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Reblogged:Thoughts on Treasure Island

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My current light reading is Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, a book I had always thought of as a children's classic and was slightly hesitant to read. Having read and enjoyed Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde recently, I at least was okay with the thought I kind of know the basic story already: That one wasn't spoiled despite its subject's status as a trope.

Curiosity about the origins of modern ideas about pirates got the better of me, and I did wonder if the book might be a good one to read to the kids in installments at bedtime, so I decided I'd at least start it.

To my mild surprise, I have been enjoying the read, as did the late Roger Ebert:

Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver (Image by Louis Rhead, via Project Gutenberg, permission.)
I was talking to a friend the other day who said he'd never met a child who liked reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Neither have I, I said. And he'd never met a child who liked reading Stevenson's Kidnapped. Me neither, I said. My early exposure to both books was via the Classics Illustrated comic books. But I did read the books later, when I was no longer a kid, and I enjoyed them enormously. Same goes for Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The fact is, Stevenson is a splendid writer of stories for adults, and he should be put on the same shelf with Joseph Conrad and Jack London instead of in between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan. [format edits, notes and links omitted]
I cannot help but wonder if Stevenson's unsuitability for young readers is real or apparent; the former being due to changes in style and language over time and the latter owing to a general decline in our culture and the quality of primary education. I can see bright teenagers or young adults enjoying it.

Regardless, I have found in Treasure Island an enjoyable and suspenseful adventure story which offers the adult reader the additional joy of re-experiencing part of the magic of youth through the eyes of its protagonist, who is the main narrator.

Stevenson masterfully leverages Jim Hawkins's youthful inexperience to make his both his actions and his assessments of situations a little different from what an adult might do or think in his shoes: I think it this is a big part of why the book brings back for me fond memories of what it was like to be a child.

So, while the book is a bit long-winded and gory for my seven-year-old son or my nine-year-old daughter, I'll definitely have it in mind when they get a little older.

-- CAV

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