I didn’t hate this book!…And I won’t lie, I was scared. Frankly, Crane and the Red Badge of Courage were a bit of a set back for me. I went on a binge of pleasure reading to clear my head. Mostly pulpy nonsense like Lee Child or Debbie MacComber. Book after book of pure fiction indulgence until I could again bring myself to step into the ring with literature of the masculine variety.
So I puzzled over where to go next and finally I picked a book based solely on a practical metric-word count. Because quite honestly, if this book had sucked it like the Badge of courage did, I needed it to be short.
But it didn’t! Hooray!
Robert Louis Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson in Scotland in 1850. He was a sickly child-pale, thin and perceived as eccentric. As he moved into his 20’s, he embraced Bohemian dress and cheap pubs and brothels. When Robert fell in love, it was with a married mother of three named Fanny de Grift Osbourne. He followed her to the United States where they fell into an affair that culminated in her divorce and their marriage in 1880. (I think I’m beginning to see a pattern in the personal lives of these guys. They’re a hot mess!)
In the summer of 1881, Stevenson was on holiday with Fanny (and children) in Scotland. Forced indoors by rainy weather, Stevenson and his stepson, Loyd, whiled away the hours creating and coloring a treasure map of an imaginary treasure island. Stevenson’s imagination was sparked and he began to write a short story based on the map to entertain the family. First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in a children’s magazine between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym, Captain George North.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie..so I won’t prattle on, but here’s a quick overview: The story is narrated by young Jim Hawkins. He’s likable and he’s not stupid. Yes, I liked him (as opposed to the dodo in the Red Badge of Courage). From the beginning of the tale, there is suspense and high adventure. A treasure map falls into Jim’s possession, and he soon finds himself at sea with bearings set for Treasure Island! Cool.
So here’s what I liked about it:
- There was an authenticity to Stevenson’s characters in the book, and he dealt with moral ambiguity on a very interesting level – especially considering it’s a “children’s book”.
- John Silver is a rascal of the first order! I love a villain that you find yourself liking consistently through the story, don’t you?
- Stevenson was a gifted writer. There were passages in the book I would stop and re-read because they were quite beautiful.
It was amazing to me, how much of what we consider to be typical “pirate lore” seemed to originate with this story. The songs, the parrot, the dialect…yes the dialect. Predictably, Stevenson utilized a heavy dialect for his characters throughout the text. Accurate and contextual? I’m sure. Written dialect just isn’t my thing. It was done well, but I could have used less of it.
When he wasn’t using dialect though, he was pretty awesome. I’ll leave you with a brief passage,
“I have never seen the sea quiet round Treasure Island. The sun might blaze overhead, the air be without a breath, the surface smooth and blue, but still these great rollers would be running along all the external coast, thundering and thundering by day and night; and I scarce believe there is one spot in the island where a man would be out of earshot of their noise.”
What are you reading? Share with me. Or better yet, join me in my literary adventure. Check out my 2013 Resolution and I’ll keep you posted on my next selection.
Have a great weekend!