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