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In Hazard by Richard Hughes
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In Hazard (1938)

by Richard Hughes

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3381648,482 (3.7)37
Member:HartHouseLibrary
Title:In Hazard
Authors:Richard Hughes
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In Hazard by Richard Hughes (1938)

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English (15)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (17)
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The author, in his introduction to the Time-Life Reading Program edition of the novel, likens it to a dream as theorised about by Freud: a suppressed anticipation of WWII. Too bad he doesn't explore the Freudian dimensions of the naked underage Sukie, a sexual trope we find throughout Hughes' work. Hughes' narrative voice is unmistakeable and perversely engaging, even when he is wandering far off course. I would encourage you to read this in conjunction with Conrad's "Typhoon" to which In Hazard makes explicit reference.
  booksaplenty1949 | May 13, 2017 |
Considering it starts out like the technical chapters of Moby Dick, without bothering to tell you what any of the technical terms being used actually mean, this is one kick ass book. Hughes somehow manages to move from "here's how a steam boat's engine creates steam" to one of the better symbolic tales I've read. A few things to keep in mind, though, if you're thinking about reading it. The opening chapters really are boring, albeit boring with a purpose. So just know that. Also, it is so far from being a 'man vs nature' narrative that the only reason I can think for so many people to put it in that pigeon-hole is that they're uncomfortable with the fact that, really, man's biggest enemy is himself. Although the middle sections read like an adventure tale, the meat of the book is the stories of the crew, and what they've already been through before they get into this mess.
Also, a few reviewers complain that the book is racist. Here's a crash course on 'reading like a professor': just because a character says or thinks racist things doesn't mean the book is racist. In fact, the book goes to great, humorous lengths to show the stupidity of people making assumptions about others based on their race. But hey. It's much easier to quote some dipshit character than to read with any sort of care. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
This book is based on the true story of the Phemius, a ship which was sucked into the circular trajectory of a hurricane in 1932. The captain’s report of the experience so intrigued the Holt Line owner that he gave a copy to Richard Hughes ([b:A High Wind in Jamaica|188458|A High Wind in Jamaica|Richard Hughes|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172545599s/188458.jpg|2166961]) who turned it into this novel.

The ship was the well-cared-for Archimedes with a very competent captain and crew. The month being mid-November, the likelihood of a West Indian hurricane was more than remote, it was unheard of. The cargo was the usual motley of items including quantities of newspaper, which, because of their lightness, were stored fairly high in the hold. The barometer continues to drop precipitously and thinking he is sailing around the storm, Captain Edwardes finds himself in its clutches, perhaps from a twin since this storm doesn’t seem to be following the rules. Dick, the cabin boy, at first mesmerized by the fur of the wind, is in its thrall. “Then the exultation which the storm had raised in him whirled up in his head giddily, and he was sea-sick.”

At first the ship seems to be riding the waves with equanimity until a coir matting becomes lodged in the steering rods and steerage is lost leaving the ship to wallow broadside into the waves. To make matters worse, hatches, which are designed to withstand enormous pressure from above, were now subject to tremendously strong winds blowing across the deck, and, much as with an airplane’s wing, generated lift and creating a vacuum across the top of the hatches pushing them up from below.

It goes without saying (but I will anyway) readers disinclined to enjoy nautical books will not like this book. Tant pis pour toi. The rest of us will love it.

A picture of the Phemius at http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/3154.html that gives you a good idea of the superstructure and funnel which was lost in the 1932 hurricane. (The one described in the book took place fictionally in November 1929.)

Read the introduction by John Crowley to the NYRB edition. In it, he quotes Ford Maddox Ford as describing Hughes writing as so good as to be almost inhuman. “It’s hard … not to wonder whether Hughes ever made clear to himself the distinction between all-knowing divinity and pitiless chance.” Indeed. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Richard Hughes wrote this novel some nine years after ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’ but it is easy to recognise his style. Of course we have a familiar nautical setting even if this time it’s not children causing the problems but the hurricane. It’s Hughes’ voice which is immediately recognisable. As in the earlier book we have something of that Victorian authorial voice with the reader addressed in a familiar way, making it seem all very natural even if it’s the height of artificiality. For example, when he returns to a subject he’s mentioned before, he writes ‘Mr. MacDonald, I think I said, was chief engineer’.

The structure of the novel is interesting. Even its first readers would have known from the title that this was to be a book about fighting for survival in a storm so we are prepared for the quite long build-up – with the personalities of the main characters beginning to emerge and the details of the ship well established. I think Hughes does this well. I don’t know how Hughes got all his nautical information but unlike less capable writers he presents it in an interesting and natural way without being didactic or trying to impress.

The next section deals with the hurricane up to when they reach its eye and here, as you’d expect, the pace picks up and there’s lots of graphic detail. It’s when they plunge into the return of the tempest that Hughes slows up all the action and uses the thoughts of the characters, largely eschatological ones, to examine the nature of life and God – and, as in his first book, he throws down the gauntlet to conventional thinking, describing the death of a child as ‘a very small loss’ to the child – ‘a purse with only twopence in it – and an I.O.U.’ while an old person loses so much more – a purse ‘you had spent laborious years in filling . . memories of more than eighty years’.

Just how the reader is meant to react to the examination of the nature of God and an afterlife, I’m not sure. Hughes has Phillips seem fairly dismissive. ‘He said the Lord’s Prayer once and left it at that’, the wording of the end of this sentence really diminishing anything potentially positive in the first half. It’s this aspect of Hughes’ style that I like. When a Chinese sailor or the somehow diminishing ‘Chinaman’ is fetched up against the railings ‘with such a terrific impact as to bend them’ I was reminded of the similarly callous depiction of the ‘fat old beldam’ in ‘A High Wind’ bowled along by the hurricane there, another character who ‘fetched up’ somewhere. In the earlier book we can tell we’re seeing this through the child Emily’s eyes, but here it seems to be more Hughes’ poor opinion of the Chinese that emerges here and elsewhere in the novel. Still, style-wise it’s effective as is the balance when he talks about how engineers are keen on engines but don’t care what they’re used for. ‘He is as careless of where they take him as a man’s stomach is careless on what errand his legs are bound’. And the way the engineers and deck-crew keep apart, he suggests ‘they are segregated, as completely as boys and girls British education’.

While Hughes uses the return of the hurricane and different characters’ tired musings to look at the nature of things, it does interrupt the pace of the novel – and left me a bit unsure of what he was aiming for. He has verisimilitude, based as the story is on the true story of the S.S. Phemius, but I’ve also heard it described as allegorical – and if this is so, then just what is the story illustrating: man’s courage or its loss, the almost apocalyptic forces of nature, the nature of man . . . I don’t know. I’m also not sure how Hughes wants the reader to respond to the belated story of Ao Ling. It heightens our recognition of the callousness of the white crew, especially the self-aggrandising Dick Watchett. In fact, in the end it is perhaps only the Captain who attracts any sympathy from the reader. ( )
1 vote evening | Jun 21, 2013 |
Fairly gripping account of a steam-driven cargo ship caught in a multi-day horrific 'storm of the century' hurricane in the Caribbean........a novel based on an actual event that took place in 1932. A quick read that reinforces my longtime notion that the folks that climb onto these ships need to be very special indeed....a lot can go wrong out there, with Mother Nature fully in charge. As is usually the case, i learned a bit about the running of a cargo ship, but i felt that some of the character flashbacks felt a little forced, and in some cases, almost unnecessary.......u know....'back to the storm please....i wanna know what happened next!' No regrets. ( )
1 vote jeffome | Jun 30, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809437309, Paperback)

The story of a ship's and her crew's desperate struggle to survive the most powerful hurricane ever recorded.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:51 -0400)

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