Thursday, February 18, 2016

Daphne Du Maurier - Jamaica Inn

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Most of Daphne Du Maurier's books are set in a grand house which is beautifully described at the outset.  Jamaica Inn is also about the eponymous inn that stands forlorn and ramshackle, close to Launceston in Cornwall.

There is no detailed description of the Inn, however, when the heroine, Mary Yellan, reaches it.  There is a sense of an evil of which Mary gets enough evidence when she tries to get to the inn. Coachmen don't want to stop there and people seem to recoil when she mentions her destination.

Newly orphaned Mary Yellan has been asked, by her mother just before she died. to go and live with her Aunt Prudence whose husband runs an Inn some 40 miles away from Helston.  On reaching Jamaica Inn, Mary finds that her Aunt is a shadow of her former self.  She is frightened and cowed by her rough husband, Joss Merlyn.

Mary resolves to stay at Jamaica Inn and get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds the doings of her Uncle Joss.  She wants to take her aunt away to a safe place.  She runs into Jem Merlyn, Joss's kid brother.  He is up to no good either, just like the rest of the Merlyns.  He is a horse thief.  However, he is full of charm and seems easy to talk to.  Mary is charmed by him despite her best efforts to the contrary.

She also befriends the vicar of Alternun, Francis Davey.  She finds it easy to confide in him and tells him freely about all that worries her about her uncle.  She finds she will soon need the help of all her friends if she is to survive the terrible happenings at Jamaica Inn.

Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca was supposed to be based on Jane Eyre.  This book is so like Wuthering Heights.  If Catherine Earnshaw had married Heathcliff they could have turned into Prudence and Joss Merlyn.  Catherine had exclaimed at one point, "If I marry Heathcliff he will drag me down."  This is borne out in Jamaica Inn.  Prudence is shattered and wrecked for having married a brutal man who has no scruples.

Like Wuthering Heights, Jamaica Inn is also built in the moors of Bodmin.  The wild weather of the place adds to the misery of the inhabitants of the Inn.

The younger couple (Mary and Jem) could well be Catherine Linton and Hareton.

Just like Wuthering Heights, this is a book about love that can wither a person.  It is a gothic tale with a lot of drama.  We never did learn how Heathcliff made his money, here we get some kind of an inkling about the dark deeds he could have done to earn the trappings of a well-heeled gentleman.

This is a little less like other books by Du Maurier.  Here she is not writing about upper-class landowners, but about peasants and common workers.

The novel contains a surprising passage which is a severe indictment of love and marriage.  Du Maurier writes about Mary being aware that romance soon sours when the sheen wears off and the lady is left holding babies while the man is bored of the whining and just wants to be looked after.  The only happily married couple in the book, the Squire and his lady, are terrible bores.

The book is full of strong descriptions of the goings-on, even when they are extremely unsavory.


harvey said...

Love the parallels, you draw between Wuthering Heights and Jamaica Inn. Gives much insight in the story.
Did oyu know that Hitchcock made this into a film?

Madhulika Liddle said...

Hmmm. I have to admit I find Wuthering Heights the sort of book that - the one time I read it (as a teenager) was sufficient for a lifetime. It's memorable, but it's so depressing. So anything that's along the same lines is probably something I'll steer clear of. On the other hand, my interest is piqued... the only Du Maurier I've read is Rebecca, so I should really read some more of her work.

Ava Suri said...


I have tried watching the BBC version, but disliked it. The Hitchcock version is also supposed to be quite different.

Ava Suri said...


I strongly suggest The Frenchman's Creek. I love it to bits. The King's General is a bit complicated, but very good too. The House on the Strand is also a favorite.

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