Tuesday, June 4, 2013
High Wind, High Drama
Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica was originally written in 1929, then re-issued by The New York Review of Books (NYRB) in 1999. Set in late nineteenth century Jamaica, the children of the Thornton family learn that their parents have decided to send them off to England by boat, though they don't understand why, and find it to be "without any particular causation." Indeed, they can't think of anything that precipitated this, "...for it could hardly be due to the death of the cat, and nothing else of importance occurred lately." The hurricane has decimated the Jamaican landscape. Hughes writes, "Then imagine all this luxuriance smashed, as with a pestle and mortar - crushed, pulped, and already growing again!" Hughes writing is at turns sinister and whimsical, and he invents words such as "energeticalness" and "elaboratish." The book focuses mainly on the experiences of the children on the high seas and their strange relationships with each other and with the pirates that have taken over the ship. After the children return safely to England after much trial and tribulation, the oldest child, Emily, reports, "Mother! I've slept with an alligator!" Hughes weaves together dark humor, violence, innocence, and adventure in this unique tale.