Literary England – Jamaica Inn

Will and I are both fans of writer, Daphne duMaurier. Her novel Rebecca is one of my all-time favourite books. I recently read it for the third time and, over the the years, I’ve seen several T.V. and movie versions. Even though I knew what was going to happen, the story gripped me to the end. A few aspects here and there were dated but, for the most part, I was impressed by DuMaurier’s writing skill and feel it holds up to today’s standards.

Most of DuMaurier’s novels are set in Cornwall or Devon in the U.K. Since Will and I would be spending a week in Cornwall, we brought along a copy of DuMaurier’s novel Jamaica Inn for our travel reading. Both of us had read it before, but couldn’t remember the details. I read the book on the plane going over. Will finished it the day before we visited the real-life Jamaica Inn, which inspired the story.

Click on the Jamaica Inn website and you hear a creak, creak, creak meant to put you in the mood for a creepy experience. In the novel, DuMaurier’s protagonist goes to live with her aunt, her only living relative, at Jamaica Inn. The aunt’s husband is a brute. While his loutish comrades come to the inn to drink, no one ever stays there. Is the inn is a cover for shady business? This turns out to be smuggling.

Today, people stay at the inn. I don’t know that I’d want to after reading the novel and seeing the place. A big draw is its rumoured hauntings.

Jamaica Inn

At the inn, we visited the Daphne duMaurier Smugglers musuem. It presents a good history of smuggling in  Cornwall which persisted to the 1960s and, perhaps, into more recent times.  Displays show objects used to conceal drugs and other smuggled items.

The other part of the museum focusses on Daphne DuMaurier’s life. Her father was an actor who was so famous in his time that a tobacco company named their cigarette brand after him. You can see Daphne DuMaurier’s writing room and watch an interview with her son, who talks about why a Londoner like his mother felt at home in Cornwall.

Daphne duMaurier's writing room

After visiting Jamaica Inn and learning about smuggling in Cornwall, I understand how both would have fired the writer’s imagination. Lots of scope for drama, romance and rivetting story.

Jamaica Inn was well worth a visit, but I spent the night at an inn with no ghosts.