Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson’s cherished, unforgettable adventure magically captures the thrill of a sea voyage and a treasure hunt through the eyes of its teenage protagonist, Jim Hawkins. Crossing the Atlantic in search of the buried cache, Jim and the ship’s crew must brave the elements and a mutinous charge led by the quintessentially ruthless pirate Long John Silver. Brilliantly conceived and splendidly executed, it is a novel that has seized the imagination of generations of adults and children alike

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published November 14, 1883 by Cassell and Company
Format: Hardcover; 240 pages
Classics / Adventure / Young Adult
Also By This Author: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

It probably takes a good blend of ignorance and luck to avoid finding out spoilers for a 134 year old book, but I made it 27 years without knowing anything about Treasure Island, except for the fact that it involved treasure, an island, and it featured pirates. I had never read this book or its synopsis before, nor had I seen any movie adaptations (no, not even the Muppets version). Of course, I had heard of Long John Silver, but I didn’t even know he was a prominent character in this book until he was introduced several chapters in.

Disclaimer: if you are a rarity like me who doesn’t know anything about Treasure Island and would like to keep it that way, you may want to skip down to the “Read this Book if” section, to continue avoiding spoilers :)

I liked not knowing anything about this novel beforehand because that really raised the suspense level for me. I never knew who to trust and I was constantly worried about characters dying. I applaud Robert Lewis Stevenson for romanticizing pirate stories, and I wonder if even he anticipated or expected the influence his novel would continue to have long after his death.

As intrigued as I was by this story for the first four parts, once they arrive on the island and conflicts begin escalating, I started detaching from the story. I think I was put off by Long John Silver’s character. From the very first encounter with him, I didn’t trust him, but there were several times when I wanted to. I remember gasping in shock when the mutiny is uncovered by our narrator halfway through the story, but I always expected Silver to be the villain in disguise. What really confused me was how he could kill several crew members and threaten the lives of the captain and the doctor and still get away scot-free at the end of the book, while the men he persuaded into mutiny were either killed or marooned on Treasure Island.

Maybe I wasn’t reading closely enough? Am I alone in feeling conflicted over the conclusion of Treasure Island? It ruined the ending for me quite a bit, which is why I only gave the book a 3-star rating.

Read This Book If…

…you wish you were a pirate! Or you at least enjoy pirate and/or adventure stories.
…you are fascinated by the way humans (and fictional characters) react when placed in stressful life-and-death situations, especially when profit is involved (if you like Lord of the Flies and similar novels, you will probably appreciate Treasure Island as well).
…you like reading pioneering novels that have birthed entirely new genres.
…you enjoy reading books with reliable narrators, even if the other characters are not as trustworthy.

Final Musings

Since I’ve never seen a single film adaptation of Treasure Island, I have no idea which one is the best. Any recommendations? If you’re reading this, you should know that I am not the biggest Muppets fan, but if that one is generally considered one of the best versions, I will consider watching it :)

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Voyage au Centre de la Terre by Jules Verne (and Crossing Something Off My Bucket List)

julesverne

“As long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has need to despair of life.”

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Published 1864 by Pierre Jules Hetzel
Classics/French/Adventure
Format: paperback; 338 pages
Also By This Author: Around the World in Eighty Days, From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Thoughts:

You may be wondering why I used the original French title of Journey to the Center of the Earth in the blog title…that’s because I read this book in French! If you’ve been to my blog before, you may be familiar with my list of 25 things to do for my 25th year. #3 on that list was to “read an entire book in French.” So I can now cross that off!

It wasn’t easy–the French language has a special past tense that is only used in books or in storytelling, which makes it really hard to learn because you’ll hardly ever have the need to use it in a conversation. To be honest, I did not understand everything that goes on in this book, but I picked Jules Verne to read because 1) French Classics are easier to understand than English classics because the French language has barely changed over the centuries, 2) Classic novels have more grammatically correct dialogue between characters as opposed to modern novels, and 3) Jules Verne writes suspenseful and captivating adventure novels that are easy to follow and visualize.

On to the book! The only other Verne novel I’ve read before Journey to the Center of the Earth was Around the World in Eighty Days, which I really enjoyed. Verne’s characters are so particular and unique and the adventures they go on are always full of suspense and those “this is our last hope” type of scenes so that you’ll never be bored while reading one of his novels. Professor Lidenbrock is ever persistent and hopeful during this life-threatening journey while his nephew, Axel, often exclaims that all hope is lost and the group is sure to perish.

As always, true to Verne’s captivating writing style, there is a twist at the end of Journey to the Center of the Earth that anyone who has previously read Verne will be expecting to discover :)

Read This Book If…:

…you love an adventure!
…you’re into science fiction books, especially those written by the fathers of sci-fi.
…you crave a book that will make you both laugh out loud and turn the pages in suspense.
…you’re looking for a new unforgettable adventure to experience.

“Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the center of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?”

Final Musings:

If you’ve never read a novel by Jules Verne, I would suggest Journey to the Center of the Earth as a good starting point, although I preferred Around the World in Eighty Days (really though, any Verne book is a good book to read). Full of quirky characters, daring adventures, and spectacular imagery, Journey to the Center of the Earth is definitely a classic that deserves its masterpiece label.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

RobinHood

You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath not to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Published 1883 by Scribner’s
Classic/Adventure
Format: print; 376 pages
Also From This Author: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Men of Iron, Otto of the Silver Hand
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and in so doing became an undying symbol of virtue. But most important, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men offer young readers more than enough adventure and thrills to keep them turning the pages. Who could resist the arrows flying, danger lurking, and medieval intrigue?

Thoughts

Quoth Robin Hood, snuffing the air, “Here is a fair day, Little John, and one that we can ill waste in idleness.”

If you know me well you know that I am in love with Robin Hood (like, if he showed up on my doorstep I would run away to Sherwood Forest with him in a heartbeat). I’ve been intrigued by the legend of Robin Hood since I first saw Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1973), which is also why the fox is my favorite animal (though I have a fondness for roosters, too).

So why is it that I have waited so long to read Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood?! It’s probably for the best though, since I don’t think I would have understood much of the Old English language if I read this as a kid.

My favorite part of Pyle’s classic is of course the characters. Besides Robin, I also really loved the stories of Will Scarlet and Sir Richard of the Lea. Little John is as lovable as ever. Pyle perfectly describes him as a “great, faithful dog,” when it comes to his relationship with Robin. I found myself smiling at how effortless it was for other characters to pledge their honor to Robin. Each adventure followed a similar pattern: Robin would encounter someone who was on a quest or who needed help, he’d lend them a hand (or money, or his men), and at the end of the day all would be set right and Robin would have a new friend.

Robin Hood himself is so charming and hopeful that even the most destitute characters he comes in contact with can’t help but be infected by his infectious personality:

The Knight shook his head with a faint smile, but for all that Robin’s words made him more blithe of heart, for in truth hope, be it ever so faint, bringeth a gleam into darkness, like a little rushlight that costeth but a groat.

Read This Book If…:

…there is at least one adventurous bone in your body
…you love reading about legendary characters
…you enjoy a book that can make you laugh, gasp, and cry
…you’re into historical fiction

Final Musings

This book is not a fast read, but it is an exciting one! Each of Robin Hood’s adventures left me surprised, and even though I knew he would find a way to escape unscathed, I still found myself caught up in the suspense and action. For someone who was already enamored by Robin Hood, finally getting to read about his adventures only made me love him more!

“So my aching heart seeks thine, love
There to find its rest and peace,
For, though loving, bliss is mine, love,
And my many troubles cease.”

BONUS! Check back tomorrow for my (very late) post about a Robin Hood musical I saw earlier this year!