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Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (71)
After the Bas-Thornton family survives a hurricane, the children are put aboard a ship from Jamaica to England & safety, but instead they are attacked by pirates at sea & are taken aboard the pirates ship. The children accept this turn of events, and the loss of a brother, with great equanimity and indeed are soon thoroughly enjoying the pirate life. The same cannot be said for the crew of pirates.
This book is sort of an expanded version of The Ransom of Red Chief with overtones of Lord of the Flies. The children start out as merely annoying, then one of them actually commits a murder and finally, the pirates are put to death when the rescued children fail to tell anyone that the pirates are not guilty of the murder. It was apparently controversial when it was published, because of the amoral behavior of the children. The subtitle, The Innocent Voyage, supposedly refers to the children's innocence of even rudimentary concepts of good and evil.
One wonders, in 1998, if the people who argued over the portrait of children's moral development in 1929, could even imagine trials of children for massacring schoolmates or for dropping another child from a highrise balcony because he wouldn't share candy or the portrait we now have of the animal torturing childhoods of future serial killers. Sadly, we have found that children commit acts of murder not because they are amoral, but because they too can be immoral.
I enjoyed this odd book almost in spite of myself. Strangely enough, it seems derivative because of what has come, in fiction and in real life, since it was written, but one can hardly fault Hughes for this.