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Pieces of eight!
by Asa Butcher
2006-09-27 22:15:06
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Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day and, in honour of the aforementioned day, here is a past Ovi review of the epitomy of pirate novels:

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-- Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest-- Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

Wooden legs, eye patches, hidden treasure, rum, parrots, pieces of eight and the Jolly Roger have become woven into the fabric of piracy folklore and all because of one man's fictional adventure written over 120 years ago. Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island is still the blueprint for pirate stories to this day and the foundation upon which films like Pirates of the Caribbean are made.

My literary journey is attempting to encompass the books that have shaped and influenced our culture. Works that are quoted, parodied, satirised, copied and remade so many times that we forget that we have never sampled the original material. I noticed Treasure Island sitting upon a shelf in my local library, the cover was simply blue with a seagull logo, the pages had faded to a shade of brown and yet an impulse urged me to borrow it.

A declaration that the book was electric and exciting matters little to a classic such as this. It has proved its status over twelve decades and isn't relying upon me for further validation, but I believe my task now is to encourage you to read it. Upon the completion of the book, I was angry with myself for having taken so long to finally read it and experience the thrill of Stevenson's penmanship.

Treasure Island contains beautifully descriptive passages that put you in the place of its narrator and hero Jim Hawkins. Its action scenes have your eyes darting over the words in a frantic attempt to learn the outcome, the names, the faces and personalities draw you into the story, the island's atmosphere is sensational, and the great Long John Silver is such a strong character you feel he could be alive.

The story has considerable violence, graphic battles and plenty of death, yet it is described as children's literature. I could not see much that would give a eleven-year-old-plus any nightmares, although I guess it would depend upon the strength of their imagination. My own imagination took me into the story so deeply that it was suddenly 2am and my wife was asking if I was coming to bed…just fifty pages left, darling!

Every page was a joy to read, especially seeing all the classic and clichéd pirate terminology being used for the very first time, "Shiver me timbers, me hearties. Walk the plank, X marks the spot and the Black Spot!" Treasure Island is a real gem and pi-rate it ten out of ten.

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Long John Silver2006-09-27 22:16:31
A must read...reminds me of my childhood.

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