Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Set in the early 1800s, Jamaica Inn is the story of Mary Yellan. She arrives to Jamaica Inn after promising her dying mother that she would sell the family's farm and go live with her aunt Patience. When she arrives at Jamaica Inn she realises very quickly that things are not as they should be, her aunt who was once pretty and lively has now withdrawn into herself and seems very frightened of her husband Joss. Joss is a big brute of a man who is secretive and keeps some very dubious company, what Joss’s dealings are and what Jamaica Inn is used for is slowly revealed.

I had little expectations for this book. I loved Rebecca and was expecting this to not match up it. I’m glad to say that I relished Jamaica Inn and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. From the first chapter when Mary is travelling along Cornwall's desolate moors in the night towards Jamaica Inn Du Maurier had me hooked. Du Maurier takes the reader very much into Gothic territory here (is there any alternative when moors are involved) but also throws in some adventure and a love interest which slots perfectly into an already atmospheric and gripping read.

Although Rebecca might be a better book I much preferred the Heroine Mary in Jamaica Inn. This is a girl is determined, strong and (for want of a better word) sassy. Instead of cowering in the corner with her aunt she stands up to her uncle, her uncle in turn respects her and a battle of words ensures between them. I just love this speech she presents to her uncle when he first tries to intimidate her upon arrival at Jamaica Inn..

'I understand you,' she said. 'I'm not curious by nature, and I've never gossiped in my life. It doesn't matter to me what you do in the inn, or what company you keep. I'll do my work about the house and you'll have no cause to grumble. But if you hurt my Aunt Patience in any way, I tell you this – I'll leave Jamaica Inn straight away, and I'll find the magistrate, and bring him here, and have the law on you; and then try and break me if you like.'

Mary is also attracted to her uncle’s brother Jem. Jem is a charmer and a horse thief, he is quite upfront about his dodgy dealings with Mary and plays a good ‘bad boy’, but can she trust him?

Mary also has quite a cynical (or perhaps realistic) view on love and marriage for a young girl. She sees young couples all the time in love but then sees them get married and have children and she sees their lives change as the husband comes home demanding his dinner and the wife who is tired from looking after a home and a baby that never stops crying. Mary just seems to accept that the world is simply made like this and she herself can either choose to be part of that or choose to go her own way.

This is quite a refreshing attitude for a book written in the 1930s, but what’s even more refreshing is that she never needs ‘rescuing’. Yes she is beaten and dragged about but she uses her own resources to get herself out of the situation, Jem never shows up to ‘save’ her. In this respect she would make a far better role model than a lot of modern heroines.

This is good book which contains atmosphere, deception and adventure and I found it pure escapism and a real treat to read.

Verdict 5/5

Surprisingly the Inn was based on a real Jamaica Inn which still stands in the exact location as described in the book. I have no idea how the owners reacted at the time the book was published but they certainly take advantage of their small claim to fame today. I did not see this picture of the Inn until after I had read the book but it almost matches perfectly what I imagined the Inn to look like. For more information on the Inn today can be found on their website here.

Posted by Jess


  1. I think I read this years ago but your review makes me want to read it again! I love your description of Mary as a strong, modern heroine.

  2. Rebecca is one of my all-time favorites...I need to read this one! Thanks for the review.

  3. The more reviews I read of Du Maurier books the more I want to read one! Thanks for this.

  4. Interesting. I'm so very glad you liked this one. I was sort of lukewarm on it when I originally read it. For some reason, I could not get the moors and the sea coasts into my head as the setting. I kept reading it with the background of the American Old West.
    I think it's time to try this one again with the *proper* frame of mind.

  5. Marieke -she did strike me as very strong, esp when compared to the narrator in Rebecca!

    Elisabeth - its not as good as Rebecca but it is very different and great to lose yourself in.

    Brenna - I would recommend her, I only started to read her throught the Du Mauier challenge but I think I read more of her books after the challenge ends.

    Birdie - how funny, sometimes your imagination does this. I did have this easy as Im from Somerset which is near cornwall and I did many field trips on the moors all over the west country including cornwall so there was not much left to the imagination for me.

  6. A long time since I last read this, your post has inspired me to do so.

  7. I think that the Cornish settings and powerful sense of place are so striking in DduM's work and a major reason for me loving her work!

  8. I also read and reviewed this book in 2010, and liked it a lot. very atmospheric. Thanks for the great review and photos.

  9. Glad you enjoyed it. Recently re-read My Cousin Rachel and this is my next Du Maurier re-read. Especially happy that I enjoy as much or more as when I first read (and idolized) her at 13.

  10. Petty - did you like the book at all? Its one I can see myself re-reading.

    Hannah - its a great setting, my sister goes to university there and shes a little cut off sometimes although thats gotten easier with the new road.

    Diane - I just read your review and I completely agree.

    Frances - I wish I had discovered her as a teenager because I think I would have lapped up Jamaica Inn or my cousin Rachel.

  11. Wow, that photo is just what I imagined the inn to look like. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! Rebecca is still my favorite though.

  12. Ooh, I've always wondered if this was any good, especially as Tori Amos wrote a song about it (imaginatively named Jamaica Inn too?).

  13. teadevotee - I just listened to that song on UTube. It doesnt exactly provoke memories of wind swept wild wild moors but it is beautiful.

  14. I just finished Rebecca about 2 hours ago and I am now looking for another of the author's works-Thanks for this great review which should help me decide

  15. I agree with you about the heroine. She is now on my list of favorite heroines! I'm glad you included a picture of the real Jamaica Inn. I had fun looking up websites and reading about it.