Author: Daphne du Maurier
Provided Synopsis: Her mother’s dying request takes Mary Yellan on a sad journey across the bleak moorland of Cornwall to reach Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. With the coachman’s warning echoing in her memory, Mary arrives at a dismal place to find Patience a changed woman, cowering from her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn.
Affected by the Inn’s brooding power, Mary is thwarted in her attention to reform her aunt, and unwillingly drawn into the dark deeds of Joss and his accomplices. And, as she struggles with events beyond her control, Mary is further thrown by her feelings for a man she dare not trust…
Review: Jamaica Inn was not what I expected it to be; in hindsight, I might even mention that it underwhelmed me. The start of this book was a very slow journey that seemed to tread on through interminable pages. I was frustrated, to say the least, but I am glad to be able to report that once Christmas Eve rolled around the pacing of the story picked up and the purpose behind the slow start was clear.
du Maurier takes her time to introduce Mary (our heroine) and the reader to the inhabitants and those within significant degrees of separation from the inn; many of these characters have important back stories to be revealed, specifically the innkeeper. Then, the slow pace also adds to the atmospheric element of the book, which I consider to be the strongest part of Jamaica Inn. The author really plays with the isolation and loneliness offered by the moors, and her written descriptions conveyed the suspense and thrill that could be created by the mist and untrustworthy terrain. The accumulation of all of these factors works incredibly well once Christmas Eve energizes Mary’s active participation within the unfolding of the story.
Where Jamaica Inn underwhelms is in terms of the mystery. Mary (and the reader, as well) is very quick to uncover the crimes her uncle commits and hides under the roof of his inn. The murder mystery is nowhere near as effective as it might have been because of transparency and the following of the typical tropes of a gothic novel. Romance between Mary and her suitor also leaves much to be desired and much to roll one’s eyes upon. In the end, I left this book with more Jane Eyre vibes than I appreciated… Which makes me wonder if those of you who have read and loved Jane Eyre (unlike myself) might appreciate this book with greater zest.