I have previously read one novel and two short-story collections and ever since I have been desperate to read more by Daphne du Maurier. This year I was lucky enough to get my hands of three more of her novels. I decided to read Jamaica Inn first after having watched a BBC adaptation.
Due to her mother’s dying request young Mary Yellan is brought to the lonely and dilapidated Jamaica Inn out on the wind-swept, desolate moorland of Cornwall. Mary hopes to bring some comfort to her Aunt Patience who she finds has been broken by her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn. The inn is no longer open to travellers and is in fact shunned by everyone. In time Mary discovers that her uncle is a ringleader of a cruel gang of smugglers and murderers. Day-by-day Mary is being drawn into this dark world where she is left with a hard decision: to run or stay to try to save her aunt.
Mary grew up on a farm with her mother, after losing her father at a very young age, because of this Mary has grown-up hardy, strong and practical – virtues which will help her as she adjusts to her harsh new life at Jamaica Inn. Even Mary though can’t fight the darkness enveloping her forever. I found this a fascinating struggle to read about and I found Mary to be an open and frank narrator. I also found Mary to be an honest and naturally trusting soul which does not stand her so well in a place where corruption runs deep; leaving Mary unsure if she can trust anyone.
Joss Merlyn is a deep and complicated bad guy. While he is now a guilt-ridden, drunken shadow of the man Aunt Patience once fell in love with. There are times when you can glimpse the handsome and clever man he once was, which makes him more sinister. Joss is clearly drawn to Mary’s youth, beauty and honesty – his drunken confession to her though does not redeem him as it only draws Mary into further danger. Then Mary’s attraction to Joss’ younger brother Jem has her questioning whether she is truly a good person, especially if she gives in to this attraction. I could see the appeal of Jem but I don’t like the bad boys myself.
This is only the second novel I have read by Daphne du Maurier; the previous being Rebecca. I think I still slightly prefer Rebecca however Jamaica Inn was another gripping and immersive read. I was fascinated by the characters and drawn into the dark, atmospheric setting of the Bodmin Moors, Cornwall; not a place I have visited myself. While reading this though I could picture it perfectly, I could almost feel the dark, damp air and smell the sea upon the sharp, cold wind. Beautiful!
Jamaica Inn was a dark and gothic tale which had me gripped, fascinated and repulsed in equal measure from the start. I can’t wait to read more by Daphne du Maurier. I still have copies of Frenchman’s Creek and The House on the Strand on my TBR pile. Great read.
Have you read this? What is your favourite novel by Daphne du Maurier?