Book Review: Treasure Island

“If you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit of a very dirty scoundrel…”

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Make a short list of everything you know about pirates. I mean, don’t write one down because if someone finds it, they will think you have gone quite mad. Just do it in your head. Your mind may have settled on wooden legs perhaps or pieces of eight. You surely would have considered the parrot on the shoulder or  treasure maps marked with X. You may have even conjured up a name. Long John Silver for example. Whatever you thought of, it was almost certainly either invented for, or popularised by, Treasure Island.

I found Treasure Island quite a difficult book to concentrate on, so here is my explanation of the plot, as I understand it. A really terrible and smelly, old, pirate books himself in to a nice pub by the seaside and proceeds to be a complete arse to everyone around him. In the absence of a patriarch, the inn is managed by a lad named Jim Hawkins and his barely mentioned mother – the only female character in the book. The pirate eventually drinks himself to death and leaves behind a mysterious map that leads to an island full of treasure. Hawkins and a local doctor set out to find the loot, that still lies hidden on the imaginatively named Treasure Island. Along the way they recruit a one legged cook who carries a parrot on his shoulder entitled Captain Flint. It is unclear how a bird that likes to shout ‘”pieces of 8″ managed to rise to the rank of captain but it is obvious that the parrot is  a scoundrel  as well as being  an embarrassment to the entire parrot community. A mutiny unfolds and there proceeds a stand off between the pirates and the noble Englishmen, as both parties endeavour to secure the treasure, whilst also attempting to make it off the island alive.

I’m slightly familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson having read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I find his writing style to be straight forward and to the point. It is no wonder Hemingway was such a fan. He also knows how to tell a story, the fact that Treasure Island remains one of the most adapted and translated books ever, is a testament to that. What he doesn’t know how to do however, is make archaic, sea faring language, accessible to a below average intelligence 30 year old man from the future. There were long passages in Treasure Island in which the only words I knew the meaning of were ‘Port’, ‘Rum’ and ‘The’. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Scottish writers classic adventure novel but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to read it again. If only there was a Muppets version…

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