What’s it all about?:
On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother’s dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn’s brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted behind its crumbling walls — and tempted to love a man she dares not trust.
What did I think?:
As some of you may already be aware, I am a huge Daphne du Maurier fan. I haven’t read too much of her work yet, I’m almost finished her short story collection, The Breaking Point which I’ve covered in my Short Stories Challenge and I’ve read probably her most famous work, Rebecca and loved it, but this is only the second of her novels that I’ve had the pleasure to discover. And what a tale it is! Du Maurier takes us back to her beloved Cornwall with glorious descriptions of Jamaica Inn, a place that still stands today on the moors between Bodwin and Launceston and dates back to 1750, on an old coaching route (now the A30) and four miles walk from Brown Willy, the highest hill in Cornwall. On a holiday to Cornwall last year, I had the opportunity to visit the famous working hotel and pub (which is also rumoured to be haunted) and the beauty of both the interior and the surroundings outside took my breath away.
Jamaica Inn, Cornwall
Image from http://www.times.co.uk
But back to the book – our main character is Mary Yellan whom when our story begins, has had a wonderful life managing a small farm with her mother. Unfortunately, her mother becomes very ill and her dying wish is that Mary should go and live with her sister, Mary’s Aunt Patience and her husband at Jamaica Inn as it wasn’t “proper” in the early 19th century for young women to be on their own. Mary has fond memories of her Aunt Patience who she remembers as an incredibly happy and soft-hearted woman with a lust for life. When Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn on a cold wintry evening (which always makes things look a bit bleaker, of course!) the woman she meets is not the fun-loving Aunt she remembers. Aunt Patience’s husband, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of the inn is a brash, intimidating bully of a man who treats everyone most of all his long-suffering wife with disrespect and contempt.
Aunt Patience has changed into a cowed, fearful woman who jumps at the slightest noise and is desperate to keep the peace at whatever cost to herself. For there are strange and terrible things going on at Jamaica Inn. No coaches seem to stop there and on certain nights, Mary and her Aunt are ordered to keep to their rooms, disregard any odd noises that they might hear (and yes, there are many) and no matter what, keep their mouths shut:
“You must never question me, nor him, nor anyone, for if you came to guess but half of what I know, your hair would go grey, Mary, as mine has done, and you would tremble in your speech and weep by night, and all that lovely careless youth of yours would die, Mary, as mine has died.”
Mary becomes unwillingly involved in one of these horrific events and is uncertain where to turn to for help, desperate to get away but realising that her duties compel her to stay and protect her Aunt. Furthermore, if she did ask for help – is there anyone that she can trust? There is Jem Merlyn, her uncle’s brother whom she instantly feels a connection with but who has a murky past of his own, the albino vicar Francis Davey who is kind to her when she has no where else to turn and Squire Bassat and his wife who also appear to have a hidden agenda.
Could there be a happy ending? It seems unlikely but there’s certainly plenty of gothic mystery, intrigue, murder and a bundle of thrills that will keep you reading until the wee hours. Once again, Daphne du Maurier surprised and delighted me with a strong plot-line, more than a few shady characters and such vivid, beautiful descriptions of the landscape of Cornwall that I was bowled over on more than a few occasions. Seeing the place itself was the cherry on the icing on the cake and I made sure that I was reading the book at the time that I visited which made the reading experience even more special. I’ll always have a vivid memory of sitting outside Jamaica Inn in the sunshine, the book open in my hands, occasionally glancing up across the moor just imaging what it could have been like two hundred years ago. My only criticism is… what on earth am I going to read of hers next? There’s so much to choose from! *rubs hands in glee*
Interior of Jamaica Inn, Cornwall
Image from http://www.seeksghosts.blogspot.co.uk
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):