A High Wind in Jamaica
Goodreads ratings
3.78 / 5

"A High Wind in Jamaica" Summary

By Richard Hughes

fiction | 195 pages | Published in 2011

On the high seas of the Caribbean, a family of English children is set loose - sent by their parents from their home in Jamaica to receive the civilising effects of England. When their ship is captured by pirates, the thrilling cruise continues as the children transfer their affections from one batch of sailors to another. Innocence is their protection, but as life in the care of pirates reveals its dangers, the events which unfold begin to take on a savagely detached quality. Writers' reviews for A High Wind in Jamaica: 'One of my all time favourite books' Ann Patchett 'I wouldn't let a 14-year-old near it' Meg Rosoff 'I read the whole thing in one gulp. It was remarkable. Tiny. Crazy. I felt just like I did as a kid.' Andrew Sean Greer 'When I really like a book I'll sometimes read a passage or two aloud to whoever's nearby; this one I'd happily recite cover-to-cover' Imogen Hermes Gowar 'A thrillingly good book' Martin Amis


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

Children experience a thrilling and perilous adventure when they are kidnapped by pirates.


In the captivating novel A High Wind in Jamaica, author Richard Hughes takes us on a thrilling adventure that explores themes of innocence, loss, and the blurred lines between good and evil. Set in the 19th century, the story follows a group of British children who are swept away by a hurricane and find themselves in the midst of a pirate-infested Caribbean. With its vivid imagery, complex characters, and thought-provoking exploration of morality, this book offers readers a compelling narrative that lingers long after the final page.

Brief Synopsis

The story begins on a seemingly peaceful and idyllic sugar plantation in Jamaica owned by the Thornton family. The Thorntons have five children: John, Emily, Edward, Laura, and Rachel. One day, a violent hurricane hits the island, wreaking havoc on their plantation. During the chaos, the children are swept away in the storm and end up aboard a ship named the Clorinda, which is captained by the enigmatic pirate, Chavez.

As the children become part of the pirate crew, they encounter a world completely different from their own sheltered existence. They witness acts of violence, cruelty, and moral ambiguity from both the pirates and the adults they encounter. Their previously innocent worldview begins to crumble as they are faced with the harsh realities of life.

The plot takes another turn when a British naval ship intercepts the Clorinda and captures the pirates. The children are rescued and brought back to England, where they are reunited with their parents. However, the experiences they had in the Caribbean leave a lasting impact on them, and they struggle to adapt to their old lives.

Main Characters

John ThorntonThe eldest of the five Thornton children. He is intelligent, curious, and shows remarkable resilience in the face of adversity.
Emily ThorntonJohn's younger sister, who is depicted as being more sensitive and imaginative. She forms a close bond with Captain Chavez.
Captain ChavezThe ruthless pirate captain who takes the children aboard the Clorinda. Despite his violent tendencies, he has moments of kindness and introspection.
Mr. ThorntonThe father of the Thornton children, who struggles with the responsibility of parenthood and the changing dynamics within his family.
Mrs. ThorntonThe mother of the Thornton children, who is initially depicted as an overprotective and nervous parent.

Main Events

  1. The Thorntons' plantation is hit by a hurricane, and the children are swept away by the storm and end up aboard the Clorinda.
  2. The children adapt to life on the pirate ship and witness acts of violence and cruelty committed by the pirates.
  3. The Clorinda is intercepted by a British naval ship, and the pirates are captured.
  4. The children are rescued and brought back to England, where they struggle to readjust to their old lives and reestablish their identities.

Themes and Insights

1. Loss of Innocence: Throughout the novel, the children experience a loss of innocence as they are exposed to the harsh realities of the world. They witness violence, betrayal, and the absence of clear moral boundaries. This loss of innocence raises questions about the nature of childhood and the multifaceted nature of human morality.

2. Moral Ambiguity: The characters in A High Wind in Jamaica often find themselves navigating morally gray areas. Captain Chavez, for example, displays moments of kindness and introspection alongside his violent actions. This theme challenges readers to question the simplistic notions of good and evil and consider the complexity of human nature.

3. Exploration of Identity: As the children return to England, they struggle to reconcile their experiences in the Caribbean with their old lives and social expectations. Their encounters with piracy and violence have left an indelible mark on them, forcing them to grapple with questions of identity, belonging, and societal norms.

4. Power Dynamics: The novel also delves into power dynamics, both among the pirates and between the pirates and the children. The shifting power dynamics reflect the complexities of human relationships and the potential for unexpected alliances and betrayals.

Reader's Takeaway

A High Wind in Jamaica is both a riveting adventure story and a thought-provoking exploration of morality and the human condition. Richard Hughes weaves a tale that challenges traditional notions of childhood innocence and delves into the gray areas of good and evil. Through its vivid imagery and complex characters, the book offers readers a captivating journey that raises questions about identity, morality, and the choices we make in the face of adversity.


With its gripping narrative and profound exploration of themes, A High Wind in Jamaica is a must-read for fans of adventure novels and those interested in nuanced examinations of morality. Richard Hughes masterfully crafts a story that transports readers to the exotic Caribbean while leaving them with profound insights about the human experience. This timeless novel continues to resonate with readers, reminding us of the complexities of childhood, the perils of innocence lost, and the blurred lines between right and wrong.

A High Wind in Jamaica FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A High Wind in Jamaica'?

    The genre of 'A High Wind in Jamaica' is adventure fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'A High Wind in Jamaica'?

    The author of 'A High Wind in Jamaica' is Richard Hughes.

  3. What is the setting of 'A High Wind in Jamaica'?

    The setting of 'A High Wind in Jamaica' is primarily in Jamaica and the Caribbean Sea.

  4. What is the book about?

    'A High Wind in Jamaica' tells the story of a group of children who are accidentally taken captive by pirates, and their subsequent adventures as they navigate the unpredictable world of piracy.

  5. Is 'A High Wind in Jamaica' based on a true story?

    No, 'A High Wind in Jamaica' is a work of fiction and not based on a true story.

  6. What age group is 'A High Wind in Jamaica' suitable for?

    'A High Wind in Jamaica' is suitable for young adult readers and older.

  7. Are there any major themes in 'A High Wind in Jamaica'?

    Yes, some major themes in 'A High Wind in Jamaica' include innocence, morality, and the loss of childhood.

  8. Is 'A High Wind in Jamaica' part of a series?

    No, 'A High Wind in Jamaica' is a standalone novel.

  9. Has 'A High Wind in Jamaica' won any awards?

    Yes, 'A High Wind in Jamaica' won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1929.

  10. Is there a movie adaptation of 'A High Wind in Jamaica'?

    Yes, a film adaptation of 'A High Wind in Jamaica' was released in 1965.