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The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  4,491 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Stevenson’s brooding historical romance demonstrates his most abiding theme—the elemental struggle between good and evil—as it unfolds against a hauntingly beautiful Scottish landscape, amid the fierce loyalties and violent enmities that characterized Scottish history. When two brothers attempt to split their loyalties between the warring factions of the 1745 Jacobite risi ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 1997 by Penguin Classics (first published 1889)
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Apr 15, 2017 Issicratea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, 1800-1900
I approached my rereading of The Master of Ballantrae with some trepidation. It was a book I adored when I was very young, and it’s always a risky business revisiting bookish old flames (like old flames of any kind.)

I’m pleased to report that the novel stood up to revisitation quite triumphantly. I have a better knowledge of the literary context now, and I enjoyed picking up on the echoes of James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (use of invented documents and mem
Gosh, I love RLS. He was the man. Adventure, intrigue, travel, romance, gothic suspense...gosh I love RLS. He would have made a terrific screenwriter during cinema's golden age, all swash and buckle. This ripping yarn just doesn't let you leave. You may pretend you're working or gardening or conversing with others during your everyday boring life, but really, you're just thinking about the Brothers Durie. Which one is really good and which one is really evil?

This specific edition is from 1968 (p
Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

This book is being discussed by the 19th Century Literature Yahoo Group.

This is the story of two brothers set during & after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, often referred to as "the Forty-five", in Scotland, India & America.

An incident in the rebellion of 1746, by David Morier

The narrator of this book is done by Mackellar, the loyal steward to the Durie of Durisdeer family, which consists of an old lord and this two sons - James, the Master of
Christmas came early this year! A whole set of uncut Robert Louis Stevenson books. RLS! This is better than coffee ice cream, meat pies, and pecan rolls. Shazam!

I have already reviewed the story itself here, so I will use this review for the actual physical book. As we increasingly turn to e-books in the current century, it is always a pleasure to hold a book which was made when printing presses were considered to be state-of-the-art and most folks couldn't even afford a book, let alone a set.

Sep 11, 2014 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Cheryl, Dagny, and Karen
11 SEP 2014 -- lovely cover.

Background info for the Rising of '45 --

13 SEP 2014 -- Jacob is Esau and Esau is Jacob. Interesting play on the Biblical story.

15 SEP 2014 -- this is definitely more than a boys' adventure tale. Except for the difficult (for me, at least) written brogue, I am enjoying this novel. Of course, I already do not like the Master one single bit.

16 SEP 2014 -- today, I discovered the new depths of evil the Master is capable of reachi
mark monday
Jun 22, 2014 mark monday marked it as on-the-shelf  ·  review of another edition
I just watched the wonderful 50s adaptation of this, starring a debonair but slightly long in the tooth Errol Flynn. awesome action! awesome Technicolor! if the book is half as fun, I need to read it soon. so fast-paced and full of surprises. plus a new favorite character: the French pirate, an effete dandy and killer, with a badass scar on his face to provide a nice contrast to his stylish outfits... so dreamy. and now I'm wondering if Black Sails was renewed for a second season. I sure hope so ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Bev rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson is a romance in the old style--full of adventure and the heroic theme of the struggle between good and evil. It is the story of two brothers--one the favorite of his father, but somewhat a black sheep, and the other the faithful, loyal son who always does his best for the family, no matter the cost to himself. The time period is that of the Jacobite Rebellion. It served families at the time who could to back their bets both ways. The Durie famil ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are certain corners of the high-brow literary establishment - perhaps it's the London Review of Books? - where one is often reminded that R.L. Stevenson has a complex reputation; a bit more than a writer of boys' own adventure stories - perhaps Jules Verne merits the same treatment and is analogous.
In any event, I picked this up on whim when I stumbled into Dumbo's P.S. Books, for the slightly silly reason that they didn't have anything I was really looking for but I like the people that w
pierlapo  quimby
Nov 15, 2010 pierlapo quimby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglofoni, ottocento
Come nel precedente Jekyll e Hyde, anche in questo romanzo Stevenson si cimenta, pur se in modo assai più subdolo, con il tema del doppio.
Protagonisti sono i due fratelli Durrisdeer, l'uno buono, morigerato ma incapace di suscitare alcuna attrazione o affezione, l'altro maligno e dissoluto anche se a suo modo affascinante.
Il conflitto tra i due, impegnati a rincorrersi l’un l’altro per tutto il romanzo, costituisce il motore dell'opera e assume via via proporzioni smisurate e significati quasi
Dec 19, 2016 Nicola rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
3 1/2 Stars

This often tense physiological tale about the nature of good and evil is done in a surprisingly subtle and convincing way.

The two opposing brothers, one 'good' the other 'bad' are opponents from early manhood due to the (as we see it) unremitting villainy of one brother towards the other. The young son, while kind of heart, is not appreciated by either his family or those around him. He lacks his older brothers charm of manner although his principles are held out to be much better th
Sep 02, 2012 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gran-bretagna
Michele Mari, ne I demoni e la pasta sfoglia, dice che all’origine di ogni creazione artistica c’è un’ossessione che possiede lo scrittore tanto prepotentemente da trasformare lui stesso in un ossesso, esattamente come un indemoniato viene posseduto dal demonio. Robert Louis Stevenson ha la “sua” ossessione, quella del doppio che è in ciascuno di noi. Volendo semplificare, il tema del romanzo è l’eterna lotta tra il Male e il Bene, impersonati da due fratelli (nulla di più simile, di più unito d ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, the-list, c19th
Robert Louis Stevenson is in a constant shoving match with Anthony Trollope to be my favorite Victorian. If it comes down to it, its pretty clear which man would win.

Hint: Its not the one who writes sensitive drawing room think-pieces.

The Master of Ballantrae has all the trappings of an adventure story, but what the reader ends up with is a novel about the allure of evil and how, by inches, we're drawn to it even as we're on guard against it.

The story is the narrative of Ephraim Mackellar, stew
Feb 17, 2008 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
After a couple of dud books that I had been looking forward to, I was really relieved when I picked this one up and was hooked almost from the first page. Maybe it helped that I skipped the long introduction and got right into the story.

This is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau set during the 1745 Jacobite Revolution. Two Scottish brothers, James and Henry Durie, reprise the roles of those scriptural brothers and the conflict could not be more exciting. After a coin toss, James
[These notes were made in 1983; I read a 1925 edition:]. There's a certain amount of good, clean picaresque fun in this book. But it is overshadowed by a gloomy attempt at psychological characterization - of a man embittered by the monstrous behaviour of a quasi-Gothic brother (said brother does a brief but rather effective resurrection act at the very melodramatic close of the book). A struggle here, once again, I think, between the symbolic and typic tendencies of melodrama/romance, and the "r ...more
Dec 19, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Me han recordado a Ballantrae y he cogido el ejemplar que compré y pensé que había leído no hace mucho. Pues eso fue hace ¡17 años!
Bastan unas páginas para reencontrarse con una manera de narrar ya perdida. Si fuera música, habría que citar Don Giovanni: lo que se cuenta es horrible y el personaje más simpático es egocéntrico, clasista y va de una truculencia a otra, pero el tono de Mozart y Stevenson es amable. La escritura nunca abandona lo placentero. Ballantrae contada por McCarthy y filmad
Carol Storm
Oct 02, 2014 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a teenager because the movie version with Errol Flynn really rocked! But the book is much darker and more psychological. Jamie Durie and his brother Henry have a tortured relationship that's truly haunting.

Anthony Panegyres
Oct 16, 2013 Anthony Panegyres rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not that alone: but the more deeply Mr Henry floundered in his brother’s toils, the more clownish he grew; and the more the Master enjoyed his spiteful entertainment, the more engagingly, the more smilingly, he went!

Henry Durie is dour, honest and straight, he also lives deep within the shadows of his charming older brother, Master James Durie. When James leaves for adventure by joining the Scottish rebellion, Henry inherits the ancestral mansion and lands along with the title of Lord Durrisdeer
Monty Milne
Feb 19, 2017 Monty Milne rated it really liked it
Stevenson tells a great story, but there is more to this than just a ripping yarn...yes, there are crumbling baronial mansions, cold rain teeming down on highland heather, the Jacobite Rebellion, sword fights, pirates, buried treasure, etc etc - almost to the point of cliché (well, OK, past the point of cliché - but done so well that I don't mind). But - strangely - it's really about something much darker and deeper - the allure of evil. I found this especially powerful and personal because I am ...more
Morgan Gallagher
Nov 16, 2013 Morgan Gallagher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a curious book, in that given its age, the bones of it would be seen now as a psychological thriller. But caught in its own time, it's a good narrative, well written, with a curious way of unfolding the plot.

Just as Wuthering Heights is told via the testimony of a servant, so is this tale, unfurled via various first hand accounts, written down, and assembled into a whole. This brings a touch of disbelief, as it's necessary for the servant in question to travel to the New World in his mas
Jul 24, 2011 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
This was a great story...too bad it wasn't such a great read. I can tell Stevenson was writing his heart out, but the easy readability that made Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. J./Mr. H. so much fun (albeit slightly juvenile) is totally absent here in lieu of a more ponderous writing style (something akin to one of Poe's slow-paced stories)--which might not be so bad for some, but I certainly would have never been able to make it through Ballantrae as a kid; the adventure elements are simply ...more
I first read The Master of Ballantrae in 2012, as a required reading in university. It was a fantastic course overall, and I am really happy I chose it because I would probably never have read this novel otherwise.

I had read and loved Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I had never heard about The Master of Ballantrae and indeed it is not a well known book of Stevenson. But, personally, I liked it even more than his most famous work. I loved everything about it: the masterful use of the unreliable nar
I really enjoyed reading a good yarn, for a change. The story of the rivalry between two brothers set in late eighteenth century Scotland was an enjoyable, if somewhat bleak read. It reminded me of how much I loved Treasure Island, Kidnapped and A Child's Garden of Verses as a child and how I savoured The Black Arrow, which was a radio serial which I loved. I recommend it as a Stevenson which is often overlooked. I am anticipating an interesting contrast with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which, I imagi ...more
Kay Donald
Jul 31, 2013 Kay Donald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic adventure story about two rival brothers whose fates are set by the toss of a coin. The two sides of Scottish character- romantic and violent, calculating and frugal- are excellently depicted through the first person accounts of a family servant. Stevenson creates characters with so many layers that one's opinions of heroes and villains fluctuates through out and his ability to subtly imply menace is a rare talent.
Dec 27, 2008 Francisco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: clasicos, novela, ingleses
Que tu hermano sea el fantasma malvado del que debes huir debe ser terrible. Pero tener que verle salir de la tumba es mortal. Si no, que se lo pregunten a Henry Durrie.
Como siempre ocurre con Stevenson, una prosa magistral nos arrastra por medio mundo, con unos personajes dolorosamente humanos que se encuentran sujetos a sus pasiones y a sus convenciones sociales, mostrándonos el bello rostro de la maldad.
Estupendo. Breve. Doloroso.
Richard Epstein
Aug 06, 2016 Richard Epstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is a bonny book, as ye all ken; but when I encountered "between he and James" in Emma Letley's introduction to this edition, I had to pull on my leather gloves and use a pair of fireplace tongs to remove it from the house. I buried it in a patch of thistles. Shame, really. I wonder what happened to my old Bantam paperback.
Abigail Hartman
Oct 05, 2011 Abigail Hartman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This is a very odd book. In fact, I don't think I've ever read and enjoyed a story with such unlikeable main characters as James and Henry Durie, and I doubt if I would have liked it if it had not been for the narrator, Mackellar. His loyalty and plain sense endeared me to him, and R.L. Stevenson's excellent writing style kept me reading.
Jul 04, 2013 Doc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those only familiar with RLS's work as a buckler of swashes, this is a welcome demonstration of greater breadth. MoB is, at its core, a very modern suspense thriller, but with a pace measured in decades, not days. Sibling rivalry, psychological warfare, blackmail, and madness -- this one has it all.
Dec 22, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: 305-scottish
One of the darkest books I've ever read! Agonizing and thrilling at the same time. A story of brotherly rivalry taken to a bloody extreme. Definitely NOT in the same vein as Treasure Island or Kidnapped. Read for Dr. B's Scottish lit class.

Jack Massa
An overlooked classic and maybe Stevenson's greatest work. A Gothic adventure with the same sense of fated family tragedy as Wuthering Heights. As profound and technically interesting as Bronte's classic, but a more exciting read.
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Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov.

Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is onl
More about Robert Louis Stevenson...

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