Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Review: Jamaica Inn - Daphne Du Maurier

A couple of friends and I recently started a Facebook book club, which is exactly the same as a regular book club except we don't meet at the pub and talk about the books over wine (so not quite as good, then). The most recent choice was Daphne Du Marier's Jamaica Inn, so I thought I'd copy it here rather than only having it on the wasteland that is Facebook!

I will preface this by saying that I have never read any other Daphne Du Maurier books, and I didn't watch the recent BBC adaptation of this, so I went into this not knowing at all what to expect from the story or writing style.

So, first of all I will say that I felt like I knew where the story was going from quite early on. I felt like we were always supposed to suspect the vicar, although at the same time I felt like Du Maurier was trying to trick us into not suspecting him? It was almost like a triple bluff - oh he's weird looking he must be evil, but then why would we judge someone just because of that, oh yes he's evil after all. I also didn't ever feel like there was any jeopardy in Mary and Jem's relationship; when he was carted off after the fair it just seemed to me like it was a pause in their relationship rather than a potential end to it.

In terms of the characters, it was clear that Mary was written as a strong and capable women (I think probably "plucky" is the right word??!?) particularly when looking at the time this was written. This was really easily seen in the fact that the only other female character we got to spend time with was her Aunt Patience, who I felt was only really there for two reasons; firstly to highlight how independent Mary herself was, and secondly to show how downtrodden and lost a woman can become purely by her situation or circumstance. 

One of the main things I noticed was how many references there were to the fact that Mary wasn't a man, and how much this seemed to mean to the other characters. There were so many sentences starting "if she were a man" or "as she was a woman" to suggest that she wouldn't be able to do something, but I personally felt that Du Maurier wrote this too many times to really mean it - it was as if she was purposely being sarcastic to try and highlight how ridiculous it is that Mary was judged to not be able to do certain things just because of her gender. The fact that Mary's character was written to have walked 9 (?) miles in an evening and then ventured into the inn by herself in the pitch dark, but then was not 10 minutes later found to be too weak to go in again. I wonder whether Du Maurier was trying to show the double standards that exist, without being too overt about it.

Overall I definitely enjoyed this more than I thought I would - it's not one I would have ordinarily picked up but I found it easy to read and wouldn't balk and reading another book by the same author in the future.


Anyone else read this one?

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