Review: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

While Rebecca, or My Cousin Rachel, or even her short story The Birds may get all the fame, Jamaica Inn is most certainly Daphne du Maurier's finest novels. A gothic romance of innocence lost, it tells the story of Mary Yellan, a young woman sent to live with her aunt and her aunt's abusive husband in Jamaica Inn. The hotel is a front for such terrible criminal activity that no one even dares speak of it. What Mary uncovers at Jamaica Inn is so terrible that she will never be the same again. 

This is a page turning novel of murder, greed and innocence lost. It is difficult not to get caught up in the flowery prose and twist upon twist as Mary uncovers murders, thefts and shipwrecks and learns some painful lessons about what makes a good man. Like many gothic novels, a theme or two is lifted out of the works of the Bronte sisters, but the story works better for it. The author has a solid understanding of male-female politics, which adds a pleasing level of depth to the plot as Mary struggles with a sense of self versus her feelings for Jem--a horse thief who though dishonourable and rude, may also be the one man who truly cares what happens to Mary. 

Overall, Jamaica Inn is an entertaining read that stands up just as well today as it did when it was published eighty years ago.

Highly recommended.


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