Richard Hughes: Novelist

Richard Poole
Publication Date: 
Thursday, February 23, 1995
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Richard Hughes (1900-76) is probably best known for his remarkable bestseller about childhood, A High Wind in Jamaica (1929), now recognised as a modern classic. In Hazard (1938), his second novel, has been compared to Conrad’s Typhoon. In his latter years, he worked on a series of novels, called The Human Predicament, a massive project in which he explored the social, economic, political and moral forces which shaped the period 1918-1945. Although only two of these novels, The Fox in the Attic (1961) and The Wooden Sheperdess (1973), were completed, Hughes’s achievement has been widely praised. No other twentieth century novelist has so successfully transposed history into fiction.

Richard Poole, who lived near Hughes in north Wales and who came to know and admire him, has written the first biographical and critical study of this major author. The first part of this book reveals more than ever before the extrordinary life of this remarkable man, who was a successful playwright before he left Oxford University, who wrote the first radio play, who undertook amazing adventures in the Balkans and Morocco, and who, for nearly the whole of his life, exhibited a deep attachment to Wales.

The second and longer part of the book is a detailed examination of Hughes’s work: his plays, poems, short stories and the novels. This is a study enriched by Poole’s intimate knowledge of the man and his sources. Hughes emerges as a writer of staggering versatility, fastidious craftmanship and deep humanity.

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