Review From User :
Upping my rating to 5 stars on reread. I have to hand it to Daphne du Maurier: she takes the fusty old gothic novel conventions and tropes, and amps them up in this 1936 novel. The setting is classic gothicit's the 1820s in a lonely, cold and windswept area of Cornwall, near the treacherous Bodmin Moor, in a decaying inn that all honest people avoid.
The real Jamaica Inn, built in 1750, which inspired this novel
An isolated, orphaned young woman, 23 year old Mary Yellan, comes to stay with the pretty and outgoing aunt and handsome uncle that she remembers hearing about in letters that her mother received years ago, but finds that he is a hulking, abusive man and her aunt is now beaten and downtrodden. Something terrible is going on at Jamaica Inn, where her brutal uncle is the innkeeper, and Mary can't resist trying to figure it out. Even though she's warned off by, well, pretty much everyone. The only person Mary is willing to trust is the softspoken, albino vicar of a nearby village, who helps Mary a couple of times when she's lost or in trouble, but he lives a few miles away from the inn.
Du Maurier injects elements of true horrornot the supernatural kind, but what can be in people's hearts. Her Aunt Patience (aptly named) is an abused woman who stays with and takes care of her bully of a husband. Du Maurier also includes a very dubious romantic interest for Mary, her uncle's younger brother Jem, a habitual horse thief in whose lawless way of life and his rather careless treatment of Mary I could see some seeds of what his older brother became. It's not a book that left me entirely comfortable in the end ... but I think that's what the author wanted.
Well played, Daphne!
P.S. I strongly recommend that you avoid spoilers, including the Wikipedia article, which gives away the goings on right up front. I had great fun speculating on what exactly was going on at the inn. I was close, but it was worse than I thought. The final twist I guessed, but it was still creepy.
Some of the elements in this story reminded me powerfully of a 1997 movie that in a few ways is like a 20th century version of Jamaica Inn:(view spoiler)[
with Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan (hide spoiler)]
Her mother’s dying request takes Mary Yellan on a sad journey across the bleak moorland of Cornwall to reach Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. With the coachman’s warning echoing in her memory, Mary arrives at a dismal place to find Patience a changed woman, cowering from her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn.
Affected by the Inn’s brooding power, Mary is thwarted in her attention to reform her aunt, and unwillingly drawn into the dark deeds of Joss and his accomplices. And, as she struggles with events beyond her control, Mary is further thrown by her feelings for a man she dare not trust….