A Favourite Classic Novel: ‘Jamaica Inn’ by Daphne du Maurier

My copy of ‘Jamaica Inn’ was given to me by my sister-in-law for my 16th birthday. I don’t know if she remembers giving it to me, but I certainly do. I hadn’t read any of du Maurier’s books before, and I read it in a day. Given the tendency of many other favourite books to migrate from my shelves to those of other people, it is something of a miracle that the very same copy is still on my bookshelf.  

Jamaica Inn is set in and around a Cornwall coaching inn in the early 1800s. It is a a dramatic and exciting story, full of mystery, intrigue, skullduggery and danger. 

Having come to live at Jamaica Inn with her relatives, Mary Yellan, the heroine of the story, learns the hard way that she can’t trust anyone she thought she should be able to, and that life on the moors can be as bleak and coldhearted as the weather.

It is reminiscent of Bronte’s Withering Heights in both the setting, even though the location is vastly different, and the characters who populate it, giving the book a strong sense of the kind of Gothic literature that was written a century earlier. It’s sinister and rather creepy, laced with vivid detail and evocative writing that brings the characters and  especially the settings to life. 

While it is classified as Romantic Literature, this book should not be mistaken for a romance – the two are very different things. In fact, it’s more of an anti-romance, showing men to be ignorant and selfish, some violent and others just rather stupid. It’s not about female vanity, but rather about the vulnerability of women living at a time when they were entirely dependent on their men to provide for and protect them. The contrasts between integrity and deceit, and between love and selfishness, are powerful, adding depth and drama to the compelling storyline. 

The thing I love most, though, is the writing: du Maurier’s craftsmanship is magnificent. That in itself makes her books well worth reading. 

P.S. I am excited that I actually got to use the word ‘skullduggery’ in a post, as it’s one of the most delightful words, yet one so rarely gets a chance to use it well.
I really am a word nerd.

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Women in Horror Month: Inspirations

I want to acknowledge two authors who were my first inspirations with all things Gothic and macabre.

As a woman who both reads and writes horror, that’s an exciting prospect. I am set to be be featured on some blogs and websites this month, and I’ll be sharing posts featuring other authors on my social media, too.

First though, I want to acknowledge two authors who were my first inspirations with all things Gothic and macabre.

Emily_Brontë_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restored

Emily Bronte was the author of the Victorian Gothic classic ‘Wuthering Heights’ and some very dark, moody poetry. It was a significant change in the literature of the time – it was so dark and fraught with anger and tension that many readers really had no idea how to respond to it. I also think it is a sign of her literary genius that she wrote a book that became recognised world-wide as a masterpiece and a classic, despite the fact that there is not one single character who is likeable throughout the whole work!

She is also a very fitting figurehead for Women in Horror Month, given that she and her sisters couldn’t get their books published until they deliberately put masculine pen names on them instead of their own. For the most part, we’ve moved beyond such Victorian prejudices and embraced the  myriad wonderful books that have been written by women, although there are still some today who suggest that women who write horror should publish under their initials or a pen name to avoid such discrimination. How is it even possible that this is still a reality 170 years later?

Mary_Shelley
Mary Shelley wrote  the Victorian Gothic/horror classic ‘Frankenstein’ in a competition with  her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet Lord Byron and another man named John Polidori to see who could write the best horror story in a given time. Not only did she write something incredibly powerful and ground-breaking on a number of levels, she beat three men at their own game in the process.

These are just two of the women in the course of literary history who made an event like Women in History Month a possibility for female authors and for readers of all persuasions in the 21st century.
What a debt of gratitude and honour we owe them.

A Deliciously Dark October!

A deliciously dark October is coming your way!

#spooktober #reading

It’s the end of September… which, of course, means writers are preparing to unleash all sorts of deliciously grim and spooky reads on the reading world next month.

I’m playing my part in that for the first time this year. I’ve never really considered writing horror before now, but I’ve certainly written some dark poetry in my time.

The Silver Feather Titled 6x9 Low Res

So I’m branching out with a new creepy short story/novelette  titled ‘The Silver Feather‘ that will appeal to all lovers of horror, Gothic literature and everything Friday the 13th and Halloween.  It’s not specific to those particular days, though, so readers can enjoy it all year.

 

I’ve also got some dark/grim poems lined up for WordyNerdBird Writes during October.

 

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Seasonal decorations in St Armand, Quebec, October 2015.