The Classics Club: Kidnapped


I originally picked up Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson back in July this year, but I put it aside to read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen for the Austen in August event. As soon as that was over, in September, I got straight back into this.

In this novel Stevenson swept me back to 18th century Scotland during the aftermath of the Jacobite rising. Sadly young David Balfour’s parents have died so he sets off with a letter of recommendation to find his uncle; his only remaining relative. Unfortunately David’s miserly uncle is less than happy to receive him. Before he knows what’s happening David is tricked and finds himself bound and gagged aboard, the Covenant, a ship which is forging a passage towards the New World. So begins an adventure on the high seas then land filled with danger, fights, a shipwreck, murder, rebellion and chases.

Our protagonist David is just 17 years old at the beginning of this adventure; a fresh faced and naïve young man. I could have screamed at him for how ludicrously naïve he was about his uncle, however I couldn’t knock David for his optimism and resourcefulness. I also had to be impressed when David is imprisoned aboard the Covenant facing a life of slavery. He could give up but he instead takes a dangerous chance for freedom. By aiding a Jacobite rebel, Alan Breck Stewart, fight Captain Hoseason and his unscrupulous crew. Alan is a proud, tough and no nonsense man while he is quick to take insult I did find his fondness for David very touching; their unlikely friendship was one of my favourite parts of this book.

Previously to this I had read two of Stevenson’s novels. I found my first read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde difficult which put me off reading more for quite a few years. Fortunately The Classics Club encouraged me to try again and I am so pleased it did because I loved my second read Treasure Island. I think Kidnapped falls between the two for me. While for the most part I really enjoyed it there were some difficult moments. I loved the excitement of the fights, the shipwreck, the murder and the false accusations! The following chase though was a little slow which seemed to defeat the object of a chase a little to me. I do understand that the chase across the highlands for David and Alan was a long, dangerous trial; I just would have preferred a little more pace.

What I was pleasantly surprised to find out was how much Stevenson based on real history. Of course I had heard of the Jacobite rising however it was interesting to see what the aftermath actually entailed for the people involved; the family feuds and secrecy. Then there is the ‘Appin Murder’ which actually happened in 1752 and is cleverly intertwined into David’s adventure too. Plus many of the characters are based on real people including our fiery Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart.

I thought Kidnapped was a sweeping historical adventure that was a slow and comforting read. I recommend to those interested in reading the classics. I’ve heard there is a sequel called Catriona which I may have to investigate further. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read any of Stevenson’s other adventures?

The Classics Club – 35/50


15 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Kidnapped

  1. I felt much the same as you, I think. I enjoyed the first parts a lot until Davie ended up on shore, and then it seemed to lose pace. I got fed up with Davie being ill all the time – probably realistic in the circumstances but not what I really expect of the hero of an adventure story. I preferred Treasure Island too, and though it’s a long time since I read it, I seem to remember enjoying Jekyll and Hyde as well. DK Broster’s Flight of the Heron trilogy is brilliant about the Jacobite rebellion, if you wanted to read more – it’s a bit romanticised, but the history is pretty sound and it’s a great story, well told, with a wonderful hero in Ewen Cameron…

    1. I can sympathise that it was a little annoying how much time David spent ill, but then as you’ve said that would probably be realistic to the situation he is in and his age.

      Thank you for the recommendation 🙂 I would really like to read more about this setting and time period. I will have to make a note of Flight of the Heron by D K Broster.

  2. That does sound pretty good, especially the historical backdrop and the Appin murder. I’ve only read his Dr, Jeckyll but really enjoyed it.

    1. Magda I totally sympathise. I really struggled with the style of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and a bit with this. I think I am getting more used to it though, so it might be worth giving Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde a second chance.

      1. I know. I find it easier to listen to these. Even if my listening memory isn’t as good it’s still something. And I listen to audio books anyway when I’m getting to and from work in cold winter days when it’s too cold to hold a book.

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