Audio Book Reviews – Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier and The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

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I bought this without even reading the synopsis because it was in a sale on Audible and I had really enjoyed this author’s other books Rebecca (my review) and My Cousin Rachel (review). Those could, I suppose, be classed as “romance” novels of a sort, so I expected Jamaica Inn would be much the same – perhaps some young barmaid’s ribald adventures in the titular tavern, fending off drunken oafs and jealous older women before finding love in some unlikely place.

Well, it’s nothing like that (thankfully)!

This is a dark book, even darker than Rebecca and, rather than a cast of dozens, only a handful of characters are ever seen. Jamaica Inn is no bustling drinking den in a busy city, as I expected – it’s a run-down old place, with a murderous landlord whose only patrons are the occasional smugglers who eventually turn out to be much worse than our hero Mary-Ellen suspects.

There’s a little bit of romance, but no more than there is in, for example, my own Wolf’s Head. It’s there, but it’s not the focus of the book – this is a tale about a young woman thrown into a horrible situation by the death of her mother, trying to not only survive but see justice done for the terrible things going on at Jamaica Inn.

Mary-Ellen is a very strong female lead and it’s impossible not to like her, just as it’s impossible not to be drawn into this compelling tale. There’s not a huge amount of action in it, and the main twist I saw coming pretty much from the start, but the writing is so damn good that, like Rebecca, you will not want to stop listening/reading until you find out how it all ends.

Daphne Du Maurier’s novels are spoiling me – I feel like anything I listen to after one of her books is a step down! Hopefully it brings my own writing up a level…

The narrator here, Tony Britton, also deserves a mention as his reading is truly fantastic. He manages the various accents with ease, and even sounds good doing women’s voices which is a hard trick to pull off. I’d say he is one of the very best narrators I’ve heard so far and that’s a fair compliment.

This is an excellent, surprising book that I recommend massively. Please, if you have an Audible account, give this a listen.

5/5

 

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Another strange one. Right away I can recommend it because it’s a decent story and it lasts for over 24 hours! It took me a long time listen to, but I enjoyed it a fair bit.

It’s a strangely structured book, and rather dated, but read excellently by Bilbo Baggi– sorry, Sir Ian Holm. The story, well, to be honest, it’s fairly simple but somehow the author manages to make it last for a very long time, sometimes bringing in elements that never really go anywhere. I guess this is okay because of that aformentioned structure which sees a variety of narrators telling the tale. Don’t be put off by that though, as it’s all very much in the author’s own voice.

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Sir Bilbo Holm. Or is it Ian Baggins? 

I believe this is seen as something of a classic although I can’t really see why. I certainly enjoyed it well enough but it’s not particularly well written, there’s no real action and the characters aren’t that well drawn. There’s some laugh-out-loud moments but they’re unintentional and due to how un-PC the writing is. I didn’t note the exact phrases but when the lead, male character first meets a certain woman he describes her in such insulting terms that I couldn’t help cackling with disbelief and rewinding it to make sure I heard it right.

There’s some twists and turns, a mystery, some romance, a lunatic in a white dress who keeps reappearing, some bastards of men and it’s all nicely narrated. Overall, it’s very atmospheric, draws you into the period and, like I said, it lasts for ages so is great value for a monthly credit.

Recommended – 4/5

My next listen is an 80’s fantasy romp from the Dragonlance stable. I felt like I needed a change from the “gothic romance” type thing I’ve been getting into lately, so it will be interesting to go back to the heroes and legends of high fantasy for a while. Look out for a review soon. (You can find the review for the previous book in the series HERE)

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