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Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Summary: David Balfour, a recent orphan, sets out to live with his miserly, wicked uncle, Ebeneezer. David begins to unravel a mystery involving his uncle, his father, and his own inheritance, only to be cut short when his uncle tricks him aboard a ship of human traffickers bound for the Carolinas. While he is on board, the ship picks up a stranded man by the name of Alan Breck, a colourful Highlander living in exile in France after the failed Jacobite rebellion in '45. Alan and David become fast friends and go on many adventures together - there are shipwrecks, desert islands, clan rivalries, and a deadly game of hide-and-seek across the Highlands.

Review: It's a fun book, guys. It's Robert Louis Stevenson, I don't think this man ever wrote something that wasn't fun. A lot of academics tend to dismiss his work because it's so accessible and, what's more, so playful and utterly free of angst. That doesn't mean there is no merit in it, however. It's also a common misconception that Stevenson's books are "just for children". While they are simple enough to be understood by children, and exciting enough to hold their interest - there are little twists of irony here and there to keep an adult audience engaged, as well.

Stevenson combines many influences - Scott, Dumas, Arabian Nights, ballads and folktales, gothic fiction, Robinson Crusoe, and the juiciest bits of history he could get his hands on. The result is a concise, clear, fast-paced novel that's good fun for all ages. He accomplishes all this with such ease that the reader is left with the impression that it is effortless to produce a novel like Kidnapped - which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Now, of course, it's not perfect. As an English major I've acquired a taste for the meatier, more obscure, tormented and esoteric novel. Kidnapped is none of those things. It follows a predictable pattern; the characters are to a certain degree one-dimensional; there is very little ambiguity, if any at all. To enjoy this book, you have to approach it in the right manner - as a kind of literary palate cleanser. Stevenson wrote in a letter to a close friend:

"When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium [...] And frankly it is not Shakespeare we take to, when we are in a hot corner; nor, certainly, George Eliot -- no, not even Balzac. [...] We want incident, interest, action: to the devil with your philosophy. When we are well again, and have an easy mind, we shall peruse your important work; but what we want now is a drug."

So, in summary: Kidnapped is that kind of drug. It's nice to read to or with your kids, or for a fun high now and then, but not too often.

(Just for the sake of honesty, some of that review was based on the lecture one of my professors gave today. I didn't know what else to say about it!)

Quotation:"I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house."
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