A high Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I always have a look on my shelves when the club year is announced and this was a book I already owned so it saved me from ordering another book and it is one I had long wanted to read, I think I may have seen the film when I was younger. Richard Hughes was a journalist and writer he wrote four novels I have another by him Fox in the attic. He was friends with Dylan Thomas who stayed with him. This book has been described as an inspiration for William Goldings Lord of the flies. Supposedly at the time, Hughes wrote the book he hadn’t visited Jamaica. But it is only featured in the first part of the book most of the action is on the sea.

The passage from Montego Bay to the Caymans, where the children had written their letters, is only a matter of few hours: indeed, in clear weather one can look right across from Jamaica to the peak of Tarquinio in Cuba.

There is no harbour; and the anchorage, owing to the reefs and ledges, is difficult. The Clorinda brought up off the Grand Cayman, the look-out man in the chains feeling his way to a white, sandy patch of the bottom which affords the only safe resting-place there, and causing the anchor to be let go to windward of it. Luckily,, the weather was fine.

The island, a longish one at the western end of the group, is low, and covered with palms. Presently a succession of boats brought out a quantity of turtles, as Emily described.

The natives also brought parrots to sell to the sailors: but failed to dispose of many.

The opening of the third chapter is as they set off on the first boat.

The book follows the aftermath of the Hurricane on an English Family in Jamaica whose property is destroyed by the storm. Which leaves the parents of the Bas-Thornton children to take the decision. It would be better to send their five children homeland in England. The children have very few memories of England and are sent with two creole children with them. They head to the port town Montego bay and on to a ship, the Clorinda with its captain Maypole the ship has barely set off when the ship is taken over by Pirates initially thaty seem to wan the cargo but then are looking for a safe they seize the children ( John, Emily, Edward, Rachel and Edward with the two creole Margaret and Harry.) and use them as leverage to get to know where the safe is on the ship. The chain of events that follows means the children end up with the pirates and the Captain Maypole of the ship Clorinda they were on writes to tell the parents the loss of the children rather than dying initially the pirates aren’t to bother with the kids but the chef and a couple of them befriend and the captain of the pirate ship takes a liking to Young Emily another has relations with another pirate as with the shackles of parental control the kids start to go rogue and act like the pirates, in fact, they maybe are worse than them. What will happen will they get home will they all get there alive what happens to them on that ship.

The children all slept late, and all woke at the same moment as if by clockwork. They sat up, and yawned uniformly, and stretched the stiffiness out of their legs and backs (they were lying on solid wood, remember).

The schooner was steady, and people tramping about the deck. The main-hold and fore-hold were all one: and from Where they were they could see the main-hatch had been opened. The captain appeared through it legs first, and dropped onto the higgledy-piggledy of the Clorinda’s cargo.

For some time they simply stared at him. He looked uneasy, and was talking to himself as he tapped now this Case with his pencil, now that; and presently shouted rather fiercely to people on deck.

And by the next chapter they awake to being on the pirate ship and what happens there.

I must admit I was one of those kids that never got into pirates which are maybe why I had never gotten to this book. But I was pleased the 1929 club gave me the nudge to read this book.I can see the connection to the lord of the flies and the way the children act once they are with the pirates.  This book maybe captures the last age of the pirates as it seems it is just as sailboats are making way for mechanical ships.I looked up to see if there had been cases of kids as pirates there were some kids in the 70s that were shipwrecked like the lord of the flies but they didn’t go like they did. I wonder if he had read an article about some kids taken by pirates as one of his other books In Hazard came from a news story. I’m sure there were children taken and became or were used by the pirates. It deals with the idea of what happens when there are no boundaries and no consequences for your actions on the young Bas Thorton children. He captures the darker side of childhood the book has a gothic feel at times in someways the writing reminds me of a couple of Daphne Du Maurier books I have read it maybe influenced her I feel he maybe was a Stevenson fan it is a darker cousin of Treasure island it also maybe has a nod to the books of Conrad another great writer of a ship bound fiction he captures that confined feeling of being on a ship on top of one another and how that makes people feel his trilogy of books set on the sea is set around the same time as both steamboats and sail ship share the high seas. Have you read this book or have you a favourite book set on the sea Pirate or otherwise?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anokatony
    Oct 27, 2022 @ 12:13:42

    I read this book in the 1990s on the recommendation of Martin Seymour-Smith (Who’s Who in 20th Century Literature) who had been my fiction guru for a long, long time. Other than that, I don’t remember much about it.
    Did you intend “Richard Hughesng” in the title?

    Reply

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Oct 27, 2022 @ 19:27:13

    It’s a lot darker than some other famous works involving pirates, isn’t it Stu – very Lord of the Flies in some ways.

    Reply

  3. Lisa Hill
    Oct 27, 2022 @ 22:24:47

    I think I must have read this as a child because the title was familiar but I didn’t remember anything about it till I read your review.
    I would have been too young to make any connection with Lord of the Flies, it would have been a companion to Treasure Island for me.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: That was the month that was October 2022 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  5. Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead
    Oct 31, 2022 @ 19:30:49

    Like you, I was never into pirates as a child (Treasure Island left me a bit cold); nevertheless, High Wind has been on my list to read for quite some time. I’ll probably get to a different Hughes novel first, however; again, like you, I have a copy of Foxes In The Attic (thanks to one of those NYRB flash sales!), which looks pretty interesting.

    Reply

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