Category Archives: High Wind in Jamaica, A

A High Wind in Jamaica: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2013

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.

page 209 of 279 of A High Wind in Jamaica

I’m sure it’s possible to read some sort of socio-economic or political undercurrent in this novel – I’m sure there are ‘readings’ of this book that place it in the grand tradition of other ‘great books’. But there is something so singular about this novel, so immersed in its own insanity and humor that to define it would almost be like an adult trying to understand a group of rowdy 10 year old’s.

page 148 of 279 of A High Wind in Jamaica

I think the greatest fun of this novel is trying to figure out exactly what is going on when you try to take yourself out of the children’s point of view. To them all the adults are inept and childlike and only the great pig is much of an authority on anything.

The joy is reading what Hughes doesn’t write on the page. Maybe this is why we say this books writes children so well – though how would we really know?

page 63 of 279 of A High Wind in Jamaica

This is actually a re-read for me since I read this many, many years ago and always remember really enjoying it.

What’s funny is how much of it I forgot, and right from the start too. The earthquake I had totally forgotten and honestly I only dimly remember the great hurricane.

Pirates, however, I do remember and this is a great spin on the pirate story – a literary, Conrad-esque high-seas yarn.