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Treasure Island (Puffin Classics) Paperback – 3 Mar 1994
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About the Author
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. The son of a prosperous civil engineer, he was expected to follow the family profession but was finally allowed to study law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson reacted forcibly against the Presbyterianism of both his city's professional classes and his devout parents, but the influence of Calvinism on his childhood informed the fascination with evil that is so powerfully explored in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson suffered from a severe respiratory disease from his twenties onwards, leading him to settle in the gentle climate of Samoa with his American wife, Fanny Osbourne.
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Stevenson's style is graphic and fast-paced and, although his vocabulary may daunt younger independent readers, all eager adventure-lovers with the patience to consult a dictionary if challenged, and the humility to take on an accurately researched sea-story of the days of sail, will find it gripping. It's best read aloud, remembering that Silver is an educated and utterly unprincipled villain, a 'killing gentleman' as Sir Terry Pratchett would term him. There's nothing funny about him. Captain Smollett is a braver man than you may recall, worthy of our respect, Dr Livsey is a decent man and a patient friend, and Squire Trelawney a brave, generous, gormless clot... As for Ben Gunn, Israel Hands, Blind Pugh and Billy Bones... Open the book and meet Kidd's crew. Pieces of Eight!
It was bought as a gift for a Dad to read to his son and to keep as a family treasure but is also suitable for reading by torch-light under the duvet: warning, it's a weighty tome that may become a strain for small hands.
Many years later I started watching Black Sails on Amazon Prime, which was written as a prequel to Treasure Island ( though definitely not for kids!). When the final series ended I tried to find my original copy of the book, but it must have been given away. So I downloaded the book and thoroughly enjoyed my bedtime read.
Jim’s character and his story are easy to follow – although the nautical terms and pirate dialect may be a distraction. With powerful imagery and rich imagination Treasure Island takes the reader on a journey that will open their minds. Reading this for the first time as a teenager would be the ideal experience.
Treasure Island could be a longer novel. The side characters are not explored enough to gain a feel for them and the action towards the later stages of the novel are too hard and fast. Rather than a gradual build to the climax, we are thrown at the deep end with a lot of action. Maybe the decision to keep Treasure Island a short novel was so that it can keep the attention for the younger readers. If that is the case, it is a well-deserved sacrifice.
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