CREATIVE Tristan Hughes

NWR Issue 99

Shapes and Pieces

From the background to the story:

How to summarise A High Wind In Jamaica? A high jinks tale of kidnap and betrayal, an at times hilarious yarn about bumbling pirates, a piece of post-colonial gothic, an unflinching and unsettling portrait of childhood – it is all of these things, and yet none of them really comes close to describing its peculiar, and often startling, genius.

The story itself follows the children of the Bas–Thornton family, from their home on Jamaica to a sojourn at sea after their abduction by a crew of down-at-heel pirates, and then their final arrival in England. At each stage of this journey, the various edifices and constructs of civilisation come to appear fragile, worryingly relative, easily inverted. There is no hiding place from the ‘high wind’ that blows through the book...

From 'Shapes and Pieces':

For three mornings in a row – or maybe it was four? – a purplish-brown haze had been sighted on the horizon to the north of the Greber’s house. It was too distant to be sure whether it was a cloud or a mist, and it appeared for only the briefest of intervals, usually during the half hour after sunrise, before slipping tentatively back below the tree line. Since the rest of the days had been uniformly bright and clear, if you had not been the very earliest of risers, and not made the most careful observations, you would never have even suspected its presence. In fact, of all the Greber household it was only the son, Cory, who had made the sighting.

He’d been getting up at dawn for almost three weeks, ever since the beginning of the season; this was the first year he was allowed to go out with his father and the anticipation made him wake every morning at first light, if not before. Every day he asked, will we be going tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that? Every day he scanned the horizon and, sighting the haze, would anxiously try to work out whether it might be the beginnings of a rain cloud, or a storm, or a hurricane, or anything that would stop them going out. Every day his father said, ‘We’ll go when we go.’

It was still dark when they finally did go. They put on their orange coats and hats and packed away the lunches Cory’s mother had left for them on the table. Cory’s father let him carry the guns out to the truck. They were both in cases: a beat-up old yellow one for the 30–06 rifle and a newer black one for the shotgun. Just from looking at the cases, it was hard to tell which was which...

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