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Inn she realises very quickly that things are not as they should be, her aunt who was once pretty and lively has now withdrawn into herself and seems very frightened of her husband Joss.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.
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