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A High Wind in Jamaica (1929)

by Richard Hughes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,875596,926 (3.87)213
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.
  1. 10
    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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» See also 213 mentions

English (57)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
What a strange little book. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
We had a snow storm that lasted 36 hours or so. While the wind howled outside, I sat by the fireplace with this book all day yesterday. I grabbed it again this morning and, funny thing, the storm let down about the time I finished it this afternoon. Now I don’t know if the storm was so bad as I recall it, or it was this disturbing story that made everything look so dark and disquieting for the past 2 days.

First things first, this is not a children’s story. It is not a young-adult story either. It is a very adult and distressing tale, where children happen to be the main protagonists. Hughes genius shows in how well he captures these children’s voices, in special the voice of Emily.

The most delightful passage in this story is when suddenly Emily realizes her own existence. She ponders further that maybe she was herself God. My son, now entering teenage years, also tells about the moment he became aware of his own existence. He was more precocious than Emily, but he does not verbalize the experience as she does either. The point is, we all must at one time come to the same conscious realization, and later forget it. Hughes brings it back in a way that is tender, but also rings with truth.

Most passages though carry a darkness that cannot be erased very easily by Emily’s existential questionings. There is death, murder, rape, lies, jealousy in every page.

The setting also deserves a comment: although I don’t deny that this story may be historically accurate – I would not doubt that newly freed slaves would not kill their previous masters, be it by starvation or more deliberately feeding them ground glass. Piracy was also probably still very common in the middle of the 19th century. Hangings certainly were, and the inefficiency of the judicial system still is. Hughes’ Jamaica and later London are not the Jamaica and London of this realm, but one from a parallel world, barely more colourful than reality, yet different, more comic or caricature.

It just occurred to me that Hughes might have wanted to tell a more real vision of childhood as opposed to Peter Pan – another English story about pirates. I should search this before writing about it, but I won’t. I am ready to let go of this tale, as much as I am ready for the Sun to start shining outside. I am giving it 5 stars because I think it defies genre and time, but I don’t think I will re-read it any time soon. I can only take bleakness on small doses.
( )
1 vote RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
A book about children and pirates? Sounds fun. And on the surface it is. The five Bas-Thorton children are being raised in a haphazard fashion on a dilapidated plantation in Jamaica in the mid-1800s. After an earthquake and a hurricane in quick succession, the parents decide to send their children, along with two other children, to England for safety. Not long after departing, the barque is overrun by pirates. In a comedy of errors, the pirates attempt to use the children as hostages and instead end up stuck with them on their ship. One almost feels sorry for the pirates. But throughout the entire book there is an undercurrent of darkness, which only gets more disturbing as the tale progresses.

Although the word trauma is never used, the children are exposed to a series of traumatic, life-threatening events, from natural disasters to kidnapping, and they must cope without any emotional support from adults. Left to make sense of the world on their own, they come to decisions that can be funny (are the sailors pirates or pilots?) or cold and deadly. By the end of the book, even the things that seemed funny earlier take on darker meaning. ( )
  labfs39 | Mar 26, 2021 |
Modern Library put this book on its list of "100 best novels of the twentieth century". I am perplexed. This is an odd story of an English family living in Jamaica in the early 1900s. When they experience a hurricane, the parents decide it's a good idea to send their young children (all under 10) back to England on a ship by themselves. The children set off on a ship which is promptly overrun by pirates. This sets them on a strange, sometimes violent, dangerous voyage.

I was disengaged a lot of the time from this. I guess it was an adventure story, but it didn't grab my attention. I would often read a couple of pages and then think, wait, what just happened?! And go back to reread some unbelievable chain of events. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this. It seems to be a book that many people love. It just wasn't for me. ( )
  japaul22 | Feb 6, 2021 |
Ugh, after about 10 pages the racism and cruelty to both animals and people was more than I could abide. This is supposed to be a classic?
  amyem58 | Nov 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hughes, Richardprimary authorall 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.
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.
Of course it is not really so cut-and-dried as all this; but often the only way of attempting to express the truth is to build it up, like a card-house, of a pack of lies.
The morning advanced. The heated air grew quite easily hotter, as if from some reserve of enormous blaze on which it could draw at will. Bullocks only shifted their stinging feet when they could bear the soil no longer: even the insects were too languorous to pipe, the basking lizards hid themselves and panted. It was so still you could have heard the least buzz a mile off. Not a naked fish would willingly move his tail. The ponies advanced because they must. The children ceased even to muse.
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Originally published in the US as The Innocent Voyage
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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.

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Average: (3.87)
1 7
1.5 2
2 17
2.5 6
3 56
3.5 30
4 127
4.5 26
5 82

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322153, 1590173716


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