Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Published: 1st ed – 1936
Her mother’s dying request takes Mary Yellan on a sad journey across the bleak moorland of Cornwall to reach Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. With the coachman’s warning echoing in her memory, Mary arrives at a dismal place to find Patience a changed woman, cowering from her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn.
Affected by the inn’s brooding power, Mary is thwarted in her intention to reform her aunt, and unwillingly drawn into the dark deeds of Joss and his accomplices. And, as she struggles with events beyond her control, Mary is further thrown by her feelings for a man she dare not trust…
I first read Jamaica Inn when I was 11 or 12. The precious brat I was, I had finished the book the rest of the English class were reading, so Mr Priestley suggested I read this one while everyone else caught up. I remember enjoying it and I also remember bits freaking me out, but that’s it, so when I saw a copy in a charity shop, I figured it was time to revisit the book.
I’m glad I did.
It is a lot darker the second time around and, when read with adult eyes, the treatment Joss Merlyn gives to Aunt Patience is even harder to swallow. The darkest bit of the book comes in the middle, where you realise along with Mary quite how trapped and helpless to the situation she is. I was eager to get to the end, but forced myself to fully appreciate the plotting which is as tight as a drum. Not for a second does du Maurier let up with the gothic horror on the windswept Cornish coast. The half-remembered plot had me going “don’t trust him!” to Mary a few pages before the secret villain is revealed (ooh, how that shocked me the first time round).
The one bit that slightly annoyed me is the ending and Mary’s fate. Not to give it away, but for such a strong female character, I’m rather disappointed at the way she chose to end things.
Would I recommend Jamaica Inn?
Definitely! I loved this book the first time around and I loved it when I read it again over a decade later. I definitely took more from it the second time around. Some books you read and can’t understand why they’ve become “classics”, but Jamaica Inn isn’t one of those.
Four mugs of tea.
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