Jamaica Inn

About the Author

Daphne Du Maurier was born in London. Educated at home with her sisters and later in Paris, she began writing short stories and articles in 1928. In 1931, her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published. A biography of her father and three other novels followed, but it was the novel Rebecca that launched her into the literary stratosphere and made her one of the most popular authors of her day. Besides novels, du Maurier published short stories, plays and biographies. Many of her best selling novels became award winning films and in 1969 du Maurier herself was awarded a DBE. She lived most of her life in Cornwall, the setting for many of her books. 


Daphne Du Maurier gave us a beauty in Rebecca but Jamaica Inn is a masterpiece too. Her short note at the start of the book about Jamaica Inn is interesting. Its inspired from a hospitable and kindly temperance house on the 20 mile road between Bodmin and Launceston. In the book, she has pictured it as it might have been 120 years ago. 

After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan crosses the windswept Cornish moors to Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. There she finds her aunt a changed woman, downtrodden by her violent husband, Joss Merlyn. Mary discovers that the inn is a front for a lawless gang of criminals and is unwillingly dragged into their dangerous world of smuggling and murder. Despite herself, she becomes powerfully attracted to a man she does not trust – Joss Merlyn’s brother. 

More than people, Daphne seems to get her influence from places. Menabilly was the home she bought and that is how Manderly and Rebecca was created. Jamaica Inn, as you can see, was an actual place as well. But Rebecca seemed tied to Manderly in more ways than one. It was beautiful and sinister. JamaicaInn on the other hand is bound to give you the creeps all the way through. The grey skies, the low flying clouds, the moors, high winds and the mist all add to the allure of the place. The inn itself is portrayed as a dark, rambling place with long passages and unexpected rooms; a lingering taste of old tobacco, the sour smell of drink and an impression of humanity parked one against the other on the dark stained benches. Though there are similarities in the way she describes places, you can see the way she fleshed out the female characters in Rebecca. In Jamaica Inn, the men are far more overpowering as characters – Joss Merlyn is ruthless, large and graceful. The vicar, despite being helpful, always gave me the creeps. He reminded of another albino in the Da Vinci Code *shudder*. The brother of Joss Merlyn is unscrupulous, wild and equally dangerous. 

You can feel all of this when you read the book. Her style is unique. Her descriptions of the location and weather are dreary and sullen making you feel morose yourself. I loved this book. It is worthy of a paperback in this digital age.