Reading Jamaica Inn for Daphne du Maurier Reading Week

Once again this year, Ali is hosting her Daphne du Maurier Reading Week – a fabulous opportunity for DDM fans to re-read beloved favourites, and for DDM newbies like me, to discover more of her writing.

My first DDM novel was Rebecca, which was my choice for last year’s reading week and I absolutely loved it. This year I picked Jamaica Inn.

I have long wanted to read this novel, mainly because I have visited the real Jamaica Inn in the past. We also have dear friends who live near the novel’s main Cornish setting of Bodmin Moor. So I am familiar with the terrain and have even climbed some of the peaks that are mentioned in the book – Roughtor particularly sticks in the mind.

It is clear right from the novel’s opening that it will be a page turner of the truly Gothic variety.

“It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a sizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist. It would be dark by four.”

Dun, dun, duuuuuuuunnnnnnnn…………………………

We find ourselves among a collection of unfortunate travellers, tossed around in a cold and leaky coach, itself like a menacing character setting the scene of battle for what is to come.

‘The very coach, which all the day had rocked [Mary Yellan] like a cradle, now held a note of menace in its creaks and groans.  The wind tore at the roof, and the showers of rain, increasing in violence now there was no shelter from the hills, spat against the windows with new venom.

This is all such a contrast to Mary’s idyllic-sounding home of nearby Helford, where there were ‘green hills’ and ‘a gentle rain that…lost itself in the lush grass’.  Mary has been forced to leave her birthplace following the recent death of her mother, to whom she made a promise to go and live with her Aunt Patience and her landlord husband (‘a great husk of a man’).

‘Whatever her welcome should be, her aunt was her own mother’s sister, and that was the one thing to remember.  The old life lay behind – the dear, familiar farm and the shining Helford waters.  Before her lay the future – and Jamaica Inn.’

What will Mary find when she reaches the Inn?  Our fears for her grow when the coach stops to drop off passengers in Bodmin.  The driver is surprised that Mary does not alight.  On learning that she is bound for the eponymous inn, he tells her:

‘”Respectable folk don’t go to Jamaica any more….In the old days we used to water the horses there, and feed them, and go in for bit of a bite and drink. But we don’t stop there any more. We whip the horses past and wait for nothing, not till we get to Five Lanes, and then we don’t bide long.'”

And so the adventure is afoot. Why does Jamaica Inn have such a fearful reputation? Into what danger is Mary plunging? The reader’s heart pounds ever faster as Mary gets drawn in to a dark world of smuggling and murder.

It is a cracking read, packed full of thrilling menace and suspense. Du Maurier’s writing is both taught and lyrical.  Her descriptions of the Inn and the surrounding landscape provide the perfect backdrop throughout.  Her characters are believable and complex – the reader can never quite tell who to trust, although du Maurier cleverly arouses our suspicions, so that the tension is piled on ever more as the story progresses.

Overall, I am so glad finally to have read this book and once again this year find myself desperate to read more DDM.  I am also determined not to get side tracked as I did last year, when I also finished my post brimming with plans to read more by and about du Maurier.  I totally failed in that promise to myself, getting immediately side-tracked on to other reading. It’s good to have been set back on my intended course – thanks Ali! 🙂



38 thoughts on “Reading Jamaica Inn for Daphne du Maurier Reading Week

  1. When I read Cathy’s review of this earlier in the week I commented that it sounded a cracking read, so I’m now totally convinced as you used that exact phrase Liz! It sounds wonderful. Like you, I feel I must read more DDM, I so enjoyed her short stories when I read them for this week last year but I’ve read nothing since. Next stop: Jamaica Inn!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great review, Liz. I love Jamaica Inn. We often drive across Bodmin Moor and I never do it without thinking of how incredibly isolated it was before the advent of the car, and what a desolate and lonely place it must sometimes be, for all we are now focussed on its wildness and beauty. Have you been into the church at Alternun? The carvings on the pews there are exactly as described in the book, they must be unique I would think. Mary Yellan is such a strong character, I love her courage and forthrightness and determination. Has Steve read it? I haven’t yet persuaded Mike but I think he’d enjoy it.

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    1. Thanks Liz. That’s fascinating about Alternum – will have to put that on the list of places to visit when I am next in Cornwall, although goodness knows when that might be. I would like to go to the Fowey festival some time, but that will probably not be before 2022 at the earliest. And it is not really Steve’s kind of thing – interestingly, he is not much in to reading, other than a core set of beloved texts. My next DDM is The House on the Strand – have you read that one?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well well. If we actually all meet again at some point, I would love to hear from Steve about how he found the books he loves; whether they are all Dickens; and why he sticks with them rather than re-Reading them and also trying other stuff…… Anyway, no, not read the house on the strand, while I love Rebecca and JI, she’s not an author that makes me want to read everything by her for some reason.

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      2. I am sure he will be happy to oblige. Meanwhile, fingers crossed that my eventual review of THOTS is not one of those ‘must read that next’ posts lol!

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  3. Thanks for this review, liz. All your reviews make me think “I’ll read that next”. You’ll have to help me prioritise. Just finished Trains and Lovers.

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  4. Even though I’ve never read this novel, I feel I know quite a lot about the story as elements of it have seeped into our cultural history, a little like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Your enthusiasm for it certainly come through in this review…

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Jacqui – I felt that last year before embarking on Rebecca. These iconic novels seem to become part of our DNA. Happily, it turned out to confound my expectations, and Jamaica Inn has been the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was my second DDM after Rebecca, too, however I only started reading them this month! I am glad Ali persuaded me as I thought both were cracking reads. This one was a bit scary for me (I got to the bit about wrecking over my lunch – maybe not a good idea!) but I enjoyed the Gothic elements a lot, so atmospheric. My review’s here if you’re interested I think I’ll be reading another one or two next year, as I have a year’s worth of TBR shelf to get through first!

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    1. Ha – yes, like last year I am full of more DDM reading plans, but can well see that next year’s reading week will be upon us before I get through my TBR pile. Mind you, I am not as ruthlessly organised as you are about keeping to order, so may well find myself deviating….. 😀

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  6. I loved Jamaica Inn because, in the midst of gothic mists and swirling uncertainties, DDM brought out different kinds of love and how society values and choices made along the way transformed relationships. It seems to be a thread in all of her books, starting with Rebecca. Frenchman’s Creek is all about choice – that one decision made today would change the trajectory of your life. I especially like this quote from Jamaica Inn: “Why not? You’ll wed a farmer one day, or small tradesman, and live respectably among your neighbours. Don’t tell them you lived once at Jamaica Inn, and had love made to you by a horse-thief. They’d shut their doors against you…” By the way, halfway through “The House on the Strand” and have set up to read “Rachel’s Cousin”. A great post, Liz and a marvelous follow up discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a perfect summary in just a couple of sentences! I often wonder how many of these kinds of themes are planned by the author, and how many we can see in hindsight, just because of the great writing. Probably something that can never be fully known. But such fun to ponder! X

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree – fun to ponder, especially when the story resonates and continues to be relevant. The House on the Strand was written 30 years after Rebecca. The writing and storyline is a testament that transitions in a writer’s life come out in the narrative. I am fascinated by DDM’s thought process.


  7. So glad you loved Jamaica Inn, Liz; this is a great review and you have me wanting to return to it immediately. My most recent DDM was The House on the Strand and I had hoped to review it for Ali’s DDM week. If I do, you may wish to give it a wide berth! Shall we just say it’s not one of my favourites! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha – as we always say, we can’t all like the same books all the time! I’ll steer clear of any THOTS reviews until I have read it but will be intrigued to see yours in due course if you decide to post it. 😀

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