BBC Radio 4, 20-31 December 2010
In this Book at Bedtime adaptation, Jamaica Inn came
across as a coming-of-age tale in which Mary Yellan is plunged into the nefarious would of smuggling in eighteenth-century
Cornwall. While the book can be treated as an historical romance, it is also a tale of inflated passions and chance discoveries,
in which gender roles are clearly delineated. The women remain passive victims of their destinies, and do not have much part
to play in the development of the plot. Mary reacts to specific situations; she is caught in a web of intrigue beyond her
control. The male characters on the other hand assume an active role, either as smugglers or as confidantes helping Mary to
deal with her mental trauma, once she discovers what her family is really like.
At another level the story is one of self-discovery; a woman's progress from innocence
to maturity, as she discovers just how much evil exists in the world, mostly male-initiated. The ending of Jamaica Inn
reinforces this idea, as Mary resolves to live the rest of her life as an "old " woman - "old," in this sense being equated
with an awareness of evil and self-interest in a world which had once seemed far less complicated.
Tamsin Greig's reading emphasized the feminist aspects of the tale; she impersonated
all the characters, but took care to read Mary's dialogue in an ingenuous manner, suggesting that she had no idea what kind
of world she was entering, once she came to Jamaica Inn. Hence her desire for a male protector. Yet even they cannot offer
her succour; the only way she can survive is to strike out on her own.
At the end of the adaptation Greig's narration changed; she now used a lower vocal
register for Mary, suggesting her desire to fend for herself, even in an hostile world. The book's ending was simultaneously
optimistic yet pessimistic: Mary has lost her innocence, yet she has acquired strength, something emphasized in Greig's narrative
tone. The producer was Alison Crawford.