S E Hinton has always been a favourite of mine, ever since I first read The Outsiders when I was fourteen.I loved all of her books, from Rumblefish to Taming the Star Runner. With this love in mind, I first thought I would write about The Outsiders; I then decided against, since it has been done to death, or, if not to death, at least lying in a back alley with more than a few knives in its poor back. In light of all this reasoning, I decided I may as well write about one of her more recent, and more adult, books, Hawkes Harbour. This is a very different book, compared to Hinton’s other works, but still a great novel, and, in some odd ways, resembles the earlier novels.
Hawkes Harbour concentrates on Jamie, a mentally weary and broken man in a psychiatric institution, who is interviewed by psychologists. From these interviews, we piece together the story of his life; his early childhood, his career in smuggling, gun running, and all other such activities. Piece by piece, the picture comes together, till he leaves the institution, and the story really begins to take off into darker supernatural areas. It is a thriller, definitely, but not your ordinary kind of thriller; rather, it’s far more psychological, and concentrates on, well, the human aspect. I’ll develop this more in a bit.
First off, the writing is not grand and polished prose; it is, rather, Hinton’s classically simple and elegant writing, which merely tells one exactly what it is. Maybe some people would be turned off, and decry ‘writing fit for young adults, not real adults.’ I like it, nevertheless, and it works well. True, no one description or line pops into my head as some brilliant piece of writing, but, to be fair, I haven’t read this book in quite a few years; even if there are none, which I doubt, the book holds together well and does perfectly what it sets out to do. There is mystery in the novel, as the first half keeps hinting at the event which broke Jamie from his hard, strong, and self-caring disposition during his younger years. There is definite horror, and parts of it are disturbing in a way, and make the reader sympathise for poor Jamie, with all that he has seen and suffered.
However, Hawkes Harbour is not a bleak, depressing novel; it has an incredibly strong theme of redemption and self-sacrifice. This never came to my mind when I first read the book, but as I sat down I was shocked that I never saw it. One of the driving characteristics of Jamie is that he was a bastard and an orphan, who thought he had ‘no hope for heaven.’ All of Jamie’s life choices, his care for himself and money, stems from this belief that he has no hope, and must look only for himself. Yet, Hinton shows us throughout Jamie’s life the struggle within, and his desire to do more, culminating in Jamie’s own redemption. Not only for Jamie, but for Jamie’s friends, who themselves were lost, but, in the end, are redeemed by seeing Jamie. And, honestly, the end is one of the most touching, happily melancholic endings I have read, and, most importantly, an ending that doesn’t ruin the story, but brings the whole book with its constant theme of redemption to a satisfying conclusion. I would like to go into this more, but that would be spoiling the entire novel for those who like to read books without knowing what lies ahead (something I usually prefer to do, except for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; who could bear to read that without knowing the ending?!).
In short, Hawkes Harbour is a chilling and suspenseful novel. Despite this, it does not depress, but ends on a good note, leaving the reader sad and happy and, more than anything, satisfied, like few books do. The writing is simple and pleasant, and works for the story. The book shows how there is good even in the worst of types, and that there is always hope. So go out and read this if you like S E Hinton, enjoy supernatural thrillers, or like dark books with happy endings!