Aug 10, 2008

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I wasn’t planning on reading Treasure Island this summer. But my boyfriend’s beautiful illustrated edition (with both full page colour illustrations and the 1885 edition George Roux illustrations) was calling to me from the shelf. The reason why I wasn’t planning on reading Treasure Island in the summer was because I somehow expected it to be ultimately rewarding, yes, but also a bit slow going.

Last year I read Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and while I did enjoy it, it took me a bit to get through it, especially considering how short the book is. Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde is written in that typically elaborate nineteenth century style that despite its many charms takes longer to get through than contemporary writing.

Well, Treasure Island is completely different. It probably helps that Stevenson wrote it with his stepson in mind, but anyway, this classic is 220 action-filled pages of unputdownable fun.

Jim Hawkin’s parents own an inn, the Admiral Benbow, near Bristol. Their quiet lives change when a seafaring man by the name of Billy Bones takes a room at the inn. The captain has in his possession a map of a tropical island by the name of Skeleton Island, and an “x” marks the spot where Captain Flint, a deceased pirate, buried his famed treasure. After a few twists and turns, Jim finds himself becoming the cabin boy of a The Hispaniola, and going in search of the treasure along with his friends Dr. Livesey and Squire John Trelawney.

What’s there not to love about pirates? And this book has it all: treacherous one-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders, the Jolly Roger, mysterious islands, curses, grog and rum, schooners, and treasures. And of course, pirate songs, including the most famous one of all:
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
And how cool a word is “buccaneer”? I love it, and I hadn’t come across it since my days of playing Monkey Island. Of course, all of these elements have now been done to death, but in this book they somehow manage to feel fresh. It’s not unlikely that my knowledge that this is one of the original pirate adventure stories influenced by perception, but I think that it also says something about Stevenson’s storytelling abilities.

In addition to being a wonderful adventure, Treasure Island is also a story about facing one’s fears and growing up. If, like me, you somehow managed to miss out on this classic so far, I really recommend that you do something to change that.

Other Blog Reviews:
Dog Ear Diary
Melissa's Bookshelf
Reading Comes From Writing
Blogging My Books

(Have you reviewed it as well? Let me know and I'll add your link to this list.)


  1. Do you want to hear something really stupid? It never dawned on me that the author who wrote Treasure Island was the same one who wrote The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I just never think of those two books at the same time to make that connection. Haha

  2. Ha! Thanks for linking to my "review" although it rather surprised me, as I didn't manage to finish the book. I'm definitely linking back to yours, as you give a much better idea what it is about! I guess I'm just not in the mood for pirate stories- my husband recorded all three "Pirates of the Carribean" films and I fell asleep twice trying to watch them with him. O well.

  3. I loved this one as a child...just the right amount of adventure and fear!

  4. I haven't read this and for some reason have not been tampted too. A beautifully illustrated copy might tempt me though...

  5. That is a beautiful edition.

    You know, I have no earthly idea if I've ever read Treasure Island. I have a vague recollection that *maybe* I did as a kid, but I'm not sure.

  6. I read this last summer, and just raved about it to everyone! It became perfectly clear where the idea for Captain Jack Sparrow originated. :-)


  7. Sounds fantastic! My mom just got finished reading Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde and talked about how different it was from what she expected (a little dull maybe), so I'll definitely have to recommend this one to her and pick it up for myself! I love how you write "that typically elaborate nineteenth century style that despite its many charms takes longer to get through than contemporary writing." I'm guessing this is the same type of language used in Dorian Gray that I had such a tough time with. :) You make everything sound so pleasant, Nymeth!

  8. Those illustrations are beautiful. If anything I'd love to look through the book to see those. I read Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and thought the same thing -- good but slow reading. And, so different from what I expected. I had the classic Spencer Tracy film in mind :)

  9. I've always thought that every writer should be forced to read this book; it's such a good example of how to tell a story in a way that really captivates the reader and takes them along for the ride.

  10. I really do need to read this. Rich has been telling me that for a long time, but I haven't listened to him yet. We did buy Annie a copy from an antique store a little while ago...

  11. Literary Feline: It's not stupid, I can totally understand not making the connection. Especially considering how different the two books are.

    Jeane: I like the fact that your opinion of the book is so different from mine. Whenever I rave about a book I know that many people out there will disagree, and now if someone finds my post and hates the book, they can click over to yours and no longer feel so alone :P

    Jenclair: Exactly!

    Rhinoa: My boyfriend got his lovely edition for only £2 at one of those discount bookstores...The Works I think it was? Maybe you'll still be able to find it. They also had other illustrated classics like The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz and The Jungle Book...all really lovely editions.

    Carl: Nothing like a re-read (or possibly first read) to find out! You'd enjoy it for sure.

    Lezlie: it really did. And the idea for several other pirate stories!

    Trish: Yes, it's pretty much the same as in Dorian Gray. It's a kind of writing that definitely demands patience. I hope you and your mom enjoy this one!

    Iliana: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was very different from what I expected too. It's funny how that happens so often with classics, isn't it?

    Rob: Very good point!

    Debi: You can borrow Annie's copy, then :P This is such a fun book. I hope you enjoy it!

  12. I really liked this book too - WAY more than I thought I would. I agree, "bucaneer" is a fantastic word :)

  13. Great review! I just read this for the first time myself, and also loved it. I've linked your review on mine, and if you wouldn't mind adding a link to my review, I would appreciate it!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.