Friday, September 2, 2011

Book 109: Treasure Island (Finished).

"Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

When we were younger, my brothers and I had this collection of illustrated classics for children. They were abridged versions of larger works, and while I liked Little Women and Black Beauty, there were some books in the set I deemed "boy's books" and wouldn't touch. Treasure Island was one of those books I stayed far away from (I was many 6 or 7, so cut me some slack).

Obviously my reading tastes have changed, and I find myself liking things now I would have ignored two years ago, or even ten. I consider myself to be getting more diverse in what I enjoy. Now I just look for a good story accompanied by developed characters and solid writing.

I picked up Treasure Island not knowing what to expect. I needed a fun read, and I hoped that it would deliver some fun in the midst of some heavier reads. And my gut was right. Labeling this book with one word...well, I would have to simply say "fun." The action sucks you in from the beginning. It. Never. Stops. page after page filled with pirates, conspiracy, double crossings, gunfire, murder, and suspense. I was excited to keep going and the two times I had to set it down (to eat and sleep only), I was mad. I wanted MORE and immediately.

"It was Silver's voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone."

The novel starts with our hero, Jim Hawkins, discussing a scalawag of a fellow residing in the inn he runs with his mother. The man, obviously a seaman and a drunkard, insists that Jim look out for a man with a wooden leg. Inevitably, the pirates the old seaman had been running from find him and the inn and chaos breaks out.

Jim discovers a treasure map in the old seaman's chest, with big old Xs marking spots on "Treasure Island." In addition to some wealthy landowners and a doctor, Jim and gang hire a crew under the advice of an old sailor, Long John Silver, and set sail for Treasure Island. During the course of the trip, Jim and the good guys learn what Silver and gang are up to. Thus begins a fun and exciting adventure as they race to find gold on the island.

What I absolutely LOVED about this novel is how current it seemed as I read. In comparison to some of the other novels I have read in this project, this one really seemed it could have been written in today's day and age as opposed to 1883. The language was not difficult and at times, I had to remind myself this was a classic, and not some spin-off of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I mean, Long John Silver had a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder spouting off funny lines, in addition to the treasure maps with Xs, chests of gold, and the pirate flag.

This is definitely a fun novel that reads in a purely accessible way. I don't think there is much to intimidate a poor reader, and the excitement of the pirates is enough to keep anyone on their toes (the one night I had to put it down to sleep I had a dream a pirate was after me. Matt thought it was hilarious that I had a nightmare). I also think it would be great to draw connections from this classic to the other exposures we have had to pirates in our culture-I think that would make a great assignment for a class!

Now, if you are looking for a classic with depth, I don't think this is it. I mean, you can probably draw morals on right versus wrong, heroism, greed, etc, but it reads more adventurous than all that. The characters really don't come to major moral epiphanies-at least not in the sense that perhaps they were all wrong for chasing after gold on the island rather than staying home and tending to business there. The book is more about the culture of life at sea, of taking a chance on adventure, and spreading your wings. It was just plan fun and entertainment. Sometimes, we all need something like that, even if it is supposed to be a classic.

So, if you were like me and avoiding this out of pure horror and judgment, don't. It sucked me right in that as long as you don't have interruptions, the less than 200 pages it contains will fly by in no time.

Plus, it has pirates! What can be better than pirates??

"Sir, with no intention to take offense, I deny your right to put words into my mouth."

Anyone else like me and judged a book as not for them? Have you given it a second chance yet?


  1. I've never read this, but it's on my list and sounds FUN! I probably would have thought this a "boy" book as a child, too. I was just discussing a similar feeling about the sailboat scene in Stuart Little. :-)

  2. It's definitely a boy's book. Just as an example, aside from the shadowy mother at the beginning, it has no female characters.

    Stevenson was a great defender of the boy's book.

    His essay "The Lantern-bearers" is his greatest ode to the novel of adventure and imagination.

  3. I need to read this! Especially since I've had to recent realization that I really, really like adventure stories. My mom read this to my brother and I the first time we went to the beach, but we were so little that I barely remember it. I know I have a copy around somewhere, though...

  4. Fantastic, one of my favorite books. I've recently read it again (my thoughts: and was surprised to realize that the book is about Long John Silver not Jim Hawkins (although he is undoubtedly the hero).

  5. I LOVE Treasure Island, so much fun! I got to read it for a unit at University, and comparing Long John Sliver to Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean was the most fun I've ever had in an exam!

  6. This is a classic I have yet to read. Thanks for your review that whetted my appetite.

  7. I have this on my RIP list but I was wavering on whether to read it or not. Now I'm much more excited about it! Thanks!

  8. I loved this book! Can't wait until Raisin is old enough for me to read it to him.... or hand it to him.