Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Book Review: Daphne Du Maurier - Jamaica Inn
I treated myself to a Daphne Du Maurier after the complex Booker prize winner, and wow what a wonderful week of commutes I have had with Mary Yellen and co. So wonderful in fact, that I missed my tube stop and ended up in Manor House, this is only the 2nd book to ever do that, so of course my review will be favourable.
I do love Daphne Du Maurier, for me she embodies the perfect author with her combination of beautifully written prose and meticulously planned plots. I like books that make me think, but really I read for escape and entertainment so a good storyline is integral to my enjoyment. After reading Julian Barnes'- The Sense of an Ending with all its philosophical reflection, it was light relief to pick up something to which story is central.
Jamaica Inn is a lonely decaying public house on Bodmir Moor where coaches no longer stop. Following the death of her mother, Mary Yellan is sent to the inn to lodge with her Auntie and her husband, the cruel landlord Joss Melin. There are dark and evil happenings in residence, and Mary sets out to discover the secrets and bring the perpetrators to justice.
This is a mysterious novel that grips the reader with its intricately woven plot, but there are many undertones which make space for further thought. For example, there is much reference to Mary Yellan's position as one of the weaker sex. There are many paragraphs that start with 'If she were a man', 'If you were a man' , showing that the course of the book would be very different if she had been born male. Mary does defy female convention with her strong nerve and lack of fear, yet she is so self-conscious with the battles against femininity, that it almost has the opposite effect. She manages to physically and mentally challenge stereotype up to a point, yet ultimately her weak female heart returns her to womankind. Disappointing, but not a surprise.
Even so, I recommend this book to any reader who likes a little period drama. Writing in the early 1900s, this book has more bite than Victorian female novelists, yet keeps all the horses and traps, bonnets and candlelit rooms that I do so love. Top marks from me.