Rachel, my torment. Philip Ashley lives in a Cornish manor with his Uncle Ambrose who essentially raised him. Both men are contented bachelors until a woman named Rachel lures Ambrose into a sudden marriage that ends tragically. When Rachel returns from Italy alone, Philip is determined to be quickly rid of the witch and her herb-lore, but eventually finds himself trapped by the same web as his mentor. Was she truly all that Ambrose warned him she was? Or is she merely misunderstood and to be pitied? My Cousin Rachel blurs the boundaries of reality and deception, and what should be done when presented with such a conundrum of a person. See if you can determine who is innocent or guilty, and of what crimes.
“Rachel liked her tea…she would brew tisana for us both instead of Seecombe delivering the silver tea tray in the evenings.” Us, being both her and Ambrose, and then later, her and Philip. When Philip stood up Louise for an appointment he made with her, “Louise passed the time waiting for Philip by picking a basket of late blackberries.” And numerous times “Philip paused for a draught of cider at the inn on the town quay or at the Rose and Crown.” All of those ingredients were combined in balance to create the following cupcake, using a blackberry cinnamon flavored tea (if you can’t find a tea with both flavors, you can use a blackberry tea and add a teaspoon of cinnamon to it).
Blackberry Tea Cupcakes with Blackberry and Cider Frosting
- salted butter, softened to room temperature
- granulated sugar
- blackberry cinnamon tea bags
- vanilla extract
- blackberry syrup
- fresh (or frozen and thawed), pureed blackberries, (in a food processor)
- all-purpose flour
- baking soda
- baking powder
- ground cloves
- vegetable shortening
- powdered sugar
For the rest of the recipe and instructions, visit owlcation.com/humanities/My-Cousin-Rachel-Book-Discussion-and-Recipe.
- Philip was convinced that his likeness to Ambrose, of which he was so proud, proved his undoing. In what ways was he similar to Ambrose, and what part did those play in how Rachel treated him, and even how he responded to her?
- Philip noted that Rachel’s eyes “held reserve and pride, coupled with the same abasement, the same agony of supplication” as the beggar woman in Italy beside the Arno. Was this because both women were Italian, or was Rachel much more like the beggar-woman than Philip first realized?
For more discussion questions, visit owlcation.com/humanities/My-Cousin-Rachel-Book-Discussion-and-Recipe.
Rebecca is du Maurier’s masterpiece, about a cunningly deceptive, beautiful woman named Rebecca who still haunts the minds of those who live at Manderley, especially the young bride brought to replace her. Other books by du Maurier include: The Scapegoat, Jamaica Inn, Mary Anne, Frenchman’s Creek, the biography The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, and numerous books of short stories and other biographies.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a dark Gothic tragedy about the darkness and selfishness of human nature, which challenges what actions are justified in the name of love and self-preservation.
Lisey’s Story by Stephen King is a psychological thriller about a woman whose husband died, and who decides to return to his writing room and face the demons that tormented him.
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman is a psychological thriller set partly in the late 19th century, and partly in the present. A female writer on a retreat uncovers centuries of family secrets and possible murder cover-ups while writing a novel about the woman who lived in the mansion in which she’s staying.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a classic Victorian novel of Gothic horror that blurs the lines of reality and perception.