MY COUSIN RACHEL: Re-reading A Favourite Novel 20 Years On

Recently I have been thinking about my experience of re-reading a favourite novel. After coming across a review of My Cousin RachelI was inspired to re-read it.

When I was just a teenager, I was introduced to the writings of Daphne Du Maurier. My mother gave me a copy of Rebecca, which had been hers when she was younger. When I opened the book, I was instantly transported to another world. A world of dark, Gothic suspense, where all was not as it seemed. I was hooked. Through my late teens and early twenties, I read every book by Du Maurier that I could lay my hands on; The King’s General, The Flight of the Falcon, The House on the Strand, My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman’s Creek and more. Du Maurier’s books were unlike anything I had ever read before.

As I matured, I stopped reading Du Maurier. However, if you had asked me who my favourite author was, hers would be the name that would spring to mind. As I aged, the types of books I read changed. I grew from a young adult into a parent of a young child, and then into a working mother with less time. Nevertheless, I always looked back on the writing of Du Maurier with  fondness, and kept a place for her books on my bookshelf.

Roll forward another decade, to November 2017. In mid-2017, My Cousin Rachel was released as a movie starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Clafin. This sparked new interest in the novel. I was struck by a wave of nostalgia and decided to re-read My Cousin Rachel myself. Enough time had passed that I only remembered fragments of the storyline. With fresh eyes I approached the narrative.

Whilst I enjoyed the book, I didn’t devour it with the same hunger that I had in the first reading, nearly twenty years earlier. This time around, the end of the story seemed unresolved. Dissatisfied, I flicked back through the book to see if I had missed a clue. It seemed to my older self that so many questions were left unanswered.

This left me posing my own questions, not about the book itself, but about the process of re-reading a favourite novel; is it ever a good choice to re-read a favourite book? Or is it better to leave its memory untainted? What do you think?

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Yasmin Cole: Yasmin is a school librarian who studied Fine Arts, majoring in painting, at university. She enjoys reading YA and Junior Fiction, Fantasy Fiction and books on minimalism and simplicity. When she isn’t working or reading (both which involve books), Yasmin loves to get her hands dirty in the garden, or cooking artisan pizzas in the kitchen. Yasmin lives in country Victoria, Australia.