A High Wind in Jamaica

A High Wind in Jamaica

by Richard Hughes, Francine Prose

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Overview

Richard Hughes's celebrated short novel is a masterpiece of concentrated narrative. Its dreamlike action begins among the decayed plantation houses and overwhelming natural abundance of late nineteenth-century Jamaica, before moving out onto the high seas, as Hughes tells the story of a group of children thrown upon the mercy of a crew of down-at-the-heel pirates. A tale of seduction and betrayal, of accommodation and manipulation, of weird humor and unforeseen violence, this classic of twentieth-century literature is above all an extraordinary reckoning with the secret reasons and otherworldly realities of childhood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590173718
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 06/23/2010
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 174,220
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Richard Hughes (1900-1976) was born in Surrey, England, but his ancestors came from Wales and he considered himself a Welshman. After an early childhood marked by the deaths of two older siblings and his father (his mother then went to work as a magazine journalist), Hughes attended boarding school and, with every expectation of being sent to fight in the First World War, enrolled in the military. Armistice was declared, however, before he could see active service, and Hughes was free to go to Oxford, where he became a star on the university literary scene, with a book of poems in print and a play produced in the West End by the time he graduated in 1922. Hughes’s first novel, A High Wind in Jamaica, came out in 1928 and was a best seller in the United Kingdom and America. In Hazard followed ten years later. Hughes also wrote stories for children and radio plays, but his final major undertaking was the “The Human Predicament”, an ambitious amalgamation of fact and fiction that would track the German and English branches of a single family into the disaster of the Second World War while offering a dramatic depiction of Hitler’s rise to power. The work was planned as a trilogy, but remained incomplete at the time of Hughes’s death. The first volume, The Fox in the Attic, appeared in 1960, to great critical acclaim; volume two, The Wooden Shepherdess, was published in 1973. All of Hughes’s completed novels are available from NYRB Classics.

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High Wind in Jamaica 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Based on the reviews, I thought I would enjoy this more. While I liked the children in the story and the story itself, when I got done with it, I was left kind of feeling like 'so what?'! So, while I wouldn't highly recommend this book, I wouldn't tell someone not to read it either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a old classic, a must read. I grew up watching this the movie but had never read the book. I finally got my library to track down an old copy for borrowing, finally reading it. I must saw i was disapointed in some things but over all i enjoyed this book. I know of people who didnt like this book themselfs so i reccomend borrowing from your local library first before u spend money on a book u might not like. This movie is more children/family based but my opion is the book is more based for older kids (teens) and adults.
redbudnate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. My comments don't have any special insight others have not noticed, but the juxtaposition of the childhood innocence with piracy sucked me in quickly and kept me there. The book is so rich it almost drips with emotion and fantastic descriptions of the surroundings. You don't see the events through the eyes of the children, but you have a vivid understanding of how they perceive things around them. Here's a quote from early in the book that I thought represented the spirit of the story:"They soon came near him: where an orange tree loaded with golden fruit gleamed dark and bright in the moonlight, veiled in the pinpoint scintillation of a thousand fire-flies sat the old black saint among the branches, talking loudly, drunkenly, and confidentially with God."
BCCJillster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. My book group read it because we saw it on a list of 100 Best of the 20th century; not even a contender in my view. None of the characters were even likable and it was no Lord of the Flies for psychological tension among kids. Nope. It just didn't work for me. Sorry to those who love it.
doxtator on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After both an earthquake an a hurricane, the Bas-Thornton's decide to send their brood of children away from the wild elements of Jamaica, back to England where they shall attend school. Along with two neighboring children, the Bas-Thornton children--John, Emily, Edward, Rachel, and Laura--all board the Clorinda. Before reaching their destination, they are beset by pirates, and taken onto the pirate vessel where their future becomes murky. While this is a story about children, it is not a book for children. It is a novel meant for adults, particularly to challenge both our memories of being children, and our concepts of children. What notions of overlaid innocence and wickedness that the reader might have are over and over again dashed by the transpiring plot, and the actions of the children, the pirates, and the grown-ups otherwise involved. All are complicit, some far more than others, in the fates of those around them.This book's tale departs radically from the usual expected sorts of tales told about children and pirates. It will not please those who lap up the adventurous treacle usually doled out teaspoon by teaspoon, like a placating placebo. There are no heroes in this book, and no redemption. It is not a coming of age story, but rather a telling of an age (both time-setting and one's chronological measurement) that is lightly written even when the material is cudgel-heavy.
OmieWise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent story of children and pirates.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel was originally written in 1929, and is centered on the lives of two sets of British children who live with their parents in Jamaica in the late 19th century, after slavery was abolished and while the country was taking its first steps toward independence. The seven members of the Bas-Thornton family reside in a dilapidated house on an isolated and ruined sugar cane plantation, where the children enjoy each others' company amid the exotic flora and fauna, with minimal contact from the black Jamaicans who live in the surrounding hills. Their only contact with other whites is with the two children of the Fernandez family, who live along the seaside. The island is devastated by a fierce hurricane that destroys the Bas-Thornton's home, and the parents decide to send the children back to the safety of England, where they can receive a proper education and upbringing. The Fernandez children join them, along with a servant, and all are placed in the care of the captain of a small barque, as neither family can afford to send them to England on a steamer. En route, the ship is captured by a motley crew of pirates dressed as women, and the children are taken as booty. The pirates are unable to rid themselves of the children, and are forced to sail with them onboard while they search for other prey. Children being children, they adopt to and thrive in their new home, as they drive the pirates to perpetual distraction while endearing themselves to them.[A High Wind in Jamaica] is a mostly rollicking but occasionally tragic novel about imperfect but engaging and lovable children¿and pirates¿and a most enjoyable sea adventure that ended far too soon.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Children are evil. Not evil, but so amoral in their innocence that their actions are sometimes difficult to distinguish from evil. Richard Hughes examines this supposition in his comic novel A High Wind in Jamaica. Set at the end of the 19th century, when steam ships were beginning to replace schooners, something that worries the novel's pirates, A High Wind in Jamaica is the story of a group of children kidnapped by pirates while on their way to homes in England. Which group will turn out to be closer to the barbaric nature of uncivilized humanity: pirates, or children freed from proper adult supervision?The Bas-Thornton's have raised their children on a ruined sugar plantation in Jamaica where Mr. Bas-Thornton has a 'business of some kind.' Mrs. Bas-Thornton has not tried to maintain any sense of proper decorum. Instead her children, three boys and two girls, have been left to themselves, much to their delight.It was a kind of paradise for English children to come to, whatever it might be for their parents: especially at that time, when no one lived in at all a wild way at home. Here one had to be a little ahead of the times: or decadent, whichever you like to call it. The difference between boys and girls , for instance, had to be left to look after itself. Long hair would have made the evening search for grass-ticks and nits interminable: Emily and Rachel had their hair cut short and were allowed to do everything the boys did--to climb trees, swim, and trap animals and birds: they even had two pockets in their frocks.After an earthquake followed by a hurricane which destroys much of their home, the Bas-Thornton's decide to send the children back to England for their safety. Two months later, the Bas-Thornton's receive a letter from the ship's captain--their children have all been killed, murdered by pirates who raided the ship shortly after they set sail. But the truth is that the children willingly went with the pirates who afterwards found no one would take them off their hands. Over time, the pirates become attached to the children and, for a while, keep them on-board ship enjoying their company. The children quickly adopt the pirates as surrogate parents, big brothers really. They are enthralled by the ship's monkey. They become attached to both of the pigs kept on board for future use, treating them as foot cushions, thrones, and horses. The youngest girl, Laura turns everything she finds into a baby doll she can stash in it's own 'home' somewhere on board. (In the end she'll try to take them all with her, fighting the cook over a soup ladle baby she can't bear to be parted from.) Her brother Edward is overjoyed at his good fortune; he gets to be on a pirate ship without even having to run away from home. It all appears very innocent, but Mr. Hughes is interested in darker aspects of childhood. Early in the novel one child, John falls to his death while everyone is on shore. That night the children look at his empty bed wondering what to make of it. Afterwards, no one mentions John at all. He is forgotten by the children until their mother asks where he is once they are rescued. Emily, the captain's favorite, is devoted to him until one night when he has too much to drink he looks at her in a way she does not like. After that, she turns against him, which is understandable, but through her innocence she later exacts a terrible revenge which the captain does not deserve. A High Wind in Jamaica is a book about children, but it is not a book for children. Mr. Hughes enjoys the games and frolics of his child characters, but his sympathies lie more with the pirates. They are taken in by the children, the pirates find they are unable to properly civilize the children who find the absence of civilizing parental guidance a 'kind of paradise.' When it becomes clear that the children cannot stay on board any longer, the pirates must decide what to do with them. A true pirate would toss them in the sea
saskreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel has been on my "to read" list for quite some time, and I am SO glad I finally picked it up. This is absolutely the best coming-of-age story I have read; it's perfect, really.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whether or not you think that Richard Hughes' "A High Wind in Jamaica" works as a wholel, you've got to give him this: like Bill Watterson and Roald Dahl, he recognized that children occupy an entirely different psychological space than their elders. Of course, occasionally a judgement from the world of adults does make it through to this novel's youthful protagonists, but it usually bears little resemblance to the lesson that the adults intended to teach, and the adults themselves never seem to realize this disconnect. As others have mentioned, the novel's most interested in the moral dimensions of childhood: does the children's lack of knowledge about the world around them contribute to a naturally occurring amorality? I'll leave that for other readers to figure out, though, because "A High Wind in Jamaica" could also be read as a case study in the uncanny resilience of children. The Bas-Thorton and Fernandez children adapt without hesitation to just about any situation they're thrown into, and Hughes seems intrigued by the existence of a stage of human development where our preconceptions are almost infinitely malleable. Emily, for example, reacts to a minor earthquake, a pirate kidnapping, and a pet alligator with varying levels of interest, boredom, and quiet delight ¿ someone who lacks experience, as she does, can't be expected to tell the difference between the extraordinary and the merely ordinary, or the difference between right and wrong, for that matter. Still, I was also charmed by the way that the boys started planning their own careers in piracy almost from the moment that they were kidnapped. Hughes seems to realize that for imaginative children, life holds an almost unlimited number of possibilities: why should a lifetime spent on the high seas be considered any more remarkable than a quiet life lived in England? Hughes, unlike, say, Harper Lee or Roald Dahl, who wrote their child characters using a friendly, accessible indirect third person, draws a careful distinction between his own authorial voice and the lives of his young protagonists. Instead of using the children as narrators, he describes childhood in the same way that an anthropologist might describe a foreign culture: he makes incisive descriptions, draws comparisons, and makes inferences about their self-made social and moral structures, but he relates their story in a style that is complex, eloquent, and undeniably adult. In fact, there are places where I'm not sure that Hughes wasn't satirizing, or perhaps criticizing, the Victorian age's own well-formed ideas about a "separate space" for childhood and their concerns. With its seafaring narrative and "A High Wind in Jamaica" and its wild scenes of play and children's games, this might be the first novel influenced in equal measure by "Peter Pan" and "Heart of Darkness." Some readers, will, I think, find these extreme tendencies hard to accept; this is a novel that makes it difficult to believe in childhood innocence at all. Still, I came away from it think that it's pity that Hughes wrote only four novels, and only two aimed at adults; I suspect that he would have written superbly on any subject he chose.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had been meaning to read this 1928 classic (not that I read many classics) ever since hearing a glowing review of it on NPR's All Things Considered.I nearly gave up when I had difficulty slogging through the post-colonial references and the British slang, but about 50 pages in I got hooked.The story concerns a band of children who find themselves guests on a pirate vessel after the ship is highjacked that they're aboard while being evacuated from a dismal Jamaica to an England that only one of them even vaguely remembers. Stereotypes about childhood innocence (and piratical villainy) are smashed as we peer into the selfish minds of these kids.It's been many years since I read Lord of the Flies, but I suspect this book is far more disturbing than that one was.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Richard Hughes has crafted a unique tale of children at sea in the Caribbean. His novel is well written, bringing just the essential details of the world of the Bas-Thornton children to our attention. He also portrays a psychology of children that is precursor to that of Golding's Lord of the Flies. Hughes most carefully introduces the character of the children (especially Emily) slowly building suspense. The pirates do not have a chance. Their voyage is a violent voyage from innocence to experience, yet, as the novel accurately portrays them, they will probably gradually forget most of what has happened. This can be seen as an allegory on the level of those by Melville and others who have gone before.
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joycegal More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel but came away from it feeling like I just got to read a pirate's tale for grown-ups...
Sushia More than 1 year ago
When I heard the story on NPR about this book I was very, very excited and could not wait to bring this book into my book club. I have however since, read the book and was truly disappointed. The radio article hyped this story as being about the children who were captured by pirates and end up being more cruel then the pirates. The actual book was about children, inadvertently captured by pirates, followed by series of mishaps that can happen to children put into an exotic and sometimes hysterical state. I kept reading and reading hoping that with the turn of a page the story could only get better. I do think this book could be a good discussion topic for a group to review, only to gather the different opinions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The way the children just accept changes and don't think too deeply about some matters will remind you that children can be 'innocents' in the world. A a couple facts (about brother John and the parents) are not believable. It is a swashbuckling tale, and the children are swept into the adventure. The book leaves the reader with some points to debate, and that makes it a better read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read many reviews before reading the book my expectations were very high. After reading the book I wonder why it received such high marks. Hughes' style of writting can be confusing and hard to follow. However, his descriptions of the physcial world are great and depiction of thoughts and motives of characters is wonderful. The tale's end is what turned out exceedingly shocking. Till the very end I was expecting a moment where the guilty character would 'come clean' or something would happen to set everything 'right'. The travesty of justice that ends the book left me with a very fowl taste for the book and the author. It's not a terrible book, but it's not something I would recommend to anyone to whom I wanted to remains friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so happy to see this wonderful classic back in print! It is about the children of a group of white Jamaican planters who are shipped off to boarding school in England. The youngest is 6, if I remember correctly, so they are all somewhat traumatized at leaving their parents and homes to sail to the unknown. And their ship is attacked and captured by pirates!!! They are scared to death, but find the pirates treating them rather humanely. This is a must read for everyone and should be on every school library's shelves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i found this book last summer among the heaps the discarded books in the basement of our public library. it's spine was cracked in half and it's pages yellow--but what a wonderful book it turned out to be! i'm glad to see it's been printed again. please read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A true classic, not a minor classic. The quintessential tale of lost innosence. A collectors' book. All of that said>>I bought this new nyrb book with a different cover? Online, to send it as gift, I see the 'new' nyrb classic is new again>>so much for a timeless handsome collection. I am not buying this one. Bait and Switch? I bet the reviewer below is back to his first impressions! How do I find the first new version?