It is a very long time since I read this book, and like most people, I suppose, I remember Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver with his wooden leg and parrot on his shoulder. I could remember a few minor characters as well, I knew they went to Treasure Island in the Hispaniola and that Long John Silver was treacherous, and there was someone called Captain Flint and another called Ben Gunn, but how it all fitted together was buried deep in my memory. So deep, that the book came as a delightful surprise.
It starts at the Admiral Benbow, an inn run by Jim Hawkins’ parents. It could be in Cornwall, or Dorset or even modelled on Staithes in North Yorkshire, but I really ‘got’ this desolate cove from the electrifying descriptions. I was terrified of the Captain, and feared for Jim and his mother until the revenue men finally came to rescue them. And that is only the start of the story. From fitting out the Hispaniola to the search for the treasure, the plot is deftly woven, the descriptions bring the scene to bustling, and occasionally wild and dangerous, life. The sea voyage is not too long for the reader, and the events of the island are just one adventure after another – I had no recollection of the entirety of the plot, and there as many twists in it, as many turns of John Silver’s black-hearted coat, as the most obscure modern television thriller.
Even though I’m a fan of seafaring stories, and well-read in the Patrick O’Brien saga, I found some of the seafaring terms and pirate-talk hard to follow, even reading them in an accent modelled on Captain Barbosa (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame). I wonder, in fact, whether I didn’t skip some of these passages those many years ago. Now it kept me riveted to the page and I couldn’t wait to get back to it when duty finished calling!
I am puzzled, though, about the classification of children’s books. This seemed to me to be hard reading and somewhat violent, yet I’m sure it’s an older children’s book, middle grade and upwards I assume. In parallel I am reading The Adventures of Professor Branestawm which is marked as for 9+ years, yet I find it trivial and suitable for maybe 5 and upwards (although reading age is higher). Some of those I’m promoting at present for Middle Grade children are set at an easier level than this, and I would say mine are more at the Treasure Island reading level. I wish I could turn the plot into such knots though! Maybe I should just carry on writing in the style I enjoy, and hope others who enjoy the same – including classics like Treasure Island – find and read them.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – even better than I remembered it.