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A High Wind in Jamaica

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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  8,511 ratings  ·  858 reviews
New edition of a classic adventure novel and one of the most startling, highly praised stories in English literature - a brilliant chronicle of two sensitive children's violent voyage from innocence to experience.

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 the
...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published September 30th 1999 by The New York Review of Books (first published 1929)
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Popular Answered Questions
LobZig What about Lord of the Flies by Golding? Not all of them were in age under 10 but still the book rests on children psychology and social behaviour
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Cricket Muse Hughes has captured well how a child copes with trauma. I don’t see Emily as a psychopath. I see her more as suffering PTSD. Reading Lord of the Flies…moreHughes has captured well how a child copes with trauma. I don’t see Emily as a psychopath. I see her more as suffering PTSD. Reading Lord of the Flies helps point out how children drop civility when exposed to a life of no boundaries—ships full of lawless men or an island with no adults. Both authors captured the coping mechanisms of not having ground rules to corral their tendencies toward savagery. Once Emily was again living with societal boundaries she adjusted.(less)

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  8,511 ratings  ·  858 reviews


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Vit Babenco
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A High Wind in Jamaica is written in a quite extraordinary and almost mysterious language:
Not a breath of breeze even yet ruffled the water: yet momentarily it trembled of its own accord, shattering the reflections: then was glassy again. On that the children held their breath, waiting for it to happen.
A school of fish, terrified by some purely submarine event, thrust their heads right out of the water, squattering across the bay in an arrowy rush, dashing up sparkling ripples with the tiny hea
...more
David
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Where has this book been all my life? I've been dreamily gazing out my window all these long hot summers, yearning for just the novel to fulfill my every need—to take me in its sweet-lovin' arms and say without ever quite saying, 'I'm the one. And I've brought the hot oils and penicillin.' It seems a little cruel, or at least irresponsible, for A High Wind in Jamaica to have hidden in the shadows of literary obscurity for so long, forcing me to waste precious hours of my life reading dreck like ...more
Paul Bryant
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
It’s like Richard Hughes had never read a novel before writing this one. He has no idea! Let’s break into stage dialogue here. In the middle of some action sequence let’s have a page about children’s games.

The shocks here are actually shocking because the prose is so cosy and jolly, all about these kids who grow up in the wilds of Jamaica and then are send by their parents to England to be educated, but their ship is taken by friendly pirates who deliberately don’t have any guns, and who end up
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Ted
I've rated this book a five before. Now a decades-later second reading, just finished. I would rate it higher, but I can't find the extra stars.



The NYRB cover illustration is a small segment of Storm Gathers by Henry Darger.
(view spoiler)
...more
Darwin8u
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, aere-perennius
"After all, a criminal lawyer is not concerned with facts. He is concerned with probabilities. 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 show what the ordinary man would be most likely to do under presumed circumstances."

description

A shortcut I use when thinking about a novel, and it IS a shortcut, is to imagine fitting the book I've just read within a series of oth
...more
Jimmy
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jimmy by: sophie
This is one of the best books I have ever fucking read. Don't even read this review... Just go read the book already! Then you can come back and read the rest of this review.

First of all the subject matter cannot be better: pirates, kids, pigs, monkeys, goats, earthquakes, hurricanes, clue-less adults.

Secondly, it's the language, stupid! The language is so fucking great. Hughes sometimes forms the most un-intelligeable sentences with the weirdest fucking words, but string them up in a way that g
...more
Spencer Orey
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dang those were some bloodthirsty kids. Hilarious, awful, poetic, and sometimes old school racist. Run away pirates, here come the terrifying children with some beautiful prose.
Duane
A surprisingly good novel, and well written, that sails quietly along without much notice or fanfare, like a ship at night. I use the nautical reference because most of this story is set on or close to the sea. But the story is about children, and how they think, and how they react to events and circumstances beyond their control. For me, there are subtle similarities to Lord of the Flies regarding the psychology of children when left to their own devices. It deserves it's place in the canon of ...more
Michael
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So deliciously strange, I couldn't put it down. The prose is just fantastic.
Roger Brunyate
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
 
A Subversive Masterpiece

[July, 2011] I have just begun reading New Yorker critic James Wood's wonderful handbook, How Fiction Works, and so am particularly attuned to questions of narrative voice: who is telling the story, with whose thoughts, and for what audience? A perfect focus for Richard Hughes' 1929 novel, a subversive masterpiece of apparently straightforward narrative used for disturbing ends.

Hughes writes like an adult telling stories to children. He is not a parent, but black-sheep U
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Emily M
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
" When swimming under water, it is a very sobering thing suddenly to look a large octopus in the face."

A strange tale. I considered marking it down on this reread, as at times it didn't seem quite the marvel I remembered from ten years ago, and yet the ending floored me, again. This is a book whose genius is to be consistently be about something different than what it appears to be, and to do this while retaining an engaging, adventurous plot, an effortlessly ironic tone, and an ensemble cast of
...more
Tony
Aug 10, 2016 added it
The high wind in Jamaica was a hurricane that destroyed the already decaying Bas-Thornton property. The close call causes the Bas-Thorntons to send their children back to Britain by merchant vessel. The ship is visited by pirates and before you can say Ahoy, Matey, the children and the pirates are off on an adventure.

A few bad things happen; more than that is imagined.

To make a simple thing of my reading of this book, the folks awaiting in Britain, including the Bas-Thorntons and the criminal
...more
Steve
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
High Wind in Jamaica was first published in 1929 as The Innocent Voyage. It was Hughes’ first novel -- he was 29. As it turned out, Hughes was not a prolific writer and is often used as an example when discussing writer’s block. He would go on to write, prior to World War II, a good Conradian sea novel (In Hazard) and then, in 1960, the much later - and admired - Fox in the Attic. Hughes died in 1975. Fox was part of an intended Tolystoyan-like trilogy dealing with events leading up to World War ...more
Rosana
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyrb, 2010, favorites
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. I
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Ben Ballin
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, perceptive and often perfectly poised, this adventure has a great deal to say about children and their inner world, and does so with humour and elegance. The one false note to modern readers will be its superficial and sometimes stereotypical treatment of Black Jamaican characters, especially in the early chapters, which are set on the island.
Nate D
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: bedtime stories for tiny crocodiles
Recommended to Nate D by: an oracular long-tailed mouse
Being nearly four years old, she was certainly a child: and children are human (if one allows the term "human" in a wide sense): but she had not altogether ceased to be a baby: and babies are of course not human--they are animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as cats have, and fishes, and even snakes: the same in kind as these, but much more complicated and vivid, since babies are, after all, one of the most developed species of the lower vertebrates.
It is true they look human--
...more
Katie
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is such an odd piece of fiction, bouncing back and forth between swashbuckling & funny and alienating & terrifying. Richard Hughes's novel follows the story of the Bas-Thorton children as they are sent away from their childhood home of Jamaica by their parents, and captured en route to England by a band of pirates.

The set up sounds like your standard adventure novel, and in some ways it is. But it's also a really interesting look at memory, how certain events are amplified into great impor
...more
Will
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an engrossing, strange and beautiful novel this is! The writing is exquisite. The style is unique with an often-dreamlike quality that contrasts sharply with a harsh and violent reality. In her introduction, Francine Prose states it far better than I can:

there is a humorous chirpy celebration to its narrative voice – and right away we are conscious of, and troubled by, the dissonance between tone and content.

Exactly. The contrast and balance between humor and what transpires is handled wi
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
At the end of the first paragraph of the introduction by Francine Prose is Indeed it recalls much about childhood that we thought (or might have wished) we had forgotten, while it labors with sly intelligence to dismantle the moral constructs that our adult selves have so painstakingly assembled. No, it doesn't recall anything of my childhood, nor does it dismantle any moral constructs. I don't even know what she's talking about. I didn't read any more of the introduction because she started tel ...more
Mosca
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Courageous realists
Recommended to Mosca by: New York Review of Books
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This book is startlingly good. The “humorous, chirpy celebration” of its prose does not seem to prepare the reader for the story’s numerous tragic reversals.

What at first may appear to be a children’s adventure story of a 19th century locale and flavor quickly evolves into a 20th century immediacy of content and psychology. Frightening, pointless, accidental violence is quickly forgotten and covered over.

Nothing important just happened.

What, for me, is most memorab
...more
Travis
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I can't really think of a better example of writing that captures the odd thought processes of children. It didn't just make me think that one should always write about children like this, it actually made me remember how it felt to be that age. And the noteworthy part of it is that the book draws a hard line between adults and children, rendering them separate species experiencing the world in a different way, with different value systems, and it is very convincing in doing so. At the same time ...more
Donald Powell
An inventive and compelling story of culture, crime, "justice", childhood and prejudice. This book captured the mystery of childhood naivete and the growing consciousness of maturing. It mixed the two worlds of "civilization" and those forced to live their lives in desperation for survival. It is a profound and moving indictment of "justice", reminding us issues of fiction continue to plague reality.
Carmen
Grown-ups embark on a life of deception with considerable misgiving, and generally fail. But not so children. A child can hide the most appalling secret without the least effort, and is practically secure against detection. Parents, finding that they see through their child in so many places the child does not know of, seldom realise that, if there is some point the child really gives his mind to hiding, their chances are nil.
So Emily had no misgivings when she determined to preserve her secret,
...more
Phil
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was a surprise. I was utterly spellbound by that book. Like nothing else I've ever read.

I think that the original UK title (The Innocent Voyage) works better as a title, because the whole story is told through the eyes of the children - Emily, in particular - with "innocent" used in all its meanings. It's such a curious work - with it being about children, and told from a child's viewpoint, but most definitely NOT a children's book. But it really felt as though Hughes got inside the m
...more
Brian
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
“Lame-foot Sam told most stories. He used to sit all day on the stone barbecues where the pimento was dried, digging maggots out of his toes.” When I read this passage on page six I just knew I was holding a champion of a book!

Pirates inadvertently kidnap a bunch of kids that are leaving Jamaica after a hurricane ravished the island. Their parents thought colonial life in Jamaica just too disturbing a place for children to be raised. The pirates soon find the children just too disturbing a speci
...more
Fionnuala
Being nearly four years old, she was certainly a child: and children are human (if one allows the term "human" a wide sense): but she had not altogether ceased to be a baby: and babies are of course not human--they are animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as cats have, and fishes, and even snakes: the same in kind as these, but much more complicated and vivid, since babies are, after all, one of the most developed species of the lower vertebrates.
In short, babies have minds wh
...more
Justin Evans
Sep 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Apparently Modern Library named this one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century. I'm not sure about that, but I can see why it might get consideration. Thankfully it is not, as Alice Sebald suggested, "a psychological deconstruction of childhood innocence," whatever that might mean. What it is is thoughtful, funny, sad and beautifully written. Hughes was clearly was a man who knew children, and more importantly, knew how stupid adults are around them, and are in general.
Cherie
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Strange and a little shocking but not nearly as awfulness as the introduction made it out to be. Children, left to their own devices and alone to play together in a wild and untamed landscape can make up just about anything. Throw them in the path of a boat full of sailors and who can tell what the outcome might be? Children are children and depend on adults, no matter who they are, to be taken care of. Beware adults.
Cphe
An unusual novel with some quite malevolent undertones. Enjoyed the setting, a lush and sultry Jamaica and life aboard a pirate vessel. It was the characters themselves that I found difficult to like, both child and adult. It's certainly a well written novel just not one that I felt an affinity to.
Smiley
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
For some reason, I decided to resume reading this juvenile novel first published in 1929 - a classic novel of childhood (back cover) - once again after browsing on Martin Amis and Richard Hughes in Professor John Sutherland's Lives of the Novelists (Profile Books, 2011, pp. 783-7) in which we are informed that Amis himself read this fiction and found it "a thrillingly good book . . . more continuously sinuous and inward (and enjoyable) than Golding." (p. 785) He meant of course William Golding's ...more
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NYRB Classics: A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes 16 75 Oct 23, 2019 06:25PM  

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Richard Arthur Warren Hughes OBE was a British writer of poems, short stories, novels and plays.

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Bryan Washington, the acclaimed author of 2019’s short story collection Lot, has returned with his debut novel, Memorial. The story follows...
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“Mathias shrugged. After all, a criminal lawyer is not concerned with facts. He is concerned with probabilities. 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 show what the ordinary man would be most likely to do under presumed circumstances.” 9 likes
“Being nearly four years old, she was certainly a child: and children are human (if one allows the term "human" a wide sense): but she had not altogether ceased to be a baby: and babies are of course not human--they are animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as cats have, and fishes, and even snakes: the same in kind as these, but much more complicated and vivid, since babies are, after all, one of the most developed species of the lower vertebrates.
In short, babies have minds which work in terms and categories of their own which cannot be translated into the terms and categories of the human mind.
It is true that they look human--but not so human, to be quite fair, as many monkeys.
Subconsciously, too, every one recognizes they are animals--why else do people always laugh when a baby does some action resembling the human, as they would at a praying mantis? If the baby was only a less-developed man, there would be nothing funny in it, surely.”
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