A second book read and reviewed for Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week and I’m quite proud of myself for that! I read and wrote a review to publish during the Week for “Rebecca” just in case I ran out of time to get this one read – of course, it turned out to be another one that cannot be put down, and I finished it in a great rush one lunchtime (of course, I slightly regretted reading it over my lunch, but I just about coped!). So although I will probably have a pause before reading more Daphne Du Maurier, I certainly won’t rule out dipping into her long list of works again, especially if there’s another Week next year. Thank you to Ali for introducing me to a new to me author (and Cornishgirl for sending me this one!)

Daphne Du Maurier – “Jamaica Inn”

(25 December 2019, part of my LibraryThing Virago Group Not So Secret Santa gift

I have realised that you can pretty well guarantee a cracking good story and a great sense of place with DDM. In this historical novel (yes, me reading a historical novel!), set in the 19th century just when the vile practice of “wrecking” ships was being stamped out, orphaned Mary moves to the forbidding Cornish moors from a hard life in a pretty village to stay with her aunt and the horrible man who she married, in their forbidding and empty inn.

The opening is suitably Gothic, with Mary swaying along in a coach in a storm, head full of warnings about staying at Jamaica Inn, all very Hardyesque or Mary Webbish (and in fact there’s a bit at the end that’s very Mary Webb but not quite as horrific). We have doors that are bolted to strange rooms, odd noises in the night, a bog to get lost in and a peculiar vicar who keeps turning up at just the right time, and it’s a touch more scary and violent than I’d normally read, but nothing is gratuitous. You know Mary is asking for trouble – or is she – when she’s too proud to turn down the opportunity to take a trip to Launceston on Christmas Eve with Uncle Joss’ younger and more attractive (mainly because he has basically killed fewer people) brother; it’s interesting when there’s a clear pivot point in a novel. But the story is by no means guessable or simple from there on in.

There’s an interesting gender politics angle – Mary is described as working or being fit to work as well as a boy, Uncle Joss wishes she were one, and she’s very clear that once she tries to escape the Inn, if she’d been a boy she’d have been sent off to work her way onto a ship, rather than being looked after and offered a cosy job.

I’m glad I read this one and didn’t run away screaming when it got a bit dark. It’s always handy to have read “Northanger Abbey” in these situations and to assume better than the heroine does, even if she turns out to be right in the end!