Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

This isn’t the sort of book I’d normally pick up, but on a fairly recent visit to the South West, I visited the Jamaica Inn. After eating there and having a look around the gift shop and noting the tourists swarming around, I thought I’d better find out exactly what all the fuss was about. And so I got hold of a copy of this book. I’m glad I did.

Though Daphne du Maurier is best known for her novel Rebecca, Jamaica Inn appealed more to me because of having been to the place. Though it’s undoubtedly changed considerably since du Maurier’s time, I can definitely still see how it must have affected her all those years ago. Looking out across the horizon where the moors stretch, I can see how foreboding it must have been; less the hundreds of tourists, village and nearby dual carriageway.

Jamaica Inn is the story of Mary Yellan. Recently orphaned, Mary grants her mother’s dying wish by travelling across Cornwall to go and live with her Aunt Patience at Jamaica Inn, a lonely inn on the Bodmin to Launceston road. However, before arriving, Mary hears all kinds of odd tales about the goings-on at the inn, mainly stories to do with the horrible man that it appears her aunt has married. Sure that the people are exaggerating and her uncle is merely¬† misunderstood, Mary continues on her way. But shortly after arriving at her new home,¬† Mary realises that she has made a mistake. The once-happy Patience is now a shadow of her former self, skulking around and pandering to her husband’s every whim. It would appear that the rumours she’d heard were true.

There are few visitors to the inn, and the people that do come are just like her Uncle Joss, loud, uncouth and intimidating. Mary also suspects they’re up to no good, particularly as her sharp mind starts to question the constant coming and going of carts in the middle of the night, and the reason there’s a locked and barred room in the inn. On questionning her aunt, Mary learns little more, but enough to know just how terrified of her husband she is and that what he gets up to on those dark nights is deeply criminal. Mary starts to plot how she can get herself and her aunt away from the brooding presence of Jamaica Inn and it’s evil landlord without being implicated in the activities taking place there…

It’s very difficult to categorise this book as it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. It’s action-packed, is pacey and also contains a love interest and deception. There’s a bit of everything in here and it is excellent. I feel most readers would find this book fascinating, particularly if you’ve been, or plan to visit, the Jamaica Inn. I’d recommend both – that is, reading the book and visiting the inn.

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