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Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yo Ho Ho, 19 May 2009
This review is from: Treasure Island (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
There are certain books that are so deeply embedded in our history and culture that you somehow feel you have read them even if you have not. Treasure Island is one such book. I remember as a child watching the film version at Christmas and being so terrified by both Long John Silver and, perhaps oddly, by Ben Gunn, that I almost couldn't watch. At the same time I was unsurprisingly very enamoured of brave young Jim the boy hero with whom I of course felt I could identify.

So it was with this legacy that I picked the book up some thirty years later to finally actually read it. Two things in particular surprised me in the opening chapters, firstly I had no idea how wonderfully gothic the start of the book is. The creaking Admiral Benbow Inn provides a suitably sinister backdrop for the macabre triumvirate of Captain Bill, Black Dog and best of all Blind Pew, as they `graah' and `aaahh' their way into the story. All are much larger than life but no worse for it and are clearly templates, along with Long John Silver, for many, many fictional `gentleman of fortune' who have graced page and screen since, not least Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Secondly I was surprised by the protagonist and narrator Jim. He is a genuinely independent boy hero with more than his fair share of wilfulness and impetuosity mixed in with the predictable obedience and piety. As the story unfolds, his apparent determination to do whatever he wants seems to grow to the point where he is in danger of becoming rather irritating. Twice he recklessly abandons his friends but on both occasions his absconding proves eventually, to his and his friends' advantage. A hero indeed with the sort of youthful exuberance and stubbornness with which every child can relate.

In the final analysis Treasure Island is not much more than a very finely written adventure story but then neither does it pretend to be. Stevenson does not seem to have had much interest in moralising or edifying and he certainly was not out to offer unique insights into the human condition, indeed the characters of Dr Livesey and Squire Trelawney are two-dimensional at best. Simply it is thoroughly enjoyable and engaging throughout, by turns extremely funny and genuinely frightening. A beautifully paced, carefully plotted example of nineteenth century children's adventure literature at its very best.
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