Oct 9, 2008

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Set in the early 1800s, Jamaica Inn is the story of Mary Yellan. She arrives to Jamaica Inn after promising her dying mother that she would sell the family's farm and go live with her aunt Patience. After her mother's funeral she writes to her aunt, who tells her that her husband in the landlord of Jamaica Inn, and that she is to go to them there.

Even before she arrives, Mary realizes that something is not quite right with Jamaica Inn and with the man her aunt married, Joss Merlyn. And when she does arrive, she sees that her aunt is no longer the person she remembered, but a broken woman, a woman who is desperately afraid. And Joss Merlyn is, to put it kindly, a viscous brute who keeps questionable company and devotes his time to dubious activities. But what exactly Joss Merlyn and his band are up to is only slowly revealed.

Trapped in a desolate place, Mary befriends Jem Merlyn, her uncle's younger brother. Jem freely admits that he's a horse thief, and against her better judgements Mary becomes attracted to him. Is he just like his brother, or is there more to Jem than meets the eye?

Let me begin by saying that I very much enjoyed Jamaica Inn. But if you remember how much I loved Rebecca, you will understand just how high my expectations for this book were. And unfortunately, it fell short. I was particularly disappointed that I could see the twist coming a mile away, because I'd heard it was a good one. But you know, I think that one of the reasons for this was the fact that I was on the look out for a twist. And I fear I might be doing you all a disservice by even saying this much, but you sort of expect it in a Gothic suspense novel by Daphne du Maurier, right? And I just went back and rephrased what I'd originally written to make it a bit more vague.

But anyway. It wasn't just the fact that I guessed the ending, because I knew the ending of Rebecca too and that didn't make me love it any less. What it was I cannot say. Probably just personal preference. The lovely Stephanie, for example, enjoyed this book even more than Rebecca.

On to the good things. My favourite thing about Jamaica Inn was the sense of place. I just loved the descriptions of the Cornish tors and moors and bogs. They're haunting and full of atmosphere, and they made me want to visit Cornwall and go wandering through the wilderness.

As you might have guessed from my plot summary, there's a bit of romance in Jamaica Inn, but even though I'm not exactly a fan of romance I thought it was well done. It wasn't silly and it fit the main story well. And the story really is a good. The characters feel real, and if I hadn't read Rebecca first I wouldn't have been plagued by this mild sense of disappointment. But that's what unreasonable expectations can do to you. It's nobody's fault but my own.

I definitely still plan on reading more Daphne du Maurier. Just the other day I realised that my library has a few of her short story collections, and after Debi's recommendation, how can I resist?

Other Blog Reviews:
A Striped Armchair
Confessions of a Book-a-holic
It's All About Books
Bell Literary Reflections

(Let me know if I missed yours.)


  1. I read Jamaica Inn in high school right after I read Rebecca, and I loved it. I was a freshman, and for some reason, Daphne Du Maurier really piqued my interest.

  2. Its a shame when we put our expectations so high.. sometimes they may be unreachable even by those we believe should be able to reach them..

  3. Nicole Marie: I wish I had loved it too! Instead I "just" really liked it, but that's not such a bad thing :P

    Deslily: very true!

  4. sorry to hear you were a bit dissapointed, but at least it was still an enjoyable read.
    great review ;)

  5. Loved Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, liked a lot of others, including Jamaica Inn, but my favorite was Frenchman's Creek. Oh, it has been so long since I read Du Maurier!

  6. Great review as usual. This just makes me realize that I need to read Daphne Du Maurier even more. I think I'll start with Rebecca though.

  7. I've never read this, but it was one of my Mom's favorites. She was a big du Maurier fan.

  8. I'm hoping to read du Maurier soon. Rebecca is definitely first up when I get there.

  9. Naida: Thanks! I really did enjoy it a lot.

    Jenclair: I don't think I'd heard of Frenchmen's Creek before. I'll definitely check that one out. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Dar: I can't wait to read your thoughts on Rebecca.

    Chartroose: It really is a good book...it just didn't resonate with me the way Rebecca did for some reason.

    Charley, hope you enjoy it!

  10. Nymeth, naughty me. I'm ordering Rebecca today. lol.

  11. Rebecca is still #1 for me too!

  12. I'm somewhere in the middle (but not quite) of Rebecca now and I'm enjoying every bit of it. I also have Jamaica Inn on my pile somewhere, hahaha.

    Well, at least "like" is better than "Goodness, this is the same writer who churned out that great novel Rebecca?"


  13. Dar: I'm happy to hear it :D I don't think you'll regret it.

    Chris: It's hard to top Rebecca, isn't it?

    Lightheaded: I really look forward to your final thoughts on Rebecca! And yes, "like" definitely beats "wow I can't believe this is the same author" :P Jamaica Inn is a very good book...it just didn't touch me the way Rebecca did. But then, not that many books do!

  14. Its been a long time, so I don't remember the entire plotline of this book, but I do remember enjoying it. I really need to read more Daphne du Maurier

  15. I hate it when the "twist" is so obvious. I'm usually yelling at the characters by that point lol. If I do decide to read this one, I'll make sure to read it before I re-read Rebecca (it's been almost 10 years since I first read it).

  16. Kim: so do I! I think I'll go with her short stories next.

    Ladytink: I do too, and it really annoys me when it's the result of sloppy writing or the author underestimating the reader's intelligence. But I don't think that was the case with Jamaica Inn. It's just that what the readers expected back in 1936 and what they do today is very different. Nowadays, we see the name Daphne du Maurier and think suspense, Hitchcock movies, queen of Modern Gothic, twists...and that makes us expect the unexpected. I think it was only because of all this "extra" knowledge that I guessed it so easily. But yes, I think that trying this one before re-reading Rebecca is a good idea!

  17. Nothing beats Rebecca, IMHO, but Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek are tied at second favorites by Du Maurier. I felt a wee bit let down, also. I read Jamaica Inn hard on the heels of Rebecca.

  18. Bookfool, I really think that was the problem for me. I should have waited a bit after Rebecca. I really have to check out Frenchman's Creek!

  19. hmmm.. so should i read Jamaica Inn first or The Birds?

  20. I just completed Jamaica Inn-like you I loved the sense of place and the moors are almost a character in the work-I rank the 3 of her works I have read-1-Rebecca, 2-My Cousin Rachael and number 3-Jamaica Inn-I also liked that Jamaica Inn takes a look at the poorer side of Cornwall-I liked your post a lot


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