A High Wind in Jamaica – Richard Hughes, A Great Book

A High Wind in Jamaica is on almost every must-read list, so it caught my attention. I bought it years ago, in İstanbul, while I was living there. Interestingly, I was more interested in the cover than the title of the book at the time. There were huge boxes full of books in the bookstore’s foreign books section. I realised that most of them were damaged but still very much in good condition. Among all the titles, A High Wind in Jamaica’s cover looked so attractive that I grabbed it without thinking much. It was only 10 pence.


A few days later, while browsing through what I bought, I realised that I actually bought a book that I couldn’t find the original if I wanted. I’ve always loved books that came into my life with strange coincidences, and this book was no exception.

A High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica tells the story of children kidnapped by pirates. However, as you progress through the book, one witnesses how interesting this abduction story can get. I don’t have any children in my life. There are no kids in my family, and my friends don’t have any. I have not spent time with a child for a very long time. Frankly, I’m not very keen on it. After reading this book, I couldn’t help thinking that I am doing fine.

Published in 1928, the book received strong reactions due to its subject and characters. Nowadays, I am sure sensitive parents will react the same (that is, if they find the time to read). That’s why this is such a good book. It was fascinating to read how easily children adapt to something or the environment, the right and wrong concepts. Moreover, it was absurdly enlightening for me to see how “bad” a child could be in its most natural form. It has a significant impact on my decision not to have any children, and I love it a lot.

A High Wind in Jamaica is an excellent book. It will leave you with that priceless feeling that you have after reading a great book. There is also a film starring Anthony Quinn, made in 1965. I didn’t watch it, but if you like old films, you may like this one as well. Enjoy!

A High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica

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 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.

Richard Hughes

Richard Arthur Warren Hughes OBE (19 April 1900 – 28 April 1976) was a British writer of poems, short stories, novels and plays. He was born in Weybridge, Surrey. His father was Arthur Hughes, a civil servant, and his mother Louisa Grace Warren who had been brought up in the West Indies in Jamaica. He was educated first at Charterhouse School and graduated from Oriel College, Oxford in 1922. A Charterhouse schoolmaster had sent Hughes’s first published work to the magazine The Spectator in 1917.

The article, written as a school essay, was an unfavourable criticism of The Loom of Youth, by Alec Waugh, a recently published novel which caused a furore for its account of homosexual passions between British schoolboys in a public school. At Oxford he met Robert Graves, also an Old Carthusian, and they co-edited a poetry publication, Oxford Poetry, in 1921. Hughes’s short play The Sisters’ Tragedy was being staged in the West End of London at the Royal Court Theatre by 1922. He was the author of the world’s first radio play, Danger, commissioned from him for the BBC by Nigel Playfair and broadcast on 15 January 1924.

He wrote only four novels, the most famous of which is The Innocent Voyage (1929), or A High Wind in Jamaica, as Hughes renamed it soon after its initial publication. Set in the 19th century, it explores the events which follow the accidental capture of a group of English children by pirates: the children are revealed as considerably more amoral than the pirates (it was in this novel that Hughes first described the cocktail Hangman’s Blood). In 1938, he wrote an allegorical novel, In Hazard, based on the true story of the S.S. Phemius that was caught in the 1932 Cuba hurricane for four days during its maximum intensity. He wrote volumes of children’s stories, including The Spider’s Palace.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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