By: Robert Louis Stevenson
Review By: Alex Frank
I feel I must begin by stating that I wasn’t sure if I should write book reviews for classic novels. I am not an English or Lit major. I have no background whatsoever in trying to critique works which have been so highly regarded as to be considered “classics” in the first place. I am but one person who reads books and claims to have an opinion about them. My book review will not sounds like I’m giving a dissertation or writing a paper for an English class. I will not be looking into it that thoroughly, but merely wish to state, in plain words, how I feel about this particular work. You may agree with it. You may take it with a grain of salt. Either way, it’s entirely up to you, and this work will still be a classic regardless of my opinion.
Jim Hawkins is a seven-year-old boy who helps his father and mother run an inn called the Admiral Benbow. One day a haggard man comes to the inn and tells Jim’s father that he will be taking up residence there for a time. The Captain, as he calls himself, says his expenses will be covered by however much gold the family will require. The Hawkins family soon grows tired of the old man’s company because he is loud, rowdy, and always drunk on rum. Everyone fears the Captain, but he himself also seems to be afraid of a one-legged man whom he instructs Jim to be on the lookout for. A chain of events is set off when a blind man asks to see the captain, and Jim is forced to take the stranger back to the inn. Not realizing the blind man’s intentions or the danger he has just put his family inn, Jim soon finds himself embarking on a voyage for lost treasure with a group of unruly, mutinous pirates.
Stories revolving around pirates, be it in books or movies, I almost always find to be interesting. So it’s honestly surprising that I have waited this long to read Treasure Island. This was the book that essentially started it all and where our modern image of pirates comes from. And for as awe inspiring and adventurous as I imagined this book would be, I can’t help but admit that I was disappointed.
Now, I will say this. Treasure Island is a children’s book, so one would expect that the story would have to be a little watered down in order to keep a child’s attention. That’s fine and dandy. I can understand why the story was structured the way that it was and why the story flowed at such a fast choppy pace. My problem does not so much lie with the story itself as in the way it was written. The language was so confusing. At some points, it didn’t even feel like I was reading English. Yes, if I kept reading the paragraph, then I got the general gist of what was going on. But how on earth are children supposed to understand what a group of pirates are saying when their dialogue is almost nonsensical?
I was, on the other hand, willing to also consider that this novel was not written in the 21st century. The original novel was published all the way back in 1883, so, as we can all imagine, people talked differently then. Children in 1883 could probably understand the language and references better than children (and college student) in 2015. That is not to say that Treasure Island is impossible or not worth reading. Far from the truth, because there are so many references from this novel used in movies and everyday life. I just wish to warn people that this is not the easiest classic in the world to digest despite the fact that it is a children’s novel. But that is also just my opinion, and other people may not find the language as hindering to their reading experience as I did.
The most enjoyable part of this book was understanding where all of the references came from that I recognized from one of my favorite movie series, Pirates of the Caribbean. There were references to eight pieces, the black spot, rum drinking, the song “Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum,” the dead man’s chest, and treasure maps. Each of these things was employed by Pirates of the Caribbean in a slightly different way then they were originally written in Treasure Island. But I think that is what makes the movie adaptation so interesting when compared to the book. There is so much more that I feel I understand now that I didn’t before and why I still say to read Treasure Island despite the language drawbacks.
Also, on a side note, I never knew the namesake of the Long John Silver restaurant. Long John Silver was a cook, among other things, aboard the ship, Hispaniola, during Jim Hawkins’ adventures. Rather funny and I’m glad I know that now.
Overall Rating: 3.5