March 31, 2015

Treasure Island ~ A Book Review

Treasure Island
Book By Robert Louis Stevenson
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

“It was Silver's voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone.” ~ Treasure Island

“One more step, Mr. Hands,’ said I, ‘and I'll blow your brains out! Dead men don't bite, you know,’ I added with a chuckle.” ~ Treasure Island

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, has made a lasting impact on children’s fiction. From dark and frightening travellers to swash buckling pirates, Stevenson left us a thrilling tale that has inspired children of all ages since its first publishing.  Fanciful images of the uncouth Billy Bones, the shocking conversations of Long John Silver’s parrot, and the breath-taking danger young Jim Hawkins finds himself facing gives only one explanation: Treasure Island is indeed a treasure.
            Pirates, mutineers, and thieves make a book a tricky place to include a lot of moral guidance, but there are some pieces of gold to be found.  The main character is taught to be very respectful to his elders and especially thoughtful of his mother.  There is also a great amount of trust and betrayal swindled amongst the characters, but when it comes to the young hero, he is completely loyal to his word.  When Jim Hawkins swears to a pirate that he will not try to escape, he holds true to that, even though he had a perfect opportunity.
            When a drunken sailor stumbles into the Admiral Benbow Inn and tells young Jim Hawkins to keep an eye out for a man with one leg, life becomes a bit out of the ordinary for the innkeeper’s son.  Jim keeps a sharp eye out for a one-legged man, but instead, an old blind man appears.  Shortly after, following a quick and deadly duel, old Billy Bones is left dead in the inn and no one to claim his belongings. Jim finds a treasure map in the old man’s sea chest, and after securing the help of some wise friends, they all set off to find the treasure.  There’s one big problem, however; the one-legged cook aboard Jim’s ship may be hiding a secret that will cost the brave young character and his friends their lives.
            Jim Hawkins is the noble main character of Treasure Island, and it is he who tells the story in a first person narrative.  He is described as a boy, and though his age is never mentioned, he is probably a young teen.  With a lot of brain and brawn for his young age, he manages to save the majority of the loyal crew from mutineers, but he never boasts about his bravery or success.
            Long John Silver is the primary antagonist of this gripping pirate novel.  As he hobbles about on a crutch, with a talking parrot on his shoulder, he appears to be a pleasant cook for the ship’s kitchen.  However, he has a mutinous, greedy mind, and when he tries to take over the ship from the captain, his true colors are revealed.  He is possibly the most dynamic character of the book, because he doesn’t often get furiously angry, as most pirates seem to do.  He keeps a cool, even head, carries out his plan with deadly precision, and can almost be kind and caring to young Jim.
            The writing quality of Treasure Island is very fine.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the narrative simply and boyishly, as if a young lad were indeed recounting his adventures.  There are some pieces, which could be hard to understand, due to the archaic English that Stevenson used.  When characters talk, however, that’s when the real struggle begins.  Stevenson wrote his characters dialogue exactly as they might have spoken it in real life, and so when reading the pirates or uneducated people, the language is hard to understand, because it is not written nicely.  The well-to-do Englishmen are easy to follow, but for anyone else, it can be hard to know exactly what is being said.
            Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, an only child to his parents.  Stevenson was often very sickly in his childhood and his illness continued until his death.  He was raised as a Christian, since his father was a preacher, but at a young age, Stevenson abandoned his early doctrine and became an atheist.  He published Treasure Island on May 23, 1883. Previously, it had been published periodically in a journal for children.  After years of writing, marriage, and traveling, Stevenson finally died in 1894, on December 4th.  It is suspected that he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
            Considering the piracy side of Treasure Island, the story is fairly clean.  There’s very little swearing, which is quite a pleasant surprise, and there is no romance or hint of intimate relationships.  Perhaps the only mature content would be the amount of death.  Quite a few characters die, either from sickness, wounds, or murder, however none of the deaths are graphic or overly morbid.  Some sensitive readers may not enjoy the story, but for young, adventure-loving readers, it should be safe.
            Another stroke of genius that Stevenson used was the complete congruency of his characters, plot, and writing style. Though it’s not a very long story, Treasure Island is completely consistent in character development over the course of the story.  The same is true for his well-executed plot line and writing style.
            From the cozy Admiral Benbow Inn, to the mysterious Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson left the world with one of the most familiar children’s fiction books in history.  His colorful tale of adventure, gold, and pirates have inspired many other people to follow in his legacy and write similarly.  Treasure Island is a book that will awaken the fading imagination and bring life, intrigue, and mystery back into the heart of any reader, young, or old.

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are meaningful and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Memorable and exciting for all aged readers)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (For some difficulty, especially in dialogue)
Mature Content ~ Positive! (Topics should be suitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is 5 out of a possible 6 positive points.

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