Top positive review
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A book to keep with you and read and re-read.....
on 4 September 2000
Sadly Hollywood has probably duped you with their lame film versions. Even Robert Newton with his laughable caricature. Make no mistake, this book holds immense appeal for children and adults.... especially adults. Jim Hawkins tells how his life gradually becomes entangled with a dark underworld bent on a search for Flint's treasure. Having thwarted the gentleman of Fortune and taken the map from under their noses, the expedition of Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawny, Doctor Livesy and Jim Hawkins naively take the pirates on as crew, with Silver as their leader. Their murderous plotting is only accidentally revealed to the honest men at the crucial moment, just before the lookout sights the island.
The simple narrative style of Jim and the slightly childish romance can easily deceive you into ignoring a book full of violent adventure. No modern childrens author would relish such simple evil: "Silver, agile as a monkey, even without leg or crutch, was on top of him next moment, and had twice buried his knife up to the hilt in that defenceless body. from my place of ambush, I could hear him pant aloud as he struck the blows."
Anyone in any doubt about the character of Long John Silver would do well to read Bjorn Larsen's superb 'Long John Silver - The true and eventful History of my Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind.' RLS may have based his brutal sea-cook on a figure described by Captain Johnson in his 'History of the Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious Pyrates' - "A fellow with a terrible pair of whiskers and a wooden leg, being stuck round with pistols like the man in the almanac with darts, comes swearing and vapouring upon the quater-deck, and asks, in a damning manner, which was Captain Mackra".
No doubt as hollywood has dumbed down RLS, he himself romanticised the real thing: Early 18th century pirates swarmed all over the carribean and the African coast. They had no hesitation in murdering and torturing in the cruellest fashion, yet in a strange way you can sympathise with their desire for democracy, egalitarianism and their system of welfare or compensation for injured men. Silver's comrades tip him the black spot as is their right, but by the sheer force of his presence and argument, backed up by his trump card - the map - he wins the day. For a more detailed look at the historical realities of life among the pirates read David Cordingly's 'Under the Black Flag'
This edition comes with a little icing on the cake - the superb and some might say the definitive illustrations of Mervyn Peake. His dark imagination oozes out of every picture and take you the scene. The contrast of sunlight and death as Silver cleansed "his bloodstained knife the while", makes my spine crawl and I am there in the undergrowth, looking out at the "little green dell".
Read this wonderfully straight-forward book, keep a copy nearby and let it transport you, when you need it, at the turn of a page....
....I hear the surf booming about it's coasts, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: 'Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!.........