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

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My Cousin Rachel

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?