Plugging the holes in a spotty education.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Seven Chapters Before the Mast

After reading Robinson Crusoe I was in the mood for a not-so-land-locked adventure. I fancied one that took place on the high seas. So I picked up Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.

For isn’t Kidnapped the story of a young man picked up off the streets of England somewhere and taken on some kind of a ship by various ne’er-do-wells and having adventures most exotic amongst pirates and other swarthy types?

Short answer: No.

I suppose it’s here I must make the Shame-Faced Admission™ that not only had I not read Kidnapped, I hadn’t read any books by Stevenson. I think I was getting Kidnapped confused with Treasure Island.

The map in the front of my edition should have been the tip-off. It shows the top half of Scotland from Mull in the west to Edinburgh in the east. That’s it. Just Scotland. It dinnae occur to me until later that the Channel Islands aren’t even on the map, never mind Fiji and other locales where pirates are prevalent.

So what of Kidnapped? Young David Balfour, our hero, is a “steady lad…and a canny goer.” Having been sold out by his miserly uncle (Uncle Ebenezer, in fact. Are all miserly uncles named Ebenezer?) he is kidnapped by greedy and loutish sailors. David’s time aboard ship is brief, but it’s nothing if not eventful. A siege of the roundhouse leads to this sight the next morning. “The floor was covered with broken glass and in a horrid mess of blood, which took away my hunger.” Now that’s adventure on the high seas, even if they weren’t even far enough off the coast to play keno.

When the marine leg of his journey ends abruptly, David must walk his way back across Scotland (I tracked it on the handy map) with Alan Breck. Breck is vain, drinks and gambles and there is no one better to lead David across the heather and back to his uncle’s house. There Uncle Ebenezer gets the comeuppance we’ve been hoping for.

Based on historical events and personages, Kidnapped taught me a bit about the history of Scotland and made me realize how much more I don’t know about it. Even better, this well-loved author confirmed my preferences in traveling companions:

Always opt for the dandy with a silver tongue, especially if he knows how to wield a mean cutlass.


Anonymous Dave Cuthbertson said...

nice review.

RLS also did Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island and The Wreckers.

Have you read any John Buchan? His Hannay and Huntingtower books are good. The Hannay series include The 39 Steps and, Sickheart River - set in Canada whereas The Huntingtower series consist of what happens when a down to earth grocer meets villainy and intrigue whilst searching for Romance in modern life ( early 20th century Scotland). Romance meaning a sense of wonder not sexual exploits.

4:02 PM

Blogger Romy said...

The only Buchan I've read is The 39 Steps, which I enjoyed a lot. He put me in mind of Eric Ambler, who put so much excitement and danger in his books without twisting the plot into knots.

I love the idea of the Huntingtower series. I'll have to look for that.

9:10 AM


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