For about 20 years my favourite book has been Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I absolutely adore it so much so that I have have a collection of vintage copies. One birthday I found a first edition at a boot fair for 20pence. I gave him 50pence. I always say that that was the present from my Dad that year. And yet I have never read another Daphne du Maurier book. I like Agatha Christie and I’ve read a few of her books, I like Zadie Smith and I’ve read a few of hers. Yet I’ve never hankered after any more du Maurier. I wonder why that is? Is it because I don’t think you could write two really fabulous books? Is it because I don’t want to spoil my love of Rebecca?
Last week I found a sweet vintage copy of Jamaica Inn and I thought it would be a great addition to my Etsy shop. Then I was reading it…
Jamaica Inn is a place I have driven past the signs for on my way through Cornwall so many times and I know its links to du Maurier. I’ve not stopped though I’ve wanted to.
Daphne du Maurier wrote a few of her novels based in Cornwall, Rebecca was one of them. Jamaica Inn is also set there on the bleak moors. The main character is Mary Yellan. She lives in a small friendly village in Cornwall with her mother and they run a farm together. As she is dying her mother urges Mary to go and live with her Aunt who neither have seen for about 10 years. Mary respects her mother’s wishes and after her death she sells the farm and her few belonging and finds herself on a coach towards Jamaica Inn where her aunt Patience now lives with her husband, Joss. The coach man doesn’t want to stop at Jamaica Inn and tells her that no-one stops there, that her uncle is a terrifying landlord but that she will find this out.
On arrival she is reunited with her Aunt who is a shadow of her former self. Her aunt is clearly terrified of her uncle. And with good reason. Mary undertakes to look after her aunt and ensure that no further harm comes to her.
Mary is warned by her uncle that she will not be given a free living, that she will work for her keep and that she will avoid meddling at all costs or he will kill her.
Over the coming weeks she comes to realise that her uncle is a drunk and has his fingers in pies that bring danger to the inn. She meets with her uncles brother, Jem, who is a horse thief and despite his family resemblance she finds herself falling in love with him. The family has a history of being hanged for criminal activity though so she really doesn’t want to give into him.
One night whilst following her uncle she gets hopelessly lost on the moors and is saved by a local village curate, an albiono man, who comes to her rescue several times.
As was the case with Rebecca this was not the book I was expecting at all. Mary Yellan is a bolshy girl and I like her a lot. She has a spirt that the second Mrs De Winter is seriously lacking. The story is just fantastic and is a proper mystery with a resolution to the tale that I did not see coming. I loved the writing, I loved the country side and the characters were awesome. Not sure that there were many good guys but there were plenty of baddies! Did I like it more than Rebecca, I don’t think I did. But I certainly loved it and I really thought about it for a few days. Du Maurier writes so that I am scared. I call that a good writer!