Mary Yellan is content with farm life up until the moment her mother dies, leaving her with a deathbed promise to sell the farm and seek out her Aunt Patience, a lively, pretty woman Mary recalls from a trip a decade earlier.
Though her aunt’s letter inviting her to come seems somewhat distant, Mary hopes for the best. Those hopes are dashed when the carriage driver warns her away from Jamaica Inn, an isolated, looming building on the English moors.
Arriving at Jamaica Inn does nothing to dispel Mary’s anxiety, as her boorish uncle, Joss Merlyn, offers none-too-pleasant a greeting, and Aunt Patience is a shell of the woman she was. Nervous and skittish, Aunt Patience tells Mary obvious lies before Uncle Joss comes in and tells Mary exactly what he expects: once in a while she’ll serve drinks in the attached bar, and if she hears a carriage outside, she must hide herself under her covers and put her fingers in her ears.
Undeterred, Mary makes the best of her situation, finding the moors bewitching, yet recognizing the hidden dangers they offer. She meets two men on the moors, the vicar from the next town, and Jem, her uncle’s brother. One an angel, the other a demon, Mary finds herself drawn to both as potential saviors from the deteriorating circumstances in which she finds herself.
Atmospheric and suspenseful, Jamaica Inn is a perfect tale for a wintry day, though I prefer Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier knows how to create a setting, and the horror of certain events in the novel cannot be overstated; yet, the pacing and intended twist were not as impactful to me as I suspect they were meant to be. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Jamaica Inn and enjoyed adding another du Maurier to my shelves.
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