My Cousin Rachel Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 72 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of My Cousin Rachel.
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My Cousin Rachel Summary & Study Guide Description

My Cousin Rachel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier.

The following version of the book was used to create this guide: du Maurier, Daphne. My Cousin Rachel. Little, Brown and Company Hachette Book Group, 1951.

My Cousin Rachel is a gothic novel that examines the relationship between Philip, a naïve young Englishman, and his older cousin’s widow, Rachel, a worldly Italian woman who may have murdered his cousin. Though Philip fell for Rachel, he could not shake his suspicions about her and ultimately decided that she needed to be saved from herself.

The story starts after the events of the novel happened. Philip reflected on what had happened with Rachel and the guilt he was struggling with. He then launched into the telling of his and Rachel’s story. Philip had been raised by his cousin Ambrose after his parents died. Ambrose had been mistrustful of women, so Philip had been raised without women in his life.

Ambrose went to Italy for the winter and met Rachel. He wrote letters to Philip about her and then announced that they had gotten married. Later, Ambrose’s letters changed and indicated there was something wrong and that Rachel might be at fault. Philip decided to go to Italy. When he arrived, he learned that Ambrose had died. The doctors said that he died from a brain tumor, which is what Ambrose’s father had died from. Philip doubted their diagnosis and vowed revenge on Rachel.

Philip returned home and his godfather, Nick Kendall, informed him that he would not gain full control of Ambrose’s estate until he turned 25, which would be several months later. Until then, his godfather would be his guardian. Nick Kendall also told Philip that he received a letter from Rachel and that she was coming to London to give Philip Ambrose’s personal effects. Philip planned to speak his mind to Rachel and accuse her of Ambrose’s death, so he told his godfather that Rachel could come to his house to visit. Philip confided his thoughts about Rachel to his childhood friend, Louise, who was his godfather’s daughter.

When Rachel arrived, Philip discovered that she was not at all what he thought she would be. He had pictured a monstrous woman, but she was small and pretty. His feelings toward Rachel quickly changed. When Rachel suggested she would be returning to Italy, Philip asked her to stay and said that he wanted her to help plan the gardens. She and Ambrose had bonded over their love for gardening, so she agreed to stay.

Philip decided to throw a Christmas party for the tenants of the estate, just as Ambrose had when he was young. He and Seecombe, his butler, decided to give the tenants Ambrose’s old clothes as Christmas presents. Rachel helped Philip to plan the party. He decided he wanted to give her a piece of jewelry from the family’s collection. He chose a pearl collar that the women in his family had worn for their weddings. On the night of the party, Rachel kissed Philip before going in to the dinner. Nick Kendall was upset to see the pearl collar around Rachel’s neck and told Philip he had no right to give it to her. Rachel covered for Philip by saying he had only given it to her to wear for the evening.

One of Philip’s tenants found a letter that Ambrose had written in the article of clothing he received for Christmas. When Philip read it, he learned that Rachel had been pregnant with Ambrose’s child and lost the baby. He also learned that Ambrose believed she had a problem with spending. Ambrose also wrote that he did not trust the relationship that Rachel had with her friend Rainaldi. He believed that Rainaldi was in love with Rachel and that she was not faithful. Ambrose said that he had drawn up a will giving the estate to Rachel, but returning it to Philip upon her death. However, he had never signed the will because he did not fully trust Rachel.

Philip decided to have documents drawn up to give Rachel the estate when he turned 25 using the same provisions as had been in the unsigned will. The attorney convinced him to put a clause in the document that would return the estate to him if she ever married.

When Philip returned from the attorney’s office, Rainaldi was at the house. He was condescending to Philip. He made veiled insults every chance he got. He and Rachel frequently spoke in Italian and left Philip out of the conversation.

When Philip turned 25, he climbed through Rachel’s bedroom window and poured all of the family’s jewels on her bed, telling her they belonged to her now. Rachel took him into her bed and he believed that she had accepted a marriage proposal, though he never actually asked her to marry him.

The next day, Rachel went to see Nick Kendall about the estate document. When Philip got drunk at a dinner with the Kendalls and announced that he and Rachel were engaged, Rachel said she never agreed to marry him. Philip became angry and wrapped his hands around her neck and begged her to marry him. Rachel locked herself in her room.

Philip became ill with a headache and stiff neck. He became delirious and woke up weeks later. Rachel was with him when he came to. She had been with him the entire time and he remembered her giving him drinks while he was sick. He began to suspect that she was poisoning him. He also discovered that Rainaldi was in England again and that Rachel had been sneaking out to see him. He decided that Rachel had an evil streak in her and could not help the bad things she did, so he needed to save her from herself.

One Sunday, Philip invited the Kendalls to dinner after church. When he got back to his house, a workman told him that no one should walk on the bridge of the veranda because it was not safe. After dinner, Philip asked Louise to stay because he wanted to talk to her. Rachel said she was going for a walk on the veranda. Philip almost warned her about the bridge, but then decided not to. While Rachel was away, he told Louise about his suspicions. They searched for evidence that Rachel was trying to poison him, but found nothing. Philip realized that he had sent an innocent woman to her death. He ran out to the veranda, but it was too late. Rachel was dead.

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