Did you know Jamaica Inn is actually a real life place? The story is made up but the Inn/Pub is real and still open for trade in Cornwalls Bodmin Moor. Not only that, it's on Twitter (I know because I tweeted them to tell them we were reading Jamaica Inn and they replied!) Random fact out of the way on to the story
In a nutshell - spirited but naive girl goes to live with aunt and treacherous uncle at Jamaica Inn in the 1820s. Wild terrain, smuggling and secrets follow with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.
I had already seen the television adaptation a while back and so knew the story beforehand. I try to avoid doing this and think it was for this reason it took me a while to get in to story. I must admit though that once I was in it did capture me, even without any surprises awaiting.
Why? Well for a start it was very atmospheric. Du Maurier expertly describes the moors (one of our group was drawn to read Wuthering Heights straight afterwards for some more moor action). Some found the book a little slow, and I do agree that really not too much does actually happen. However I liked the fact the book wasn't so plot lead as others I have read recently. It made a refreshing change and I thought the pace to be quite in keeping with books from this era (published in 1936).
Some of us found the main character, Mary, annoying. She did tend to get into scrapes and be where she shouldn't be (when told 'whatever you do don't look out of your window' what does she do? Look out of the window of course) however I went with it and found her spiritedness interesting for a girl living in the 1820s.
I was reminded in some ways of Northanger Abbey, style and pace wise rather than story line and the book certainly fits into the gothic romance category. I also liked the fact that although there was a romance it wasn't the main part of the story as so many books of this era are. What romance there was wasn't really traditional, no rich misunderstood hero here. We all questioned whether Mary would live happily ever after? I'm drawn to the part (I'm relying on memory here so please correct if I'm wrong as it was a while ago I finished the book) where she tells a tale of lovers lane back in her home town and how quickly it turns once a baby arrives, the wife pacing upstairs with a crying baby whilst the man awaits his tea downstairs. Was she predicting her future? Is this her idea of love? We also questioned whether Mary would be happy with life on the road. She explains quite often that she is a girl of the earth and soil, not one for ever changing towns with no place to put down roots. How then can she/we expect a happy ever after?
We spent some time contrasting it to books currently in vogue right now that seem to be written with a film deal in mind. Every chapter needing to have a shock ending, octane pace and more twists and turns than a waltzer. We did question whether some of the classics would actually be hits in todays world if they were released for the first time today. Perhaps not, but we also questioned whether some of the current bestsellers trailing after Oscar glory will be around as long as these books have. Gone Girl anyone?
As for Characters, Joss was perhaps a little stereotypical. I do believe the ending for Patience was perhaps the best solution for her. She could never recover from how Joss had broken her and so she perhaps got the only happy ending left available to her. Some of us guessed the twist at the end, having seen the TV series it was hard to work out whether I would have or not.
Overall we enjoyed it and gave it a 7
Question of the month - As mentioned Jamaica Inn is a real life place, what's your favourite location from a book? Real or Fictional?
Next book The Colour of magic by Terry Pratchett.