25 July 2010

Jamaica Inn

Mary Yellan arrives at Jamaica Inn thinking that she'll be cared for by her recently deceased mother's sister and her aunt's husband. Mary has not seen her aunt in years, but she remembers Aunt Patience as a jovial soul who sent letters fawning over her husband Joss's general wonderfulness. Instead, she finds her aunt a broken woman and her uncle Joss a maniacal tyrant who rules over the Jamaica Inn with an iron fist. He allows no travelers, which is just as well, seeing as none are willing to stop at the inn in the first place. But he does have the occasional visitors who arrive with mysterious wagon loads and disappear into the night. And Mary is determined to learn where her detestable uncle gets these wagons from and what they contain . . .

All right, I know I blogged a Daphne Du Maurier book a few weeks ago, but that was a horror novella and this one is a historical suspense novel. Very different tone here! Ahem. I warned you that I was prone to binge on authors and seeing as Du Maurier is one of my favorites it was only inevitable. Do not judge me.

As with all of the Du Maurier stories I've read, the best part of this novel is the atmosphere that she creates. Du Maurier had an amazing talent for creating suspense in her plots and she certainly does that in Jamaica Inn. There were several parts in this novel that had me on the edge of my seat as Mary attempts to find out her brutal uncle's secret. Du Maurier also does a wonderful job of vividly portraying the wild Cornish countryside where this story is set. (In fact, there is a real Jamaica Inn in Cornwall that you can still visit today.) The wild moors and rural countryside come alive in Du Maurier's narration.

The plot concerning Joss's mysterious past is intriguing and he is a great villain. He's a character you just love to hate. Mary herself is a plucky heroine, especially considering the restraints that early 19th century society place upon her. Though the plot details are unique and intriguing, the basic characters are all ones you've seen before--dastardly villain, innocent heroine, charming rogue, etc. And though I wasn't 100% sure, I had an inkling how the plot would turn out about fifty pages from the end, which is the first time that's happened to me in a Du Maurier novel. Daphne always keeps me in the dark to the very end. But this was one of her earlier novels, so I assume she was still refining her craft with this novel. That didn't lessen my enjoyment, though. I am a big fan of Gothic novels, which this novel basically is. Just because I recognized some of the characters didn't make the book any less enjoyable. In fact, it added to the fun, sort of like seeing old friends. (Not that I have old friends who are demented criminals . . . )

If you're looking for an engaging tale of suspense this summer and like eerie Gothics, try Jamaica Inn. It's a great introduction to Du Maurier's work, though I still like Rebecca better. But read it only if you dare uncover the secrets of Jamaica Inn yourself . .. ^^
Next Week: I have no earthly idea. The marathon reading sessions continue . . .
This Week in Literary History:
24 July 1901: Short story writer O Henry gets released from prison after building 3 years for embezzlement. Henry had issues, as the jail term may have tipped you off, but he crafted some fascinating short stories, the best known of which is "The Gift of the Magi." O. Henry had a knack for twist endings and irony. He's one of my favorites. Check him out if you've never read any of his work before.


  1. Sounds like quite the suspenseful book! I love how your review style never lets out any of the best details, and just makes you want to read further. I have actually given up reading the backs of books lately, most people who write those little blurbs do a horrible job, writing similar to that of your blogs should replace them. :D
    I remember reading Gift of the Magi in seventh grade, it was horribly sad! Interesting to learn he was in jail for a bit.

  2. Why, thanks, Feathery! I have had reviewers reveal too many details and it infuriates me! One was an Agatha Christie book that had capsule reviews of each her books. (Hehe I am nerdy enough to actually own this book . . . ) But one of them revealed the killer! I was furious. What kind of person does this to another?! *unleashes nerd fury on reviewer*

    Yeah, a lot of Henry's stories are sad. The "Gift" one is probably my favorite. But he has a lot of other good ones, too. :)

  3. This one looks really interesting. I'm going to put it on my to-read list.

    Did O. Henry have a pen name? For some reason I think he did.

  4. If you like thrillers, especially historical ones with a dash of romance, I think you'd really enjoy this book. Have you ever read Rebecca? That's my absolute favorite Du Maurier novel. She has a real knack for creating suspense in a story.

    You're right! His real name was William Sydney Porter. :)

  5. Ooh I didn't even think I was right. :)

    I don't usually read thrillers but I'm looking for something new to read. I LOVE historical fiction.

    I'm trying to read more than just YA. I don't like how YA authors always add on another book. You know what I mean?

  6. I love historical fiction, too! Is there a certain time period you prefer or do you like it all? I can't choose a favorite historical time period to read about. They all fascinate me! :)

    Yes, I hate how so many things that are not meant to be sequels become sequels. If the author started the book out with that in mind, that's fine. But tacking on a sequel just because they can seems like a money gimmick to me.

  7. I completely agree!!

    Hmm...my favorite time period? That's tough. But I guess WW11/Holocaust and 18th century. But I do love it all.

    Have you read the book Tallgrass? It's about a girl who grows up next to a Japanese Interment Camp. It's really good and has a unique perspective. It even had some twists I didn't see coming.