I just finished reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson aloud to my kids. I had no interest in the book beyond the fact that it is a classic that I hadn’t read, and it promised to be full of the kind of deviance and hijinks that my children usually appreciate in a story. According to my mentor, the Internet, Treasure Island was first published as a book in 1883. Prior to that, it was serialized. Stevenson—by that time tubercular and weak--wrote the story in order to amuse his stepson, Lloyd, while convalescing at a health resort in the Swiss Alps. I thought that was kind of cozy and tragic, and I hearkened back to the image of wheezy Robert cuddled up with little Lloyd, the Alps hulking in the background, to fuel myself along.I don’t love adventure stories. Within the genre of adventure stories, I particularly dislike seafaring adventure stories because I don’t understand most of the technical jargon and I never feel sure of what is going on. I felt daunted by Treasure Island because of all the ship-lingo, but a friend of mine recently told me that he’d read it for “personal development.” I am flinchy about being left behind in these readerly ways, so I resolved to read it, Googling my way along if need be.
Need did be, as it turned out. If you ever need to know what a spit, a keel, or a coxswain is, please feel free to ask me.
The story opens in an inn—the ‘Admiral Benbow’--in a port town in England. A couple and their kid, Jim Hawkins, own the place. As you may recall, a rum-guzzling creeper takes up residence at the inn. His name is Billy Bones, and he skulks around, boozing it up and terrorizing the locals and singing fifteen men on the dead men’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, and—of course--Jim’s dad is super sick, so the family can’t afford to kick Billy Bones out.[insert sad chord].
Regularly, Billy Bones is beset by dark paranoia regarding a one-legged man, and during these episodes, he beseeches Jim to help him keep watch lest the dangerous peg-leg discover his whereabouts and steal his treasure. I forgot to mention: Billy Bones has a treasure chest in his room. But you knew this without my having to tell because you saw Muppet Treasure Island, same as I did.
[insert scary chord}.
Treasure Island is a slim book, and it took us about one week to finish. The Rigdons loved it—thought it was hilarious and delightfully nerve-wracking—and they were sorry to see it end. They said it put them in the mood to watch Swiss Family Robinson. So there you have it. I am happy to check it off my list. Happy reading to you all.