Jamaica Inn

“there’s things that happen at Jamaica, Mary, that I’ve never dared to breathe. Bad things. Evil things. I can’t ever tell you; I dare not even admit them to myself. Some of it in time you’ll come to know. You can’t avoid it, living here.”

Jamaica Inn is a weird place. It is isolated and tormented and forbidding. And just ugly. Oh and creepy. But to honour her mother’s dying wish, Mary Yellan heads there and lives with her aunt Patience and uncle Joss, the rough ape-like landlord of the inn. Aunt Patience is no longer the beautiful, laughing woman Mary remembered. Instead she is frightened, broken, a tattered shadow of her former self. Mary Yellan is warned against the place, by the coachman who drops her off, by the fact that locals never stop by, by all the hints and signs that she herself notices – signs of smuggling, of murder, of things worse than murder. She wants to leave, to get help, but she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave her aunt, who is blindly devoted to her husband.

She thought of Aunt Patience, trailing like a ghost in the shadow of her master, and she shuddered. That would be Mary Yellan too, but for the grace of God and her own strength of will.

Jamaica Inn doesn’t stick in the mind like Rebecca does. It’s all kinds of creepy but the characters don’t seem all that fleshed out. I admired Mary Yellan for her courage, for her no-nonsense stick-to-her-guns attitude (It seems that she is not called just ‘Mary’ but always ‘Mary Yellan’, as in: She is a bold one that Mary Yellan.), didn’t quite understand her aunt Patience, wondered at her uncle Joss. But du Maurier is at her best when creeping out her readers with the setting:

“No human being could live in this wasted country, thought Mary, and remain like other people; the very children could be born twisted, like the blackened shrubs of broom, bent by the force of a wind that never ceased, blow as it would from east and west, from north and south. Their minds would be twisted, too, their thoughts evil, dwelling as they must amidst marshland and granite, harsh heather and crumbling stone.

They would be born of strange stock who slept with this earth as a pillow, beneath this black sky. They would have something of the devil left in them still.”


This is my fifth read for the RIP VI challenge. Hip hip hooray!

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