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Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (1936)

  1. 60
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (katie4098)
  2. 10
    Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming (Sylak)
    Sylak: Another story involving a complex central character worth a good read.
  3. 10
    To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (Sylak)
    Sylak: Another story involving themes of smuggling and alcoholism.
  4. 00
    Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons (silva_44)
    silva_44: Although the plot isn't very similar, Burnt Mountain reminds me of Jamaica Inn because of the peculiar psychotic actions of characters in each.
  5. 23
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (AdonisGuilfoyle)
    AdonisGuilfoyle: Mary Yellan reminded me very much of Gaskell's heroine Margaret Hale: both are young, outspoken, and are strong enough to cope with life's hardships and sorrows. And there is a comparison of 'north' and 'south' Cornwall in Du Maurier's novel, too!… (more)

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English (62)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Six-word review: Atmospheric thriller, strong heroine, literate author.

Extended review:

Daphne du Maurier has an extraordinary knack for creating atmosphere. She gives us the moors of Cornwall, "a silent, desolate country...vast and untouched by human hand." Bleak expanses of hard, scrubby ground and soggy, treacherous marshes are broken by the high tors, massive slabs and towers of stone that are monstrous, moody presences:

Wild sheep dwelt on the high tors, and there were ravens too, and buzzards; the hills were homing places for all solitary things.... When the wind blew on the hills it whistled mournfully in the crevices of granite, and sometimes it shuddered like a man in pain. Strange winds blew from nowhere; they crept along the surface of the grass, and the grass shivered; they breathed upon the little pools of rain in the hollowed stones, and the pools rippled. Sometimes the wind shouted and cried, and the cry echoed in the crevices, and moaned, and was lost again. There was a silence on the tors that belonged to another age; an age that is past and vanished as though it had never been, an age when man did not exist, but pagan footsteps trod upon the hills. And there was a stillness in the air, and a stranger, older peace, that was not the peace of God. (page 42)

In this country there are men as savage as the land, men who are beyond knowing the horror of their own deeds.

And this is the place to which young Mary Yellan comes, bound by a deathbed promise to her mother. Rogues and thieves and drunkards are not the worst of what she will meet as her drama plays out. Mystery and menace darken the wintry days she spends under the roof of her evil uncle, and there is little enough to give her hope of escape to a better life.

But Mary is made of sturdy stuff, despite the repeated reminders, in several characters' voices, of the presumed weakness of her sex. It's not a matter of defying the clichés; they're treated as natural limitations, as they were for centuries before feminism raised awareness. But they don't define Mary. She has natural advantages, too, such as strength, determination, and loyalty. She's not a quitter, even against all the odds. The horrors she's forced to face and the challenges she must meet would be enough to bring down many a lesser character of either sex.

One of the things I especially like about this tale is that the author doesn't try to justify everything her protagonist does. We don't have to be badgered or maneuvered into agreeing with Mary or necessarily thinking we'd have done the same in her place. We just have to believe that what she does is honestly within her character, and it is. This gives the author leeway to show us a pleasing complexity of character, with the kinds of flaws that make it ring true. Like Eustacia Vye, Mary shows a strong silhouette against a grim background, while still being both feminine and vulnerable.

There are several places where I wondered why something happened as it did, but there's only one plot point that I found truly jarring. As the momentum accelerates, a scene occurs in which Mary must provide access to a second-floor bedroom:

She...tied one end of her blanket to the foot of her bed, throwing the other out the window.... (page 234 in this 1936 edition)

I'd like to see that done. Try tying a knot in a blanket, enough of a knot to support someone's weight when secured to--what, a bedpost? The thickness of a blanket, any blanket, even one as thin as a sheet, is going to make it very difficult to tie, with a knot so bulky that it will gather up a lot of material and leave little to hang down. This sort of thing works in movies and animated cartoons, but could it possibly work in a realistic environment? I doubted it enough to stall out temporarily at that point; but of course I came back to find out what happened to Mary. And I blamed the author for that absurdity, not the character.

The deep interconnections of character and place, out of which events proceed with a seeming inevitability, create a satisfying unfolding of plot, even if you guess the key to the mystery a little too soon. The exciting finish is worth the wait. ( )
5 vote Meredy | Feb 2, 2016 |
A fun, suspense-romance adventure story and a worthy take on a particular historical romance novel cliche set, but nothing amazing and nowhere near as subtle as du Maurier can be. books like [Rebecca] and [My Cousin Rachel] are far more meaningful and original/surprising than this one, despite the entertainment value here! ( )
  okrysmastree | Feb 1, 2016 |
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier - Very Good

I approached this with some trepidation. Despite being told by various friends that this was a good read, after my attempts at other classics, I was dubious. How wrong could I be!?

This is very much the theme of A Smuggler's Song by Kipling (who influenced who?). A young girl, Mary Yellan, is sent to live with her Aunt following the death of her Mother and arrives at the windswept & isolated Jamaica Inn on the Cornish Moors. Her uncle is a wild and dangerous man and it becomes obvious that he's involved in something nefarious. Mary determines to rescue her aunt and get away from Jamaica Inn whatever it takes.

The descriptions of the moors and their wild beauty are wonderfully evocative. As are all the descriptions of the Inn, the fair at Launceston and the various incidents and adventures along the way.

I'm sure you can all imagine how it pans out and I wouldn't dream of spoiling it by confirming or otherwise. Suffice it to say, I raced through the book with all its twists and adventures. Great read. ( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
“there’s things that happen at Jamaica, Mary, that I’ve never dared to breathe. Bad things. Evil things. I can’t ever tell you; I dare not even admit them to myself. Some of it in time you’ll come to know. You can’t avoid it, living here.”

Jamaica Inn is a weird place. It is isolated and tormented and forbidding. And just ugly. Oh and creepy. But to honour her mother’s dying wish, Mary Yellan heads there and lives with her aunt Patience and uncle Joss, the rough ape-like landlord of the inn. Aunt Patience is no longer the beautiful, laughing woman Mary remembered. Instead she is frightened, broken, a tattered shadow of her former self. Mary Yellan is warned against the place, by the coachman who drops her off, by the fact that locals never stop by, by all the hints and signs that she herself notices – signs of smuggling, of murder, of things worse than murder. She wants to leave, to get help, but she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave her aunt, who is blindly devoted to her husband.

She thought of Aunt Patience, trailing like a ghost in the shadow of her master, and she shuddered. That would be Mary Yellan too, but for the grace of God and her own strength of will.

Jamaica Inn doesn’t stick in the mind like Rebecca does. It’s all kinds of creepy but the characters don’t seem all that fleshed out. I admired Mary Yellan for her courage, for her no-nonsense stick-to-her-guns attitude (It seems that she is not called just ‘Mary’ but always ‘Mary Yellan’, as in: She is a bold one that Mary Yellan.), didn’t quite understand her aunt Patience, wondered at her uncle Joss. But du Maurier is at her best when creeping out her readers with the setting:

“No human being could live in this wasted country, thought Mary, and remain like other people; the very children could be born twisted, like the blackened shrubs of broom, bent by the force of a wind that never ceased, blow as it would from east and west, from north and south. Their minds would be twisted, too, their thoughts evil, dwelling as they must amidst marshland and granite, harsh heather and crumbling stone.

They would be born of strange stock who slept with this earth as a pillow, beneath this black sky. They would have something of the devil left in them still.” ( )
  olduvai | Jan 19, 2016 |
Mary Yellan’s mother is dying. Her final wish is that Mary go to Bodmin to live with free-spirited Aunt Patience and her husband. When Mary arrives, she is shocked to see her Aunt Patience is a timid, dispirited woman, broken by the abuse of her husband. Jamaica Inn is located in the bleak moorlands of Cornwall and when Mary arrives, she not only has to deal with its bad reputation, but also with the landlord, her uncle Joss Merlyn, a known criminal who has successfully evaded the law.

Uncle Joss warns Mary not to look outside at nights when she hears sounds, but she does anyway and discovers a smuggling ring. Her uncle is a smuggler and probably a murderer too. She also discovers that there is another person, who is secretly working with Joss. Before long she finds herself tossed into a world of shocking human brutality, as she is drawn into the smuggling, theft and murder.

Although the story is a mystery, the author uses the bleak setting to unfold a true classic of gothic romance and adventure. This novel is very well written and I found the characters to be very distinctive. My only complaint is that the narration of the several landscapes Jamaica Inn was surrounded with, were overly descriptive at times and slowed down to story a bit. Nevertheless I could envision Jamaica Inn totally and particularly the smuggling scenes. What a fabulous book, and du Maurier was still a book or two away from her most famous novel, Rebecca.

( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunant, SarahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jamaica Inn stands today, hospitable and kindly, a temperance house on the twenty-mile road between Bodmin and Launceston.

In the following story of adventure I have pictured it as it might have been over a hundred and twenty years ago; and although existing place names figure in the pages, the characters and events described are entirely imaginary.

Daphne du Maurier
October 1935
First words
It was a cold grey day in late November.
Jamaica Inn opens with echoes of Dracula: a carriage rattling through the desolate landscape and wild weather to a place where even the locals don't go, so ferocious is its reputation. (Introduction)
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Book description
Her mother's dying request takes Mary Yellan on a sad journey across the bleak moorland of Cornwall to reach Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. With the coachman's warning echoing in her memory, Mary arrives at a dismal place to find Patience a changed woman, cowering from her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn.

Affected by the Inn's brooding power, Mary is thwarted in her attention to reform her aunt, and unwillingly drawn into the dark deeds of Joss and his accomplices. And, as she struggles with events beyond her control, Mary is further thrown by her feelings for a man she dare not trust...
A huge success on first publication, Jamaica Inn is a dark and intriguing gothic tale that will remind readers of two other great classics, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380725398, Mass Market Paperback)

Jamaica Inn is a true classic. After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan travels to Jamaica Inn on the wild British moors to live with her Aunt Patience. The coachman warns her of the strange happenings there, but Mary is committed to remain at Jamaica Inn. Suddenly, her life is in the hands of strangers: her uncle, Joss Merlyn, whose crude ways repel her; Aunt Patience, who seems mentally unstable and perpetually frightened; and the enigmatic Francis Davey. But most importantly, Mary meets Jem Merlyn, Joss's younger brother, whose kisses make her heart race. Caught up in the danger at this inn of evil repute, Mary must survive murder, mystery, storms, and smugglers before she can build a life with Jem.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:13 -0400)

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The inn is derelict, and no decent folks will come to it, speaking of it in fearful whispers. When Mary Yellan joins her aunt, married to the owner, she soon finds she has but two friends on the wild moors--the mysterious parson and an insolent, likeable horsethief.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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