Zoë Heller's Bookshelf
By Richard Hughes
This gorgeous and rather sinister novel, first published in 1929, is about five British children from colonial Jamaica who get waylaid by pirates on their way to England. Because it features several large, semifantastic characters and events (typhoons, pirates, and so on) and because its chief protagonists are children, the book is sometimes inaccurately classified as a young adult's story. It serves very well as that, but it is many other, better things besides: a wonderfully sharp and unsentimental portrait of childhood, a subtle disquisition on innocence and power, a startlingly beautiful piece of half-Victorian, half-modern prose.