Please note that I gave this book half a star, but rounded it up to 1 star on Goodreads.
This book irked the life out of me. I don't know if I can even begin to count the ways that pretty much every character you come across, even the bad guy, were the dumbest human beings that apparently ever lived. At this point I wonder if du Maurier was trolling her readers or what. This is the same author who wrote "Rebecca", I can't imagine she didn't realize how ridiculous a good 99 percent of this book was while reading it.
Mary Yellan, a 23 year old woman goes to live with her aunt and uncle at Jamaica Inn which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the moors. Mary goes to live with her aunt since her dying mother wanted her to go and be with her Aunt Patience. Mary has no idea what her aunt's life is like, expect when she saw her last she had her pick of men and went off and married a man named Joss Merlyn.
Once Mary gets to Jamaica Inn (after being warned off by people by the way) she realizes that the inn is falling apart and there don't seem to be any travelers about. Meeting her uncle for the first time he threatens to beat and also rape her if she dares to talk back to him or get nosy about what is going on in Jamaica Inn. Mary's Aunt Patience is a pale shadow of a woman who apparently has been so beaten down by her terrible husband she doesn't say anything and puts her niece to bed after witnessing her husband act like a piece of crap to her.
AND YET MARY STAYS! (TSTL mark one)
This whole book was an exercise in frustration. You have Mary thinking she is smarter than everyone else and getting the upper hand on her uncle and yet she keeps doing stupid things throughout this book. She's not that smart.
Other characters are written so poorly you can't make much sense of them. Aunt Patience is just a beaten character with no sense. Joss Merlyn is even more terrible then you can imagine, and even when Mary finds out the truth behind Jamaica Inn she still stays due to some misguided loyalty to her aunt. I would have been out of there as soon as possible.
We also get Mary introduced to Joss's brother Jem and lord. The stupidity of this love affair was just rage inducing. Jem is a horse thief who talks about women as if they are to be pitied and mistreated because that's all he knows. Heck he calls Mary names to her face and this fool sits there and cleans his home (in 30 freaking minutes) and feeds him to boot.
The writing was repetitive to the point that I think du Maurier wanted us to fall asleep while reading or to skim. Joss Meryln tells Mary she has monkey eyes so many times I was sick of reading it. Also what the heck does that even mean? Joss's brother Jem tells her she has a faun face, or maybe someone else does. Either way I was sick of reading about how Mary looked every second of the day. And as other reviewers noted, Mary is apparently the fastest walker who has ever existed. Based on how far apart the inn was from certain landmarks she can get anywhere while walking briskly in 30 freaking minutes practically. I mean I didn't grow up during horse and buggy times, but even I realized that there is no Earthly way for her to be sashaying up and down the moors in like an hour and never being tired and just a little bit wet here and there.
The flow was awful from beginning to end. By the time Mary is kidnapped for the second time (TSTL mark one million) I just wanted her to come to a bad end because I was sick of reading how she somehow got out of something in the stupidest manner ever.
The setting of Jamaica Inn was meh to me. I think that is because du Maurier didn't make it feel like some malevolent force. When I read "Rebecca" Manderly felt like a living and breathing house that was the culmination of the character Rebecca. Jamaica Inn read like it was some run down little hovel that was barely fit for animals to even live in.
By the way am going to totally spoil the ending so look away now.
The book could have redeemed itself if Mary had stuck to her druthers and returned to her home in Helford. Instead she gives that all up to run off with Jem (by the way don't think he was proposing marriage) and live a hard life similar to the one her Aunt Patience did with Jem's brother Joss. Maybe that was the ultimate tragedy of Jamaica Inn and Mary. She looked down her nose on her aunt and didn't realize she wasn't much better than her in the end, she overlooked every terrible thing that Jem was telling her about himself because love.