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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9780940322158
Pages: 296
Publication Date: September 30, 1999

A High Wind in Jamaica

by Richard Hughes, introduction by Francine Prose

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Richard Hughes's celebrated short novel is a masterpiece of concentrated narrative. Its dreamlike action begins among the decayed plantation houses and overwhelming natural abundance of late nineteenth-century Jamaica, before moving out onto the high seas, as Hughes tells the story of a group of children thrown upon the mercy of a crew of down-at-the-heel pirates. A tale of seduction and betrayal, of accommodation and manipulation, of weird humor and unforeseen violence, this classic of twentieth-century literature is above all an extraordinary reckoning with the secret reasons and otherworldly realities of childhood.

Download the Reading Group Guide for A High Wind in Richard Hughes, introduction by Francine Prose


Cross a wacky seafaring adventure—Conrad gone awry via inept piracy—with an exploration of the consciousness of a child as radical and insightful as that provided by Henry James in What Maisie Knew, and you have A High Wind In Jamaica by Richard Hughes.... By turns funny, ironic, and brutally sad, this is a complex and astonishing novel.
—Sue Miller, Barnes and Noble Review

This brilliant, gorgeously written, highly entertaining, and apparently light-hearted idyll quickly reveals its true nature as a powerful and profoundly disquieting meditation on the meaning of loyalty and betrayal, innocence and corruption, truth and deception.
— Francine Prose, Elle

During one snowy day, I read the whole book in one gulp. It was remarkable, tiny, crazy. I felt just like I did as a kid.
— Andrew Sean Greer, All Things Considered, NPR

A surprisingly terrifying short novel about children kidnapped by pirates, elevated from its silliness by surprising moments of violence and introspection, as well as repeated flourishes of literary brilliance. Also, it’s funny.
—Emily Temple, Lit Hub, "20 Short Novels to Stay Up All Night Reading"

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes is like those books you used to read under the covers with a flashlight, only infinitely more delicious and macabre.
— Andrew Sean Greer, All Things Considered, NPR

Deeply bizarre and sometimes hilarious...particularly diverting is the sly narrative voice, which keeps darting around and sneaking up on you. It's the perfect intellectual seafaring adventure.
—Emily Temple, Literary Hub