Friday, 25 April 2014

What I've been reading: Jamaica Inn

Cue the drumroll, dim the lights as I say with tears in my eyes that this week I have managed to read a grand total of one novel.

Also, excuse me for a moment as I go, "Squeeeeeee!"

Because I damned well adore Daphne du Maurier. She is the is the first, the original, the shining light of those who take a genre and twist it until it starts to crack. She takes all the tropes, all the expectations of the Gothic (yay! Gothic!) or romance, or ghost story and makes them mainline a reality check. What results is terrifying, is rip-roaring, is as dark as treacle poured in your eyes during a power cut.

Dammit, yes, I'm enthusiastic because when push comes to shove, Daphne du Maurier writes for me and me alone.

That's how a good writer should make you feel, right?

Okay, some stuff

Just as Rebecca was a 'ghost story without a ghost', Jamaica Inn is essentially 'Udolpho with a main character you don't want to punch.' Like Emily, Mary is sent to live with a tyrannical uncle and a vain weak-willed aunt. Like in Udolpho we have isolation, we have coercion, we have dark deeds done under darknesses cover. Like in Udolpho, the driving force is the heroine's uncertainty, we are enthralled by terror, not horror, we fear what is suspected, not what is not seen. Unlike in Udolpho, however the sense of a strong but helpless person under continued stress is realistic and actually frightening. With Emily, you got the impression she'd act like that in a suburban house if she didn't like the colour of the wallpaper, but Mary Yellan is no delicate scion of a noble house. As a piece of psychological realism, Jamaica Inn is unsettling, as a work of Gothic, it is sublime.

Alright, it isn't perfect, but it's fabulous. Go read it. Go read it now.

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