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A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
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A High Wind in Jamaica (1929)

by Richard Hughes

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1,588486,662 (3.91)181
  1. 00
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Similar in theme, different in tone.
  2. 00
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: Both are great novels revealing the darker side of childhood imagination
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English (45)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
After a terrible hurricane levels their Jamaican estate, the Bas-Thorntons decide to send their children back to the safety and comfort of England. On the way their ship is set upon by pirates, and the children are accidentally transferred to the pirate vessel. Jonsen, the well-meaning pirate captain, doesn't know how to dispose of his new cargo, while the children adjust with surprising ease to their new life. As this strange company drifts around the Caribbean, events turn more frightening and the pirates find themselves increasingly incriminated by the children's fates. The most shocking betrayal, however, will take place only after the return to civilization. The swift, almost hallucinatory action of Hughes's novel, together with its provocative insight into the psychology of children, made it a best seller when it was first published in 1929 and has since established it as a classic of twentieth-century literature - an unequaled exploration of the nature, and limits, of innocence.
1 vote Cultural_Attache | Jul 21, 2018 |
I found this story curious, amusing and baffling at the same time. It's about five English kids who have been raised in Jamaica at the end of colonialism. Their parents' estates collapse when a hurricane basically levels the island, and the kids are shipped off to England for safety. The ship doesn't get far when it is set upon by pirates, and the children get transferred to the pirate ship. The adults on the orignal boat think them killed, the pirates make off with their loot and then don't know what to do with the kids. They try to offload them on another island, and fail. They take them along criss-crossing the Carribean in a desultory way (piracy being a faltering occupation at the very end of its heyday) and rather ignore their presence unless forced to deal with them. So the children are more or less left to their own devices on board. Someone else said the book was like a mix of Lord of the Flies with Peter Pan or Treasure Island- I'd concur.

The story is mostly concerned with the inner lives of children- and how different it is from adults' reasoning. The children unquestioningly accept their change in circumstances and adapt, even developing an affection for the pirates they now live among. Not so many horrid things occur as you might think- although what events do turn, are awful enough- however seen through a hazy uncomprehending screen of the childrens' viewpoint most of the time.... Most of it though is about the strange dreamlike inner world the children inhabit (for one in particular, Emily, it shows her sudden self-realization quite distinctly.) Their games and small bitter quarrels, their quirky logic and fierce battles for attention. Eventually the children's presence becomes a hindrance to the pirates, who determine to be rid of them- but in a humane way if they can. The fragmented way in which the kids answer questions after they leave the pirate ship, mis-remembering certain incidents, entirely forgetting others, fixating on small details that don't seem relevant- that appeared quite accurate to me. There's a terrible ironic twist at the end. The whole story is so odd and uneven, yet brilliant in its depiction of the kids in a rough situation. I had a hard time getting through it and at the same time can't stop thinking about it. I'm not sure if I really like it, but it's one I want to re-read later and see what I think again.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
1 vote jeane | May 9, 2018 |
The High Wind in Jamaica was first published in 1929 as The Innocent Voyage. If you want to draw comparisons, one could consider the story one part Treasure Island, one part Lord of the Flies, with a sprinkle of Lolita thrown in for good measure. Taking place in the late 19th century, we meet the Bas-Thornton children as they explore the jungle and water-holes surrounding their family's Jamaican plantation. After a hurricane practically demolishes their home, the Mr. and Mrs. Bas-Thornton decide to send their children back to England for their safety. Saying anything more than that is hard to do without introducing spoilers. :)

The nature of children is an essential element to the story: how hard it is to tell what they are thinking, how easy it is for them to forget, and how dangerous that can be.

"It is a fact that it takes experience before one can realize what is a catastrophe and what is not. Children have little faculty of distinguishing between disaster and the ordinary course of their lives. If Emily had known this was a Hurricane, she would doubtless have been far more impressed, for the word was full of romantic terrors. But it never entered her head: and a thunderstorm, however severe, is after all a commonplace affair." (p.31-32)

Reading A High Wind in Jamaica feels like a surrealist dream, following the Bas-Thornton and Fernandez children from a decaying plantation to the high seas and beyond. Hughes is a master of showing, not telling, and leaving the reader to connect the dots and draw their own conclusions. As a reader, I appreciate that, it is a skill that is lacking in many modern-day bestsellers. It is a classic that should be more well-known and discussed than it is. ( )
1 vote abergsman | Mar 20, 2018 |
I think I was vaguely conscious of this book as a child, as one of those traditional children's books (perhaps something along the lines of Treasure Island) that I'd never got around to reading. But recently I've heard it strongly recommended (twice) in the BBC Radio 4's 'A Good Read' programme, so when it was one of the choices in the BAC, I thought I'd give it a try. And having read it, I can't help being a little surprised that anyone would have ever considered it a children's book in the first place.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Bas-Thornton children live a somewhat uncontrolled but idyllic life on the island of Jamaica, where their father has a business, albeit a not very profitable one. When a hurricane strikes and destroys their home, their parents decide that the Caribbean is too dangerous, and the children must be sent home to England to be educated. They are duly dispatched on the Clorinda under the care of Captain Marpole, but within a few days of setting out the ship is captured by pirates and the children are taken. Captain Marpole kindly writes from Havana to comfort Mr & Mrs Bas-Thornton:

There is one point on which you will feel some anxiety, considering the sex of some of the poor innocents, and on which I am glad to be able to set your minds at rest, the children were taken into the other vessel in the evening and I am glad to say there done to death immediately, and their little bodies cast into the sea, as I saw with my own eyes. There was no time for what you might fear to have occurred and this consolation I am glad to be able to give you

Of course, the children are not dead, but they are too young and ignorant of the ways of the world to understand what is really going on around them. Margaret Fernandez, a rather older girl travelling with the Bas-Thorntons, is inconsolable on the first night of their capture because she has more understanding of what might happen, but she is dismissed as silly ...

This is a story of lost innocence, in more ways than one. Its original US title was The Innocent Voyage and clearly that was meant ironically. There is very little that is innocent about this voyage ... ( )
1 vote SandDune | Jan 12, 2018 |
So deliciously strange, I couldn't put it down. The prose is just fantastic. ( )
1 vote MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (48 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Hughesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Darger, HenryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karascz, IlonaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuper, MaryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lambert, SaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maloney, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peereboom, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prose, FrancineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Time EditorsPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Untermeyer, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watkins, VernonForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One of the fruits of Emancipation in the West Indian islands is the number of ruins, either attached to the houses that remain or within a stone's throw of them: ruined slaves' quarters, ruined sugar-grinding houses, ruined boiling houses; often ruined mansions that were too expensive to maintain.
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When Destiny knocks the first nail in the coffin of a tyrant, it is seldom long before she knocks the last.
It is the novelist who is concerned with facts, whose job it is to say what a particular man did do on a particular occasion: the lawyer does not, cannot be expected to go further than to show what the ordinary man would be most likely to do under presumed circumstances.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Originally published in the US as The Innocent Voyage
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0940322153, Paperback)

A High Wind in Jamaica is not so much a book as a curious object, like a piece of driftwood torqued into an alarming shape from years at sea. And like driftwood, it seems not to have been made, exactly, but simply to have come into being, so perfectly is its form married to its content. The five Bas-Thornton children must leave their parents in Jamaica after a terrible hurricane blows down their family home. Accompanied by their Creole friends, the Fernandez children, they board a ship that is almost immediately set upon by pirates. The children take to corsair life coolly and matter-of-factly; just as coolly do they commit horrible deeds, and have horrible deeds visited upon them. First published in 1929, A High Wind in Jamaica has been compared to Lord of the Flies in its unflinching portrayal of innocence corrupted, but Richard Hughes is the supreme ironist William Golding never was. He possesses the ability to be one moment thoroughly inside a character's head, and the next outside of it altogether, hilariously commenting.

Irony finds a happy home indeed in the book's mixture of the macabre and the adorable. The baby girl, Rachel, "could even sum up maternal feelings for a marline-spike, and would sit up aloft rocking it in her arms and crooning. The sailors avoided walking underneath: for such an infant, if dropped from a height, will find its way through the thickest skull (an accident which sometimes befalls unpopular captains)." In that "such an infant" lies a world of mordant wit. In fact, throughout, Hughes's wildly eccentric punctuation and startling syntax make just the right verbal vehicle for this dark-hearted pirate story for grownups.

Hughes enjoys some coy riffing on the child mind, as with this description of the way Emily handles an uncomfortable social situation: "Much the best way of escaping from an embarrassing rencontre, when to walk away would be an impossible strain on the nerves, is to retire in a series of somersaults. Emily immediately started turning head over heels up the deck." Even so, Hughes never sentimentalizes his subject: "Babies of course are not human--they are animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as cats have, and fishes, and even snakes." Children, as a race, are given rough treatment: "their minds are not just more ignorant and stupider than ours, but differ in kind of thinking (are mad, in fact)." That madness is here isolated, prodded, and poked to chilling effect. But Hughes never loses sight of his ultimate objective: A High Wind in Jamaica is, above all, a cracking good yarn. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Presents the story of children sent to England after a hurricane destroys their parents' Jamaican estate; after a pirate attack, the children are accidentally placed on a pirate vessel, and they adjust to life on the pirate ship.

» see all 4 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322153, 1590173716

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