Prepared to fulfil her mother’s dying wish, Mary Yellan heads to Jamaica Inn to live with her aunt Patience. She soon realizes that her aunt’s life is nothing like they’d thought; her marriage with Joss Merlyn is far from the rosy picture she’d painted in her letter.
As days pass, Mary unwittingly becomes intrigued by the nefarious activities at the inn and comes to understand why the place has garnered such a reputation amongst the townsfolk.
Reading more and more of Daphne du Maurier’s works has certainly helped me develop a taste for ambient writing. That said, I prefer for atmospheres created in novels – through the use of nature imageries and landscapes – to be well-interspersed in the narrative, seasoned with action and character arc.
To me, the descriptions of the Cornish scenery and terrain overpowered the plot, taking away from my ability to be engrossed throughout. That was my one main concern with this book.
I enjoy reading stories where characters embark on a new journey or are about to begin a new phase in their life. The first chapter of the novel is charged with such intrigue that I looked forward to reading all that was in store for Mary. And true to the foreshadowing, the author introduces conflict after conflict.
Right from the beginning, the inn is shown to be a place of gloom and mystery. Joss Merlyn is hardly the doting uncle one would hope for. He is brash and vociferous, threatening Mary if she so much as steps out of line.
His characterization stood out in comparison to how other main male characters tend to be depicted in du Maurier’s works. At no point in the book will the reader ever entertain the idea of Joss being a likeable character.
I was glad that Mary had her wits about her to not get too daunted by his threats. She speaks her mind, sneaks out of the inn, and establishes her own rapport with others. There were times when some of her actions didn’t align with how she portrays herself to be, especially in the scenes involving Joss’s brother Jem Meryln.
The revelation about what goes on at the inn is horrifying, and I have only just read about how it is based on actual historical incidents. I’d anticipated the ending to be different than what it is and didn’t really find this version of events to be convincing.
Jamaica Inn is my least favourite of the four Daphne du Maurier books I’ve read so far. Nevertheless, I don’t regret picking it up because it’s always a rewarding experience viewing the world through this author’s eyes and seeing how she crafts her stories.
If you don’t mind elaborate passages about marshy locations, you might enjoy reading this novel a lot more than I did.