Jamaica Inn (Daphne Du Maurier)

du-maurier-bookAn atmospheric sinister tale. The main character, Mary, must confront the evil doings of her Uncle-in-Law Joss and find a way to bring him to justice while also sparing her downtrodden, nervous Aunt Patience. The story builds slowly as more and more is revealed of Jamaica Inn and Joss’s activities. When you think it can’t get worse, things definitely get worse.

Although there is romance in this story it moves very quickly and doesn’t seemed based on a true connection. And it’s not even very romantic since the object of Mary’s affection is a little suspicious himself, and in one scene of the novel leaves Mary stranded without a word or money in a town at night. Jamaica Inn is a serious psychological probing of what brings men and women to choose the wrong mates. Apparently whatever force drives the human race to reproduce itself does not empower otherwise canny women to resist being attracted to messy, unwashed, badly shaven, sometimes abusive males. It just happens, Mary ruminates, and there is nothing women can do about it.

The novel also memorably describes Cornwall in its many moods: brooding, dangerous upland moors, treacherous rock-strewn coasts, rains, gales, terrible paths and backroads. There is one more strikingly good aspect to Jamaica Inn. The unnamed narrator is neither God nor omniscient. Readers are located either within the body or brain of the heroine Mary Yellan or hover a few feet away. Nothing is told that Mary is not experiencing or remembering or being told by others. The characters are well developed, believable, and interesting. The landscape plays a prominent part in the story and the descriptions of the moors are beautiful and haunting. Like all great gothic novels, the erotic tensions simmer just below the surface.

Like the author du Maurier, heroine Mary Yellan is mannish. She often wishes she had been born masculine. She and her widowed mother had for years done men’s work on their little farm. At Jamaica Inn, though terrified of six foot ten inch Uncle Josh, she boldly faces him down and says that she will bring the law down on him if he seriously hurts Aunt Patience. Josh backs down in admiration. Her boy friend (of sorts) Jem Merlyn is at times exasperated that Mary deliberately takes risks that no normal woman would dream of. At times Mary Yellan imagines herself returning to her home village and farming like a man. Most patient readers should get hooked and persevere once they’ve started. Particularly female readers.

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Comments

  1. Yes I loved this book – the horror in it – yet because she was female, her books were initially dismissed as “Romantic chick lit”. It is no wonder that Daphne Du Maurier’s books where turned into such edgy films: Rebecca, The Birds, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, Don’t Look Now and many others.

    Liked by 2 people

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