Jamaica Inn (1936) by Daphne du Maurier is a wonderful classic Gothic novel set in the 1820s in Cornwall.
The story follows protagonist Mary Yellan who sets out for Jamaica Inn to live with her Aunt Patience and her husband Joss Merlyn. It was her mother’s wishes before her death that Mary would go and stay with them but what lies ahead at Jamaica Inn ensures that this story is top class compelling. Soon a story of coming-of-age and setting out in the world to find your place becomes a tale of murder mystery and psychological drama. This is the first book by du Maurier which I have read and her writing style is simply gorgeous. There is a great balance she strikes between giving you all the descriptions you need to keep you engrossed in this story without overdoing it. Her portrayals of the characters and the internal workings of their minds adds a lot of spice and intrigue to the piece – and also sends the reader into many roundabouts which is always great in a mystery story.
Alongside the character portrayals, Jamaica Inn itself is a character in it’s own right. It sets the scene perfectly for a foreboding gloom to hang over so many aspects of the story. So many people are scared of Jamaica Inn and rarely – if ever with the exception of Mary – visit it unless they are usually up to no good. Or that is the image which is painted in any case. This adds to the overall intrigue in the setting. Mary’s relationship with Joss Merlyn is also a major element of this story. He is very mentally abusive towards Aunt Patience and Mary decides it is her duty to look after her aunt who has become a shadow of her previous self. The ongoing clashes between Mary and Joss are extremely well-written and leave the reader wondering where their confrontations will lead.
But there is an element of this book which shows that sometimes not everything is as it seems and without giving too much away du Maurier wrote this element to perfection like all mystery writers worth their salt. I was very fond of Mary. She is a very strong and determined woman who in many ways was very much ahead of her time. On the downside though she had a trusting nature which by itself is great but it was a trusting nature that bordered on too trusting. And her judgments often seemed to be made on who she liked as a person more than the facts in the case. This was a very clever character trait for du Maurier to put as one of Mary’s qualities however because she could use it to supply red herrings for the readers.
I loved it and it is a definite must-read.
To download your free copy of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier go to:
And for more information about Daphne du Maurier and her work go to: