Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Master of Ballantrae” as Want to Read:
The Master of Ballantrae
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

The Master of Ballantrae

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  5,526 ratings  ·  289 reviews
Set in Scotland during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, in the exotic French Indies, and in the North American wilderness, the story has as its hero one of the most compelling yet horrifying studies of evil in nineteenth-century fiction—James Durie, Master of Ballantrae. The Master is about his infective influence—on his younger, less attractive brother Henry; on Henry's wife ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published (first published 1889)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Master of Ballantrae, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Master of Ballantrae

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,526 ratings  ·  289 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Master of Ballantrae
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
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1800-1900, reviewed
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
Read this many many years ago but I enjoyed Master of Ballantrae so much more with this second reading. Robert Louis Stevenson could spin an entertaining tale.

This novel has something for all readers. A sweeping tale of sibling rivalry, adventure, derring do, romance, greed and mystery. The story unfolds over many years and takes place in Scotland and the American wilderness.

The classic tale of the brothers Durie, narrated through the eyes of their stalwart Steward Ephraim Mackellar.

Read this a
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.

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 Ballantr
mark monday
Jun 22, 2014 marked it as on-the-shelf
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
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story of two brothers and an enmity that destroys their family is a great tale. Somewhat gothic, a little swashbuckling, and definitely tragic this is my favourite tale by RLS so far. The plot is more or less straightforward, but Stevenson spices it up a bit by mixing in a few points of view, thus introducing varying levels of unreliability in the narrators. Our main tale teller is the somewhat school-marmish Ephraim Mackellar, the major domo and factotum of Henry Durie, younger (and less f ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Brotherly love?

When Bonnie Prince Charlie arrives in Scotland in 1745 to reclaim the lost Stuart crown, the Durie family of Durrisdeer must decide where their loyalties lie. If they make the wrong choice, they could lose everything, but pick the winning side and their future is secure. The old Laird has two sons. Jamie, the eldest, known as the Master of Ballantrae, is attractive and popular but evil, while Henry, the younger, is dull but good. The family decides one son should join Charlie's re
Aug 15, 2011 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
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Purser
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
not his best but a good story.
Oct 29, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. An engaging, dark, tragic adventure tale about James and Henry Durie. The rival brothers are caught in a web of hatred, obsession, love and betrayal. James, the Master of Ballantrae, is involved in the tragedy of Culloden and word gets back to the Durie family that James is dead. Henry takes over the house of Durrisdeer and marries Alison, who previously had been James’s intended marriage partner. Things get complicated when it is discovered some three years later that James is alive. ...more
I hesitate to rate this. I don't know what happened, but I was just severely uninterested in this. It could've very well been a mood thing. I don't know if I couldn't connect with the writing style, but I only just had a vague idea of what happened in each chapter. It was interesting to see the Esau/Jacob dynamic, but I think I had the expectation of learning a little bit about the Jacobite revolution and history behind it and that's not really what I got. I might try to read this again someday, ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wasn't expecting this, but in retrospect, Stevenson did write "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", that should have been some indication. Stevenson excels at character examination, and this novel is just that. (I was thinking that with the right cast, it would make a fantastic movie. I know about the 1953 movie, but I mean now - a modern version. Kind of a combination of American Psycho and The Revenant.) So, what happens when there's a psychopath in the family? ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
[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
Carol Storm
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.

Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
The final book in the Robert Louis Stevenson collection that I got from my brother-in-law for Christmas several years ago. (Well this was actually second to last, but I skipped ahead to read David Balfour right after Kidnapped, so I should say it was the last one left for me to read). This story was pretty good, and it ended really strong, but there were chunks that felt a bit laborious and hard to get through.
Some of the difficulty came from the narrator himself, especially when he interrupted
The Mustache Louie Matos
This is the second time I read the Master of Ballantrae and I remembered not loving it the first time around; however, as we mature, things change. I am not disappointed that I read this novel. In fact, I’m quite happy at rediscovering this gem that I hope to revisit sometime in the future, including it in my best books alongside Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde., and Treasure Island. The story is about two brothers. James is restless and charismatic; whereas Henry is staid and sober. James goes off to w ...more
Adelaide Mcginnity
Aug 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Considering how much action happens over the course of relatively few pages, it is truly a feat of literary incompetence that The Master of Ballantrae seems to plod along at such an excruciatingly tedious pace. The culprit here is obvious: the manner of framing the narrative is way too complex for the story's own good, and often results in the narrative losing forward momentum on mundane repetition while the main action happens only in passing.

Complex narrative structures, particularly for stor
Rebeca Pacheco
The master of Ballantrae
Last week the teacher gave us a book to read in class. We finished the book today and I am going to say that is very boring. I do not think that this book was written for young people.
The book was written in Scotland in 1745. I was expecting so much from it because the images were so interesting. Despite not liking the book, I like the part when the brothers die, because they tried to save James' wife.
The reason the characters of the book were the best part is because the
Marco Vinicio
The Master of Bellantrae
Two months ago, I started reading the book "The Master of Bellantrae" which is a book that talks about Scotland in 1745. This year many people fought to put a Scottish king on the British throne. I expected it to be more interesting but it was not. I must admit, the book can be very popular around the world.
The best point about this book are the plot and the places where the story takes place. The places are very interesting because they always change but it is a notoriou
Max Tapia
A week ago, I was very lucky to be invited by teacher Andrea to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, “The Mastre of Ballantrae”. The book is set in an imaginary situation in the year 1745, and fiction is beautifully mixed with the story of the book. I was not expecting too much from it because I hate reading and the unpopularity with the general public of this writer’s book.

The best points about the film are the characters and the end. On the one hand, the main characters show amusing aspects of
Jean-françois Baillon
I have to admit that it took me quite a while before I was able to go past the first page of this daunting masterpiece. I had to try a few times before I could actually get the hang of Stevenson's austere introduction to a world of deceit and darkness, not unlike his easier texts in many ways but of a less seductive appearance. The language spoken by the narrator as well as the characters is probably part of my difficulty: this is a world the reader enters without any guarantee that any rewards ...more
An intriguing story, but I felt the execution of the narrative was choppy at times. It didn't flow as naturally as his other works. Still, the characters certainly grabbed and tugged at the emotions and I really wanted to see justice come for poor Henry. This felt like a psychological study and I think the Master is one of the best literary villains I've seen. Complex, elegant, ruthless, yet human all the same, in all its grime and glory. ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
A tale of two Scotties: or rather, feuding brothers after one joins Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising in '45, and when presumed dead the younger brother marries his sweetheart. Pitting selfishness and evil not against angelic perfection but decent human morality, the action leaps to America, France and India, but no good comes to either of the Durie brothers. Surprisingly gripping, Stevenson spins his tale through the voice of a trusted family retainer. ...more
Marysia Suchcitz
Conflict, history, moral ambiguity, adventure, psychology and treachery - The Master of Ballantrae brings together so many of RL Stevenson's other novels and places them within a narrative which uses juxtapositions, parallels and contrasts in order to present the relationships between the novel's characters.
This story is about more than just good and evil, instead it dives into the complexity of family fueds and sibling rivalry, between two brothers who are at the same time very different yet a
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson 1 8 Jul 18, 2018 09:48PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Woodlanders
  • What Maisie Knew
  • Life: A User's Manual
  • The American
  • New Grub Street
  • The Four Feathers
  • The Old Wives' Tale
  • The Daffodil Mystery
  • The Honorary Consul
  • Operette Morali: Essays and Dialogues
  • Samuel Beckett's Company/Compagnie; And, A Piece Of Monologue/Solo
  • The Captain's Verses
  • Canto alla durata
  • Malone Dies
  • Madeline Payne, the Detective's Daughter
  • Rob Roy
  • Bound for Glory
  • A Fine Dark Line
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

  Mateo Askaripour is a Brooklyn-based writer whose debut novel, Black Buck—which Colson Whitehead calls a “mesmerizing novel, executing a high...
68 likes · 7 comments
“It is one of the worst things of sentiment that the voice grows to be more important than the words, and the speaker than that what is spoken.” 13 likes
“He was in that humour when a man will cut off his nose to spite his face” 11 likes
More quotes…