Monday, July 28, 2008
As a fan of all things dark and dreary, I have, within the last few years, become quite a fan of Daphne du Maurier. The woman could write quite a tale, that's for sure. Did you know, she wrote the short story that Alfred Hitchcock used to make his movie, The Birds? I didn't know that either!! See...reading this blog IS educational!! So, with a need to read more by this author, I choose to read Jamaica Inn by du Maurier (304 pgs, Avon 1936) as a selection for the What's in a Name Challenge.
It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the afternoon, the pallour of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.
How's that for setting the mood right off the bat??
When Mary Yellan's mother was on her death bed, she begged Mary to make her a promise. Mary's mother said that when she died, she wanted Mary to leave their little farm and go live with her aunt Patience. Trying to look out for her daughter, Mary's mom was afraid that life would be too hard for a young girl on a farm by herself and wanted her to have an easier life. Little did she know the fate of things to come.
With all her belongs packed into a small trunk, Mary set out for Jamaica Inn, which was owned by her Aunt Patience and her Uncle Joss. Mary had only met Patience once, but remembered her mother's sister as a vivacious and carefree woman. But when she told the coach driver where she was going, he tried to talk her out of it. He said no one went to Jamaica Inn, especially a young woman. It was an evil place. However, Mary had promised her dying mother, and good or bad she had to keep that promise.
But when Mary arrived on that cold, rainy night, she found that Aunt Patience was no longer the young vivacious woman she used to be. She was older, thinner, and perpetually frightened. She was a shell of the woman she used to be. And the man she married, Joss Meryln was a huge, hulking man with a mean streak a mile long and an evil glint in his eye. Joss told Mary she was to help out around the Inn and as long as she minded her own business, everything would be fine.
But Jamaica Inn was no travelers Inn. It was old, crumbling and falling apart. No one every stayed there. Mary couldn't figure out how the Merlyn's made any living off of it.....until the night when she was woken from her sleep by all the wagons. As she peered out the window (when she wasn't supposed to do), she saw a bunch of men unloading boxes into the storage rooms in the Inn. As she snuck downstairs to get a better look, she overheard her uncle threaten a man who wanted "out".
But just when Mary was trying to figure out a way to get her Aunt Patience away from this place, a strange man stopped at the Inn. He was dark, rugged and handsome.....and was Joss Merlyn's younger brother, Jem. He seemed like he wanted to help Mary, but could she really trust someone with the last name of Merlyn??
I read the story Rebecca a couple of years ago, and while I really enjoyed it, I wasn't "wowed" by it. I finally realized I just had too many high expectations for such a famous book. Not so with Jamaica Inn. I knew nothing about this one. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it before I started looking for books to fit into the challenge. From page one, du Maurier ran with the "eerie, dark" Gothic setting and told a brilliant story. Mary was a smart, strong, independent young woman in a time when those qualities were not usually used to describe a woman. Jem was the proverbial "bad boy". A handsome horse thief that was fun and likable, du Maurier created a great anti-hero in Jem. Will he do the right thing in the end.....or will he be just another Merlyn?? I guess you will have to read the book to find out!!
For a book that was written over 70 years ago, Jamaica Inn was incredibly readable and highly entertaining. I enjoyed it immensely. A great Gothic tale of thieves, murder, and even a little romance. Definitely worth reading and highly recommended.
Questions from Weekly Geeks:
Bookfool: What did you think of Jamaica Inn? Did the concept of shipwrecking surprise you or did you already know about wrecks off the Cornish Coast? How many du Maurier books have you read and where does this one fit in, as far as favorites, if you've read several?
I really liked this book. I also thought it was cool that Jamaica Inn is a real place on the Cornish Coast. I had not heard of "wreckers" before reading this book. It was a concept that surprised me, and again, I like the idea that du Maurier used a real historical event and created a story around it. So far, I've read 3 du Maurier books: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn. While I enjoyed all 3, my favorite was probably My Cousin Rachel, followed very closely by Jamaica Inn. Rebecca was a great book too. A Classic. But I think I liked the others just a wee bit better.
Nymeth: I'm very curious about Jamaica Inn (the Tori Amos songs helps, I confess). Was this your first Daphne du Maurier? If so, do you plan on reading her again? If not, how does it compare to her other books? Would you recommend the book for the RIP challenge? Did the ending surprise you or could you see it coming?
The Tori Amos song is actually about this book!! That girl is definitely a reader! And no, it's not my first du Maurier book. But I will definitely try to read more of her works. She's impressed me alot. As far the RIP challenge goes, although no ghosts, it's clearly a dark Gothic novel and I think it would fit just fine. There WAS a surprise in the ending, but I had kind of figured it out long before Mary did. But du Maurier actually dropped a lot of decent hints about it....so I guess it wasn't all that much of a surprise!!