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Stevenson Under the Palm Trees
 
 

Stevenson Under the Palm Trees [Kindle Edition]

Alberto Manguel
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

"Manguel merges fantasy and reality to create a deceptively simple tale that’s both evocative and subtly disturbing." -- The Observer, 11th January

"Stevenson Under the Palm Trees is a clever and charming jeu d’esprit." -- The Independent, 9th January

"Stevenson Under the Palm Trees is richly told in faultless prose." -- Independent on Sunday, 11th January

Product Description

In the lush, uninhibited atmosphere of Samoa, Robert Louis Stevenson is languishing with the disease that will soon kill him; when a chance encounter with the mysterious Scottish missionary, Mr Baker, turns his thoughts back to his conservative, post-Reformation Edinburgh home.

As Stevenson's meetings with the tantalizingly nebulous missionary become increasingly strange, a series of crimes against the native population sours the atmosphere. With its playful nod to Stevenson's life and work Manguel has woven an intoxicating tale in which fantasy infiltrates reality.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 205 KB
  • Print Length: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; New edition edition (8 Oct 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0062O2UVU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #683,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Alberto Manguel is probably best known for his books about books, which include A History of Reading and The Library at Night. Despite my love of anything bookish, I haven't read him before, so I decided to start small with this slim little novella about the final months of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Set around Stevenson's home in the village of Vailima, on the Samoan island of Upolu, it relies upon the same concept of duality that Stevenson himself utilises in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror (Penguin Classics). In the book, Stevenson meets a Scottish missionary, a rather odious man called Mr Baker, on the beach and finds himself caught up in a religious and ideological battle against Baker's Puritanical sensibilities. But all is not quite as it seems, and the reader is left to figure out who is wreaking havoc upon the Samoan islanders - Stevenson or Baker?

It was interesting to learn about the end of Stevenson's life, and how the local villagers welcomed him into their community. The vibrancy of the culture is vividly evoked in spare, finely honed prose; the flowers, the music, the sensuality of Samoan life come alive under Manguel's pen through careful snapshots of imagery and description. There are some interesting moments as Stevenson and Baker argue about dreams, reality and the nature of religion, though I found them a little obtuse at times.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The mind plays tricks in the jungle 11 Feb 2009
By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
An odd little novella about Robert Louis Stevenson; this edition is lushly produced with posh covers and illustrated with some of Stevenson's own woodcuts (at 105 pages of big text it needs to justify its price tag!).

It's a story based on Stevenson's last days in Samoa as he is dying of tuberculosis. After his meeting with a newly arrived Scottish missionary, bad things start to happen and Stevenson is drawn into the events in a way such that in his ill state he can't be sure what's happening.

A powerful and slightly strange little story that echoes RLS's own work. Interesting but I would have preferred a longer novel or collection of stories.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Manguel's sleight of hand 17 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books, that when you're reading it, you stop, turn it over in your hand as though looking for the trick, like some magic act, you saw it happen, you were real close, but ......? This book is including notes and woodcuts (Stevenson's own) only 105 pages long and yet Alberto Manguel manage to pack in so much as it focuses on Robert Louis Stevenson's last days dying of consumption on a tropical island. It plays with the idea of moral duality as in Stevenson's own Novella (Jekyll and Hyde), is Baker real or some Edward Hyde persona of Stevenson's allowed free reign whilst he slept. Also the writers attitude to the indigenous population as childlike innocents whose amoral existence was counterpoint to his 18th century Scottish Calvinist upbringing. That Alberto Manguel has managed to conjure up through Stevenson's own Tales (The Beach of Falesa), letters and biography a beautiful little book that plays with many ideas and questions concerning sensuality and repression, waking and dreaming, plus the whole craft of writing itself. Like his mentor Jorge Luis Borges, Manguel seems to place his own reading centre stage in his writing, by which I mean his dominant subject matter are books themselves, not as some influence on his writing but as the subject of it. If I played the game of who I would invite to some fictitious dinner party, Alberto Manguel' s name would be high on that list, as he appears to be the epitome of a representative of the Reading Life.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slight but enjoyable 2 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
This is an intriguing little volume that's apparently loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson's correspondence during his last few years. It's evocative and believable, though I'm not sure (if it's as fictionalised as it seems to be) why it needed to be based on a real person.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a fair doppelganger story 9 April 2005
By A. C. Walter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This story is set during Robert Louis Stevenson's last days, as he attempts to continue writing while convalescing in Samoa. One day an Edinburgh missionary arrives on the island where Stevenson lives. He appears at chance moments to Stevenson and speaks in a manner both cryptic and threatening. Soon a series of terrible crimes occurs on the island, and the natives are certain that Stevenson is responsible.

As a story based on the "double" or "doppelganger" theme, Manguel's book can be located in the literary neighborhood of Poe's "William Wilson," Chekhov's "The Black Monk," and Dostoyevsky's "The Double." However, the story never does anything very unique to create an atmosphere of unease, nor does it travel deep enough into its characters or themes to rank with the best stories of this sort, such as Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" and "Heart of Darkness" or Gustav Meyrink's "The Golem" and "The Green Face"--let alone that masterwork of Stevenson's which Manguel obviously hopes to evoke, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Perhaps it is the fact that this long story, or short-ish novella, is bound between hardcovers that one expects something of greater weight and significance.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "nostalgia was the pain of missing places he had never seen before." 20 April 2008
By J. Guild - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I recently read and wrote a review on (December 3,2007) on "The Library at Night" by Alberto Manguel ;and was mesmerized with it. So,when I came across this little tome,I just had to pick it up. No question Manguel is a man who appreciates great literature and classics. He has spent his life in the pursuits of the writings of the people and books ,who and which,through the centuries ,are considered as the great men and books of literature.
Although I was subjected to this type of literature at school,as were most others,it was not something that enthralled me;and by no means contributed to my present love of books and reading. I was fortunate to have had a father who ,although he never had the opportunity to go to college,also had a great love of reading.He knew nothing of the classics,but had a great interest in politics and subscribed to "Hansard" the proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada. He read all these proceedings for about 40 years. Since there is a tremendous amount of information placed there,"for the record";he had acquired a vast amount of knowledge on many subjects. I doubt if Manguel ever read anthing from Hansard. My point is,that the love of reading is very personal, in what one reads.
This little tome about "Stevenson" was not particularly the type of thing I am attracted to ;so I ,in no way want to say it is good or bad.I am sure some will find it exceptionally good;but others ,like me,will just feel that it doesnt't "ring my bell".
It's been said "all novels fall into one of two themes;a man went on a journey or a stranger came to town".This seems to be the latter.
I don't want to make light of this little short story or novella;but if I were to think back on it a year or so from now ;I might be left with a couple of thoughts.Either,be careful of who you meet up with under a palm tree; or, make sure you know where your hat is.
As an aside; Alberto Manguel no longer resides in Canada,as stated on the dust jaket.He Now lives in France and was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. Although I was less than enthused with this book;I will be anxiously anticipating more from him on "Books About Books" in the future.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manguel's sleight of hand, 3 Mar 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is one of those books, that when you're reading it, you stop, turn it over in your hand as though looking for the trick, like some magic act, you saw it happen, you were real close, but ......? This book is including notes and woodcuts (Stevenson's own) only 105 pages long and yet Alberto Manguel manage to pack in so much as it focuses on Robert Louis Stevenson's last days dying of consumption on a tropical island. It plays with the idea of moral duality as in Stevenson's own Novella (Jekyll and Hyde), is Baker real or some Edward Hyde persona of Stevenson's allowed free reign whilst he slept. Also the writers attitude to the indigenous population as childlike innocents whose amoral existence was counterpoint to his 18th century Scottish Calvinist upbringing. That Alberto Manguel has managed to conjure up through Stevenson's own Tales (The Beach of Falesa), letters and biography a beautiful little book that plays with many ideas and questions concerning sensuality and repression, waking and dreaming, plus the whole craft of writing itself. Like his mentor Jorge Luis Borges, Manguel seems to place his own reading centre stage in his writing, by which I mean his dominant subject matter are books themselves, not as some influence on his writing but as the subject of it. If I played the game of who I would invite to some fictitious dinner party, Alberto Manguel' s name would be high on that list, as he appears to be the epitome of a representative of the Reading Life.
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