Wednesday, November 25, 2020

64. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I took this book out of the library (which we have been hitting hard now that my daughter is reading; man do I love libraries) because I found an R.L. Delderfield that is a prequel story of the life of Ben Gunn, one of the characters from Treasure Island.  I thought it was just some pirate book by him until I brought it home and read the back.  I had read Treasure Island as a lad and enjoyed it (though Kidnapped stayed with me longer for some reason).  I didn't want to read the Delderfield without really having a memory of Treasure Island.  

I had positive but not elevated expectations of reading Treasure Island as an adult. I thought it would be a fine tale as they say.  It surpassed my expectations.  It's a great book, a tight, exciting adventure that still lives up to its reputation as a classic, beyond its massive cultural influence.  Though it owes much to the popularity of castaway and pirate tales that preceded it, it really is Treasure Island that defined what we think of pirates today. Reading it again, one understands why. It combines innocence and real darkness in a perfect balance that makes it light and enjoyable to read but not trivial. The pacing is masterful, so that you really have a hard time putting it down, yet also let's you take a pause in nice places.  Finally, it is the characters and dialogue that really make it a masterpiece.  Long John Silver and the disturbing father/monster/victim relationship he has with young Jim Hawkins is at the heart of it. Several side characters add richness without getting in the way.  

This is definitely colonial history and its sins are woven into the story and setting.  The obvious racism only shows up at the end since there is really no other characters other than Englishmen.  The jolly class relationships are a tasty illusion that makes the whole thing palatable.  Just pointing these things out, as they should be critiqued, but for the astute reader none of it gets in the way in what is probably one of the best adventure books I have read this year and definitely in the top ten.  I read this to prep for the Delderfield, but I may have to take Kidnapped out of the library now.

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