3* (out of 5*)
I finished Jamaica Inn in the early hours of this morning and spent most of today thinking about whether I should give it 3 or 4 stars and whether to add a review – so much has been written about Du Maurier and Jamaica Inn already, and so much of what can be said about JI has been said:
There’s a lot of scope for discussion whether the characters are too simple, whether the plot is predictable, whether Du Maurier had found her voice as a writer, yet (even though JI is not her debut and Rebecca was published only two years later), and whether JI merits the praise it seems to get.
It’s a story set in the early 19th century, it’s gothic, it’s formulaic, atmospheric, and it’s possibly also well represented by other adjectives ending in “–ic”….
What I would like to add, though, is that despite its short-comings it is a good read (- well it kept me awake anyway). I was drawn into the story and the setting right from the start of the book and I had to double check the publication date as it was strange to read a story that written around the same time as In Dubious Battle, The ABC Murders, or Mephisto but had the feel of a Bronte novel. I guess this is where Du Maurier’s ability to create a time warp that will absorb a reader really shines.
Of course there are the occasional lapse in good judgement of her protagonists and the unbelievable – literally unbelievable – good luck of the would-be-detective Jem, but the quite extraordinary addition of the nihilist attitude in both extremes of the local society – the wreckers and the local clergy – is entertaining enough to forgive for such obvious flaws.The part of the book I found irritating was the ending.
I wish the story had ended earlier than it did.