Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted November 27, 2013 in Book Review / 1 Comment

Treasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by Dover Publications on April 19th 1993
Genres: Classics, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pages: 151
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
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The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!

The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.

Main Points

Writing Style
Being a classic, and written over a hundred years ago, the writing is not the easiest to understand. But I found that, while reading, I was silently remembering how difficult Shakespeare was to decipher, and being grateful that it was not that difficult. It was sort of coded in unnecessary complexity, but with a little thought, it was possible to determine what was going on. Each sentence, taken on its own, could be translated into contemporary English. Everything except the way the pirates talked…especially Silver. Pirate talk is completely unintelligible, even to the narrator Jim Hawkins.
I do have to say, I only read this because it was a classic, and there was a deal going on on Amazon where if I bought two other Dover Thrift classics along with this one, they would all be cheaper, and I took the deal, thinking that this would be a simple read and well worth my time, being a classic.
WELL. Rarely am I so wrong.
It was not simple. OR worth my time in any way. It was so drawn out. They don’t even hunt for the treasure until there’s only 20 pages left in the book. They’re at sea for at least a third of the book. The pacing is quite annoying. The language requires deciphering. Barely anything ever happens. There is a minimum of action, and only a few points towards the end where clever tricks are pulled. Plot is not this book’s strong suit.
I guess it’s the characters that may make this worth reading in any way. Especially the relationship between Silver and Jim. Especially Silver himself. He is unmatched in complexity among other classics I’ve read.
Silver: He switches sides so often it’s hard to tell when he’s being genuine, unless he’s being genuine all the time. Can he really be a bad guy if he’s just going where the going’s good? He’s just doing what will benefit him the most, and isn’t that what most people do anyhow? And he sticks by Jim the entire book. It is surprising, for one so menacing to have such an attachment. He is not the best father figure to Jim, but a friend nonetheless. I don’t think Jim entirely trusts him all the time, but he does save him. They save each other. It is quite an interesting relationship.
Doctor Livesey: I think it’s interesting when he risks his life by treating the pirates after the fighting. Well, he is a doctor, but they were trying to kill them, for goodness’ sake! Not the sort you want to hang around! But I guess he did have some leverage in that they needed his medicinal skills. All the same, they could have just let them die and saved themselves the trouble of fighting (and losing men) later.
Jim: Smart young lad. The typical ideal main character. Always (or almost always) in the right place at the right time and clever about things. Fairly good at fighting (in the one instance he really does). Good at surviving.
I guess it’s all happily ever after. Not surprised, really.

Good vs. Bad


  • characters
  • setting
Less than perfect:
  • pacing
  • plot

Bottom line

This really isn’t the most impressive of classics. The pacing is slow, the plot isn’t really thick in action, and the ending is predictable. The redeeming qualities of this story might be the characters and setting, however. The relationship between Silver and Jim was quite unique and curious. But over all, I wouldn’t waste time with this book. It isn’t engaging enough. Would I read more by this author? Not likely. Would I recommend this book to others? Nope.

About Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov.

Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson’s popularity and allow him a place in the Western canon.



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1 Comment on "Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson"

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Nicole Hewitt

Sorry you didn’t love it. My son was a big fan of this book, but I agree that it’s NOT an easy read!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction