This time around the Slaves voted to read and discuss Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. Discussion began on the 15th so not only am I late to the party, everyone loved the book except me. Well, every party needs a pooper and it might as well be me.
It’s not that I hated the book, I just came out feeling meh about it. And it probably isn’t the book’s fault. I had already begun reading Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies and was loving it when I realized, oh crud! I need to read Jamaica Inn! I very reluctantly left Cromwell on his own for a while. I have only ever read Rebecca and liked that one very much so expected something gothic-y with lots of twisted mind games.
Things began well enough with the 23-year-old Mary Yellan heading off to live with Aunt Patience and uncle by marriage Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn because she was newly orphaned. Ok, young, innocent country girl heading into the unknown, yes! And then when she gets in the neighborhood of the Inn and no one wants to talk to her about it and we learn that coaches don’t even stop there anymore, oh yes, this is going to be good!
What we find is the formerly lively Aunt Patience turned into a beaten down mouse of a woman by the raging tyranny of her husband and his unsavory associates and business. We don’t know much at first about the unsavory business and while Mary has a hard time understanding why Aunt Patience doesn’t just leave Joss, she does feel sorry for her. Mary shows some spunk and right away stands up to Joss’s bullying, earning a bit of admiration from him.
But then it all started to go awry for me when Jem Merlyn, Joss’s younger brother by twenty years, comes on the scene and Mary right away falls in love with him. Jem is an admitted horse thief, but he is lively and handsome and teases Mary in a friendly, flirty way. He is a bad boy with a heart of gold and Mary falls fast. She doesn’t want to, of course, and she tries to rationalize why she likes Jem by likening human sexual attraction to farm animals. Mary doesn’t trust Jem but when he kisses her — fireworks! She admits to herself she’d spend the night with him if the world were different for women.
And so the book turns into a romance and I kept waiting for Jem to sweep in and rescue Mary. He does eventually but of course not until Mary has been in peril a number of times. And the ending, well, I saw it coming a long way off.
The most interesting character in the book is the vicar, Francis Davey. He is set up at first as a potential love interest for Mary, the good man to Jem the bad boy. But he is not what he appears. We get hints and I was pleasantly surprised to find out his secret, but his motivations were sketchy at best even though he goes to great lengths to explain them.
It wasn’t a bad book, Jamaica Inn and I just didn’t click. That’s okay, these things happen. The real life Jamaica Inn is currently for sale (Thanks for the link Danielle!). The owners are retiring. I might not have loved the book, but it sure would be lots of fun owning a place like that!