, which includes popular titles like “Rebecca” and “Frenchman’s Creek” as well as lesser known works, including “Mary Ann,” “The Flight of the Falcon” and her first novel, “The Loving Spirit,” published in 1931.)
So what about you? Have you had that experience of re-reading a favorite novel, only to discover how much you’ve changed?