by Daphne Du Maurier
Starting to read one of the literary “classics” always brings with it a sense of trepidation. For one reason or another, I have often been disappointed by those novels everyone tells me I ought to have read. This particular book is not one I would have normally choose to read, but I happened to pick it up whilst visiting Jamaica Inn itself on a recent holiday to Cornwall. It was just something I felt I had to do.
Right from the start, having visited the bleak and windswept setting brought the narrative to life. But even without that prior experience, Du Maurier’s vivid descriptions of the building and the desolate moorland that surrounds it provide an excellent backdrop to this gothic tale.
The book’s heroine, Mary Yellan, is a young woman plucked from her hard but comfortable life and transported into a dangerous world of smugglers and vagabonds where no one is entirely what he seems. Whilst Mary faces the challenges of adapting to her new life in the care of her Aunt Patience and her violent husband Jess Merlyn, Mary is also seen to be dealing with internal conflicts.
From the start, we are made aware that Mary does not consider herself to be a typical “woman”. She is jealous of what she sees as the freedom of men and resents her perceived delicate nature. Brought up working with her mother on their farm, Mary’s life has been tough and she is no stranger to hard work and manual labour, despite her tender age. But this does not mean that she has completely denied her feminine side.
Jamaica Inn is a captivating tale that kept me intrigued from beginning to end. There are a few twists in the tale, but nothing is wasted as the characters and events unfold in a take as dark and brooding as any ghost story.
All in all, an excellent book, but I do recommend a visit to the Inn itself.