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Summary

Set in the 19th century against a backdrop of island life and the vast surrounding seas, A High Wind in Jamaica is the gripping story of the Bas-Thornton children, whose parents send them back to England following a hurricane in the postcolonial Caribbean they call home. Having set sail, the children quickly fall into the hands of pirates. As their voyage continues, things take an awful turn. Narrated largely from the perspective of the children, the supposed innocents are not the only victims of amoral behaviour, but sometimes the perpetrators. As their voyage continues, things take an awful turn. Narrated largely from the perspective of the children, the supposed innocents are not the only victims of amoral behaviour, but sometimes the perpetrators. Praised for its atypical and unsettling take on the truth of human nature, Richard Hughes’ classic, first published in 1929, has been called one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and credited with paving the way for other masterworks such as William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Praised for its atypical and unsettling take on the truth of human nature, Richard Hughes’ classic, first published in 1929, has been called one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and credited with paving the way for other masterworks such as William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

©2011 CSA Word (P)2011 CSA Word

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Dated and dull

This wasn’t for me, far too dated and unbelievable. Not my cup of tea at all but other people at my Book Club enjoyed it.

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  • Dan Harlow
  • 07-07-13

One of my favorite novels

Any additional comments?

This is the second time I've read this magical novel and I like it even better this time than I did the first. A lot of what I love is just in the language Hughes uses - for example describing the ocean as a 'tissue of sensitive nerves' - you can feel the languid heat of the tropics, the wetness of everything, the riot of vegetation, the primitive danger of everything all around. This is a novel to just get lost in, to be held captive by like the main characters, so much so that I'm not particularly interested in analyzing the book to death.

I could talk at length about the theme of crumbling institutions (adulthood, piracy, plantations, the church, England), about childhoods that never end (John, through his 'martyrdom', and the pirates through negligence). I could compare it to Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' which is just as dreamlike, or to Peter Pan, or even Don Quixote.

However, I just don't want to pick this one to pieces. I'd rather play the role of Mathias and allow the book to surprise me, trick me, confound me with it's circus of near insanity, instead of turning it into a Margaret that's been violated by a bunch of dirty sailors (academics).

Some books I just want to enjoy and this is one of them.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-10-13

Bach gets in the way

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I do not understand why the producers of this book believe that frequent interludes of music add anything. I suppose they believe that the words can't carry the story well enough, and so must insert guitars, dramatic scores, Johann Sebastian Bach. Also, unfortunately, the narrator has a way of reading in a very condescending manner, as if he were reading to children. He likes to drop the volume of his voice to emphasize passages, invariably requiring me to back up and increase the volume. It really detracts from the enjoyment of the story.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • harringtonhound
  • 14-05-12

Before there was Lord of the Flies....

there was A High Wind in Jamaica. Rather than taking over an island, these kids take over a pirate ship...and the pirates are bamboozled. It's not a comic story, but a fascinating character sketch of a 10 year old girl becoming aware of her self and her place in the world and a down-and-out pirate in an age where technology is leaving him behind. Although the story is mostly about 10 year old Emily, there are no heroes and Emily is at once a remarkable and very ordinary child.

This is a very complex story about coming of age in a very complicated world. It is not sugar-coated.

I remember the movie in the 60s with Anthony Quinn and James Coburn. I liked the movie, but honestly the personas of both of those actors were too big to capture the very ordinary human condition of the pirates in the book. It's well worth the read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 17-03-12

Epic adventure story with a dark undercurrent

Colonial Jamaican high sea adventures in late 19th century seen through the eyes of displaced children whose not yet matured mind and rich imagination altered their and others' lives. This well penned classic is hard to categorized and grasp; it has the very construct of an epic adventure, yet deeper, the theme of perverted innocence percolates.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 02-01-17

Prose that reads like a Child's Fever Dream

"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."
-- Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica

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 other books, or as a color made from mixing several books together. It is childish, rough, and only gets me part of the way there, but it is a start (even if it is an adolescent start). I also, with a book I am unfamiliar with, try to avoid poisoning the well by reading reviews or opinions about it. I want to come to it clean, fresh, to see it for a moment with my own eyes.

So? What books did I mix for this one? For me it was a combination of Peter Pan, Heart of Darkness, and Lord of the Flies. Yeah. Wrap your head around that. It was, however, more poetic than any of these. The prose was like a fever dream. Some of the scenes in Jamaica were lush and magical. It was told with colors seen from a child's eyes, events were described through the experience of a child. It wasn't just a trick. Hughes mastered this. He didn't condescend to children. He didn't put them on some victorian pedestal. He measured them by age, by experience, and oriented his story accordingly.

The story really is about the loss of innocence (oh, and an earthquake), but as much it is a story about how resilient children are to that loss of innocence (oh, and an alligator). How much children live in the now and wrap that now in myths. Hughes gave the children in this novel the right to be human, to deal with complexity in their own way. I'm still buzzing a bit from how much I really dug this novel. I'm glad I read it and am still surprised I was never exposed to it before.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Darryl
  • 05-09-12

Enjoyable but maybe not top 100 of 20th century

This was on the Modern Library list of top 100 of the 20th century and for the sake of variety I don't mind it being included. the Narrator is good and the story is a bit of a cross between Treasure Island and Pirates of Carribean. It's not quite a swashbuckler but has it's moments; it's more of a character study with a heavy lean on the young girl's growing up and not quite understanding the "adult" world and events around her. It is lighthearted with a serious ending. There is some very nice writing, rather poetic at times that I really liked. Though it involves kids with pirates it's not a children's book per se as there are serious elements.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Dupree
  • 09-01-12

Unusual story

What did you like best about A High Wind in Jamaica? What did you like least?

Unique pirate story told from viewpoint of kidnapped children. Outstanding job of getting inside the childrens' heads and describing the situations and their feelings.

Would you be willing to try another book from Richard Hughes? Why or why not?

Yes because of his story telling ability and descriptive technique - not too wordy or flowery but accurate.

Which scene was your favorite?

The auction.

Did A High Wind in Jamaica inspire you to do anything?

No.

Any additional comments?

The reader's performance was excellent, fantastic job with the voices and accents. Quite believable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • NIkki Richardson
  • 02-01-18

weird but wonderful

The music between the chapters are awkward and the reading is a bit difficult but the story is wickedly wonderful.

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  • Mitra Grondin
  • 11-03-15

Lord of the flies can suck it

What's cool about this book is that it changes while you're reading it. The book starts off as a swashbuckling story involving children and pirates and transforms into something that would make lord of the flies look like a day at the beach