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 :)

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Winnie the Pooh

“Once upon a time, a very long time ago, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest…”The world of Pooh is a world of enchantment. It is a world forever fixed in the minds and hearts of countless children — a world where Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga and the others share unforgettable adventures with Christopher Robin.

Winnie-the-Pooh is filled with delight: Pooh goes hunting with Piglet, celebrates Eeyore’s birthday, and accompanies Christopher Robin and the others on an “Expotition” to the North Pole. Through it all, Pooh remains the whimsical philosopher and staunch friend, captivating children as he has for generations.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
Published October 1, 1926
Format: Hardcover library checkout; 145 pages
Classics/Children’s Lit
Also By This Author: The Red House MysteryThe Sunny SideTwo People
GoodreadsAmazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

I am frantically trying to catch up with my Classic’s Club challenge! I don’t know if I’m going to finish reading and reviewing 50 classics by the end of next year (I’m currently at 28), but I know I’ve definitely read at least that many classics, even if they weren’t on my list.

So, in a desperate attempt to catch up on my TBR classics list, in January I read the short but beloved children’s classic, Winnie the Pooh. Of course I used to watch the movies and TV series when I was younger, but I had never read any of the books! This seems to be a recurring travesty for me, since I also never read The Secret Garden or Peter Pan until only a year or two ago. I’m also experiencing the Emily of New Moon series by L. M. Montgomery for the first time, as part of a read-along from February through April. I’m VERY HAPPY that I discovered Anne of Green Gables at such a young age, but why did no one tell me about her literary sister, Emily?
Anyway, Winnie the Pooh was lovely and magical, as expected. I adored the naive and child-like humor of Pooh and his forest friends, and I was in a constant state of cheerfulness as I read about their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Winnie the Pooh 1

The only dark cloud appeared when I did some quick Google research on the author, A. A. Milne, and his son, who was the inspiration for Christopher Robin. I was sad to discover that the Winnie the Pooh series and subsequent franchise was detrimental to their relationship, and that even A. A. Milne’s wife harbored some resentment towards their son over the fallout. It’s unfortunate that a beautiful and heartwarming universe such as Winnie the Pooh could be the cause of family strife in the author’s life.

Winnie the Pooh will still be a comforting and enjoyable series to me, but I’ll always be reading it with a different lens from now on.

Read This Book If…

…you are still a child at heart.
…you’re looking for a book that will make you feel joy.
…you’re a fan of classics.

Final Musings

Winnie the Pooh 2

Have you ever had a changed opinion over a book you loved after learning more about the author’s background and history?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published 1911 by Frederick A. Stokes
Format: audiobook; 331 pages
Classics/Young Adult
Also By This Author: A Little PrincessLittle Lord Fauntleroy
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

The Secret Garden is one of those novels I always assumed I had read when I was little, or I at least thought I had seen the movie. Having read the book now, however, I realize that I didn’t know the story at all!

Despite The Secret Garden being written for a younger audience, I still enjoyed it, especially the dreamy, poetic language Frances Hodgson Burnett uses. I found myself getting lost in The Secret Garden along with Mary Lennox and her friends. I connected with Mary and her friend Declan right away, but it took me a little while to start liking Colin (although I think that was purposeful).

The tone of mystery and suspense is so thick in this novel that I was constantly expecting something bad to happen. This is actually a pretty common reaction for me; while reading Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone, I thought Emily’s best friend Sloane had been kidnapped and/or murdered when really she had secretly moved.

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever…”

Read This Book If…

…you’re a daydreamer/adventurer.
…you enjoy strong-minded, stubborn characters.
…you’re looking for a book that will help you temporarily escape from the real world.
…you want to rediscover a childhood classic.

“I’ve seen the spring now and I’m going to see the summer. I’m going to see everything grow here. I’m going to grow here myself.”

Final Musings:

I read this book because of it’s web series adaptation, The Misselthwaite Archives. I’m a part of an online LIW (literary-inspired web series) club. Last month we watched The Misselthwaite Archives and chatted about it and I also read the book. The web series is a lovely adaptation of The Secret Garden. Colin was changed to Callie, which worked better for the modern version, in my opinion. The cinematography is gorgeous and the theme music is appropriately captivating. The acting is also wonderful!

Villette by Charlotte Bronté

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Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Published 1853 (under Currer Bell) by Smith, Elder & Co.
Format: e-book; 432 pages
Classics/Romance/Gothic Fiction
Also By This Author: Jane EyreShirley
AmazonGoodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Villette took me months to finish; 10 months to be exact. It may be surprising, therefore, that I would give this book a 4-star rating, but despite feeling like a sloth trying to force my way through the majority of this novel, the last 50-60 pages made the sluggish journey completely worth it.

Villette, much like its beloved sister-novel Jane Eyre, is a gothic Victorian love story involving a persevering, deep-feeling narrator and a misunderstood, secretly caring Byronic hero. Unlike Jane Eyre, Miss Lucy Snowe is an unreliable, often unlikable narrator. I actually had a hard time desiring good things for her until the final chapters. I won’t sugar coat it; being inside her mind was annoying at times. She was judgmental and behaved bitterly towards most of her companions. Charlotte Brontë purposefully gave her an icy surname.

Honestly, I was very disinterested in Villette until the climax of the story and from that point on I was hooked. The long-awaited sentimentality that Charlotte Brontë excelled at did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was so lovely I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been reading it at work (I happily sobbed through the ending of Jane Eyre from the privacy of my bedroom).

It also helps to know that Villette borrows from real events in the author’s life. It could even be called autobiographical in many ways. If you’ve already read Villette or you don’t mind major spoilers, here’s an excellent analysis of the novel and Charlotte’s connection to Lucy Snowe.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy classic gothic literature (think Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, or even Edgar Allan Poe).
…you love unrequited love stories.
…you can enjoy a book even if the main character is unpleasant or hard to sympathize with.
…you love captivating conclusions (Villette will intrigue you and stay on your mind long after you finish it).

Final Musings

There was a 1970s miniseries of Villette, but alas! It has been lost. Unfortunately this is the case for numerous British miniseries from the 1970s and earlier. Frankly I think it’s horrible and I’m really upset because I would love to watch all of the literary-inspired shows!

There are also two different radio dramatizations of Villette that BBC Radio has produced, but I haven’t found a way to listen to them, yet :(

The Classics Club Monthly Meme #31: Modern Classics

classics

I’m finally making time to answer The Classics Club’s Monthly Meme! This one sounded really interesting:

What about modern classics? Pick a book published since 2000 and say why you think it will be considered as a “classic” in the future.

This was a tough question for me to answer for two reasons: 1) the word “classic” means something different to most people (some people consider books older than 100 years classics, while others define classics as books that have had a fundamental impact on culture and literature); and 2) an example of a modern classic came to me so quickly I thought it was too cliche of an answer. But I’m going with it anyway because I sincerely think it will still be regarded as a classic to future generations of readers.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

I’m cheating a bit because the first book was published pre-2000, but the last one wasn’t released until 2007 so it can still be considered at 21st century classic.

Why do I think Harry Potter will be labeled a classic in the future?

  • It persuaded a revival of reading. I know of people who do not naturally like to read, but they have read and enjoyed Harry Potter and have even desired to read other books afterwards. (Yay for converting people into readers!)
  • It has already been taught in schools. Isn’t that one of the requirements for a book to be considered a “canon”? I was always so jealous of my university friends who took lit classes that had Harry Potter on the syllabus.
  • Its themes are timeless. Harry Potter has similar themes to The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, two series that are also considered classics.
  • It has influenced a number of other writers and their works. Some of these authors include Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events). (Which works has J.K. Rowling listed as “probable influences” for Harry Potter? The Illiad, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Emma, and The Sword in the Stone.)

Do you think Harry Potter will be considered a classic in 25-50 years? What other books do you think are or should be considered modern classics?

Classic Alice: Classic Lit Meets Modern Media

classicaliceLast week I shared my review of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, a book spin-off inspired by one of my favorite YouTube series: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Well today I’m here to rave about another one of my favorite web series: Classic Alice!

Classic Alice is not based on Alice in Wonderland, a common misconception, but it does have an extremely unique premise: Alice Rackham, over-prepared, goodie-goodie college student, decides to live her life according to Classic novels after she receives a bad grade on an essay. She makes big and small life decisions by referring to characters from beloved books such as Pygmalion, Crime & Punishment, and Macbeth. These decisions push her into a variety of ups & downs that are exciting, heart-wrenching, and swoon-worthy ;) Also, the characters are hilarious!

Andrew, Alice’s friend and classmate, is filming Alice’s endeavors for his documentary project. His quirky sense of humor always makes me laugh out loud. One of my favorite episodes from the series perfectly highlights his humorous personality:

Cara, Alice’s wholeheartedly honest roommate, is easy to like because she often speaks the thoughts that the audience is thinking. She challenges Alice and stands by her decisions no matter the consequences (and there are plenty of those):

Classic Alice just wrapped up Book 7, A Christmas Carol, and it was a very merry Christmas for the fans! ;) You’ll have to catch up on the show to see what I mean! Right now the creators behind the show are focusing on their indiegogo campaign for Book 8 and beyond! The team behind Classic Alice is so talented in developing a series that appeals to a wide audience; the series is one of the most diverse on YouTube. And they’re promoting Classic Literature!!! I love that :)

Watch This Series If…

…you love classic novels (so far they’ve done Crime & Punishment, Pygmalion, The Butterfly, Macbeth, Rip van Winkle, Wind in the Willows, and A Christmas Carol.)
you like to live vicariously through other people (or through your favorite fictional characters).
…you enjoy stories and shows that deal with serious issues.
…you’re a fan of quirky humor and diversity in fiction.
…you love seeing multiple media platforms merge together to tell a story.

Curious about the Classic Alice series? Dying to know more about Alice’s future book plans? Visit the show’s website to read more about it (and to find links to every episode and transmedia post)!

“Come Away, Come Away!”: J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

Peter-Pan-To-Neverland1

Artwork by Nicholas Jackson

“You just think of lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explained, “and they lift you up in the air.”


“After the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of the parents…about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention.” – J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan (originally Peter and Wendy) by J.M. Barrie
Published Oct. 11, 1911 by Hodder & Stoughton
Children’s/Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Annotated hardcover; 182 pages
Also By This Author: The Little White Bird, Peter Pan (play), The Admirable Crichton
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie’s famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children–Wendy, John, and Michael–who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks. 

(This review is spoiler free)

Thoughts:

What is there left to be said about the story of Peter Pan, the Darling children, and Neverland? I feel as if this beautiful story about children who don’t want to grow up has been analyzed, digested, and adapted more times than anyone can count, but clearly there is a reason for that: Peter Pan is an enduring masterpiece. So instead of analyzing it, I just want to share a few of the things that struck me the most while reading this book.

Firstly, I checked out my library’s copy of The Annotated Peter Pan, and I’m really tempted to buy a copy for myself. It has so much information about J.M. Barrie, the early productions of the play, hundreds of footnotes (which is where I found that quote from Barrie about the fairy dust), and some chapters on Peter Pan adaptations, spin-offs, and productions.

The Introduction by Editor Maria Tatar included this similarity between Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which echoed my own feelings while reading the novel:

[Dorothy], Huck, and Peter have won us over with their love of adventure, their streaks of poetry, their wide-eyed and wise innocence, and their deep appreciation of what it means to be alive. They all refuse to grow up and tarnish their sense of wonder and openness to new experiences.

Reading this book as an adult, I noticed myself trying to rationalize things or figure out a logical solution to the characters’ conflicts, but when I tried to see Peter Pan and the world of Neverland through the eyes of the Darling children, I began to feel inspired and light-hearted again. This is the exact reason why I enjoy reading children’s and YA literature. Of course every genre deals with serious subject matter, I am not disputing that, but I particularly love reading tales from the POV of a child or adolescent; experiencing situations from the eyes of a younger person has always been eye-opening to me.

Another aspect of the novel that made a big impression on me was Barrie’s style of writing. His sense of humor is both subtle and cheeky, and it’s most concentrated in his descriptions of the characters. One of my favorite examples of this is from a passage about Peter Pan’s imagination:

The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.

And another one about Captain Hook being temporarily overcome by softness:

There was a break in his voice, as if for a moment he recalled innocent days when–but he brushed away his weakness with his hook.

Speaking of the characters, every film adaptation I have seen of Peter Pan has done an excellent job at keeping the characters pure to their original depictions. I grew up watching both Hook and Disney’s animated version of Peter Pan, and I was easily able to resonate each of the film characters with their print versions. Captain Hook seemed both hauntingly intimidating and ironically frightful while Tinkerbell was as mischievous as ever.

I loved how the last chapter concluded everything nicely for our characters, although in such a short and intense way that it definitely brought tears to my eyes. This is one of those books that stays with you a while after you finish the last page; you’ll reflect on things in a bittersweet or inspirational way.

Read This Book If…:

…you have an active imagination
…you’re always up for an adventure!
…you’re not ready to grow up (or you have grown up, and you wish you hadn’t)
…you need to refresh your sense of wonder and embrace the unexpected

Final Musings:

I dearly loved this book, in a different way than I probably would have if I had read it as a child. The themes that resonated with me the most weren’t about the pirates or the fairies, but about living for the moment, staying curious and interested, and always being ready to face the unexpected (as impossible as that sounds). And this wonderful story reminded me that sometimes we have to pause and take a look at the things around us, to reflect on where we are and how we got there.

Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without our noticing for a time that they have happened.