Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

I read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (see my blog on Castle Dor) in late July on the eve of a trip to the south-west, planning to start it before I went and to finish it on the journey, but it was such a gripping read I ended up staying up late the night before to finish it.

Mary Yellan’s mother dies, forcing her to leave the gentle countryside of the Helford creek to go and stay with her aunt Patience, whom she has fond memories of being pretty, fun and carefree, and her aunt’s husband Joss Merlyn, the landlord of Jamaica Inn on Bodmin moor. Before she even arrives she realises that this is a terrible mistake, from the reaction of her fellow coach travellers to even the mention of the Inn. Its reputation as a grim and lawless place has spread far and wide, so that it is no longer a coaching inn, and coaches speed on past as fast as they can go. She persuades the driver to drop her off and goes inside to find that her uncle is a vicious man, who has browbeaten her aunt Patience into a shadow of her former self, quivering in fear of what her husband might do next.

Rather than turning straight around and getting out as fast as possible, Mary vows to stay for her aunt’s sake, and in doing so she herself is also ostracised from polite society. She takes solace in long tramps across the moors, where she meets Joss’ younger brother Jem, and the local vicar of the wonderfully-named Alternun. Who can Mary trust to save her and her aunt? You’ll be left turning the pages as I was late into the night to find out.