Conrad Wesselhoeft's Reviews > Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
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's review
Jul 10, 2016

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

I have mixed feelings about this one--a classic to be sure, but flawed. On the positive side, Stevenson tells a grand tale of adventure, full of wit, piratical bluster, and the tang of the sea. Jim Hawkins is a plucky young hero--and Long John Silver by turns psychopathically vile and Leno-esquely charming.

The problem lies in Jim, who is consistently reasonable up until his meeting with Long John, after which he makes a series of impetuous decisions bordering on imbecility. One is the fact that he does not recognize Long John for who is really is, despite ample warning from Billy Bones (don't you love these names?). Another is Jim's decision to leap into a shore-bound boat with the pirates when all good judgment would recommend that he stay aboard the schooner "Hispaniola" with Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney, and Dr. Livesey--aka the good guys. A third is Jim's inexplicable decision to go AWOL when he and his friends are besieged in the garrison by the pirates. None of these actions make good sense; however, they advance the story in an exciting way. The result is that Stevenson adds thrills and spills at the expense of credibility.

The story rushes along at a fever pitch, and the pirate lingo is unbeatable--"Shiver me timbers!" Yet "Treasure Island" also leaves you feeling exhausted and ready for this adventure to end.

On a personal note, I recently visited the "Equator"--the once-sleek two-masted schooner that carried Stevenson, his wife and stepson into the South Pacific in 1889. The vessel rests in a shed in Everett, WA, an hour north of my home in West Seattle. She's in a state of extreme decay, but her lines are still beautiful. If only planks could talk--ahh, but they can!

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