Now this author could write:
'And then I'll feel the thirst come on me and I'll soak. Soak for hours. It's power, and glory, and women, and the Kingdom of God, all rolled into one. I feel a king then, Mary. I feel I've got the strings of the world between my two fingers. It's heaven and hell. '
Daphne du Maurier has style. The woman has a way with words that is as enchanting as her story concepts themselves. She had a bravery in writing realistic characters who are flawed, shining gems. I was first wowed with the classic Rebecca, and then she wowed me again with The Birds and Other Stories.
Jamaica Inn was penned earlier in her career, so it shows she was just learning how to climb the creative ropes the right way. It's not her best work but it's definitely readable because, hello!, it's Daphne du Maurier.
Mary was unique in that she didn't mind so much with having to consort with lesser-liked types, those who are criminals or viewed poorly by the local village. She's headstrong and daring, but also unique in that she's not the classic goth heroine who is overcome with compassion, fainting spells, hysteria, and insanely overdone innocence. She may not always be the wisest with her actions, but she's spirited in motive and refreshing with her courage and outlook.
The story is goth blended in with disorganized crime. While Gothics of the day usually held back most mystery on the evil deeds going on until later for a big reveal, this one shows them pretty early, having the character deal with them the best she can for the sake of a vulnerable aunt. There is a twist at the end on a villain, of course, but nothing too tightly woven. The book is lackluster because of this. We go through her life at the inn, face the horrors and discover the crimes, but there's not enough tension there to make it overly exciting.
“No, Mary had no illusions about romance. Falling in love was a pretty name for it, that was all.”
The relationship was another weird thing. It made little sense to me that she was so attracted to the brother, but then again it shows that she circled around to live the same life as the aunt she so harshly judges. He's a classic anti-hero though, so that's cool enough by concept. I didn't understand all the chemistry between them but I think it falls down to a few things - one, that the men's family tree lured in women of her line, like her aunt who had fallen for the uncle when they were younger. Second, that they both had some bond with how they were similar - she liked the adventurous and mildly daring, didn't mind a little lawbreaking, was rather wild and free in a way that would draw him in. That's probably why the uncle liked her a little too.
The ending was hardly romantic, it was a little bit of an abrupt afterthought, but if he didn't come back at all it would have bugged me.
Overall, the book needed a little more story rather than some of the padding to keep it fresh. It's worth reading for more of du Maurier's fantastic writing ability, her unusual characters who stand out like sore thumbs in a sea of normalcy, and for a darker themed gothic novel that dared to take chances with unusual violence.
“Dead men tell no tales, Mary.”
“And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”