Kidnapped

6.01.2010

Kidnapped
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition:  Polygon, paperback.  HIGHLY recommended--very durable, elegant, and readable.  I think it will last much longer than most paperback books.
My overall rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Scotland, 1751. Sixteen-year-old David Balfour sets out to claim his inheritance from Ebenezer Balfour, a reclusive miser who lives in a dark mansion called "the House of Shaws". Through others' deceit and his own naivete, David gets kidnapped and soon finds himself landing in one misfortune after another, drawn away from his home in the familiar Lowlands country, and deeper into the Highlands, a place oppressed by English rule. He meets Alan Breck Stewart--a Highlander, rebel, and hunted man; and, after David himself unknowingly becomes an outlaw, David starts to view his country in a different light.  He also comes to understand that life is complex, and that you can't judge people by what they appear to be.

My thoughts: This is a brilliant book!  It might not be as accessible as Treasure Island, but Kidnapped is arguably a better book, and excellent historical fiction. You don't really need any prior knowledge of Scottish history to read this; and though it's not 100% accurate, it's nevertheless a good introduction to the Scotland of this era. The story itself is pretty fast-paced and starts out splendidly, with the eerie House of Shaws, a sinister sea captain, and more that I would tell, except I don't want to give away spoilers.  ;)

The characters are very good.  David Balfour is a hero in the true sense of the word: loyal, principled, and striving to do the right thing, with just enough inexperience and typical teenager attitude to make him a realistic character, and to allow for character development. Alan, by contrast, is cleverer and more cautious, and an expert swordsman who can take on several opponents at a time. On the other hand, he has a big ego, is far less scrupulous than David, and never really changes his ways. Still, Alan is kind of a complex character, and surprisingly, he turned out to be my favourite character in the book. He has a kind of honesty about him, which, though far from amounting to humility, makes him more likeable. And you can't help admiring his perseverance and loyalty as a friend. I would recommend this book just because of his character, if for nothing else.

Finally, even though Kidnapped (like Treasure Island) might be considered as a boy's book, I think it is a great read for just about anyone who loves a good, old-fashioned adventure story, or is interested in 18th-century history.

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