Caroline's Reviews > King Solomon's Mines

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
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Aug 07, 11

bookshelves: victoriana, africa, lost-civilization
Read in August, 2011

A classic British adventure novel. This is the story of Sir Henry Curtis, who hires great white hunter Alan Quatermain to find his brother, who had disappeared in the interior of Africa searching for King Solomon’s diamond mines. Three Englishmen hire three native servants and set off into the unknown, battling hostile elements and a mysterious lost nation with hair-raising rites.

They participate in a battle and all the drama of a coup without the moral quandary ( see, he’s not the RIGHTFUL king). They discover vast amounts of treasure, and match wits with a horrible old wise woman.

It is loaded to the brim with Victorian British masculine values: stiff-upper-lip bravery, unimpeachable honor, loyalty to God and country, law and order, protection of innocents, and an unassailable belief in their own moral superiority. They do have a certain appealing innocence.

It’s also racist. Not maliciously racist, exactly, but at best, the attitudes are extraordinarily patronizing toward the native Africans. You put the book down for a minute, cringe inwardly and outwardly, and hope that the surrounding story is enough to make up for it.

In this case… I would have to say not. King Solomon’s Mines is a forerunner/originator/epitomizer of a certain genre of adventure novel. As such, it is historically interesting and admirable and makes for fascinating reading. You are present at the birth of many soon-to-be clichés. Many parts, however, have aged badly (although they could be so much worse) and the characterization and action can be rather dull. I was glad I read it once, though may never get around to it again.
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