It starts out when a young woman named Mary Yellan's mother dies, leaving her to the care of her aunt and uncle. She's never met her uncle, but she remembers her aunt as a happy, carefree, lovely woman and thinks it will be nice to live with her.
Hey, guess what? Her aunt married a foul, vile smuggler and lives in a derelict place on the Cornish moors called Jamaica Inn. Her life is now a pit of despair. Mary could just run away from the suffering and evil that she finds there, but she wants to rescue her aunt, which is commendable. Only instead of rescuing her, she kind of just hangs around despising her.
Then Mary meets Jem, her uncle's younger brother. Jem is a weird mixture of nice and nasty -- he's not a smuggler, he's a horse thief, which is obviously so much better. And he's generally kind and decent to Mary, except when he's making fun of her. I don't like Mary, but I really don't like Jem.
Oh, and then there's the rector in the next village, an albino named Mr. Davey. SPOILER ALERT: He turns out to be the most evil of all of the characters. I am so ridiculously tired of ministers turning out to be bad guys, y'all. Maybe in 1936, this was not such a hackneyed thing, but I'm not sure. And why are people with albinoism always ending up being villains too? I can't think of a single good albino character in book or film, but I can think of several bad ones (especially in the movies The Princess Bride and The Da Vinci Code). Grrr.
But the thing that bugged me the most about this book was the attitude toward being a woman that du Maurier gave Mary. She was constantly railing internally about how people didn't take her seriously or treat her fairly because she was a woman and they viewed women as illogical and weak and passive... and then she would turn right around and do something illogical or weak or passive. And she would deride herself for having emotional reactions to things like near-death experiences -- you're in shock, Mary! That has nothing to do with being female or male! I don't know, it was just weird how du Maurier seemed to be decrying the attitudes toward women in the 1800s, but she constantly reinforces the stereotypes she's supposedly angry with. I don't get it.
So, yeah... I actively disliked this book. I'm sorry if you really like it, cuz I know a lot of people do, but I didn't like a single character in it, and it annoyed me repeatedly. I will say, though, that the last 75 pages or so were very gripping, and I finished the book because I just had to find out how it all ended, so that aspect of the writing, I can respect, anyway.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for violence, passionate kisses, and descriptions of people dying in pretty horrible ways.
This is my 9th book read and reviewed for my 3rd Classics Club list and my 48th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.