Why Must She Grow up?
The book was A High Wind in Jamaica (1929) and it is indeed a short book, but one that grips and fizzes with ideas, images and energy. Thirty-five years ago, as an inexperienced schoolteacher, I had the task of interesting a class of 16-year-olds in it, and I thought it would be ideal fare for them. Set around the middle of the nineteenth century, the novel takes the outward form of an adventure story. The ingredients are a group of children and their life on a decayed plantation, then an earthquake, a hurricane, a sailing ship, the high seas, the capture of the children by pirates and a final rescue and return to normality in England. The passing incidents include some farcical goings-on with pirates dressed as women, a ludicrous quayside auction of the pirates’ booty, some uproarious banqueting, a fight between a goat and a pig, another between a tiger and a lion – or an attempt to stage one – and a chase after a drunken monkey in the ship’s rigging. So far, so Pirates of the Caribbean; but there is also a dark side: the shocking accidental death of a child, a murder, a fatal betrayal and a hanging.