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Good Literature for Children & Adults

Kidnapped By Robert Louis Stevenson

kidnapped-by-robert-louis-stevensonRobert Louis Stevenson was a prolific author. We know him best for A Child’s Garden of Verses, Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and of course, Kidnapped. It is Kidnapped that I read recently. First published in 1886, the story takes place in 1751 and it is the memoirs of the adventures of David Balfour. We know it is being written as the memoir of a period in the young life of the man telling the story - so we know he survives his ordeal. This is reassuring to the reader, young or old.

David Balfour has become an orphan, and is presented with a letter from his father directing him to go to the home of his uncle, his father’s brother, to claim his inheritance. David discovers that his father came from a family of means, the Balfours of Shaw. When David arrives at his uncle's home, where his father grew up, he finds his Uncle Ebenezer reluctant to take him in.

David quickly realizes that there is a secret history to the past relationship of his father and his uncle - and David sees that his life is, in fact, at risk in his home.

When Uncle Ebenezer proposes that David take the money from his inheritance and sail for North America and a new life, David accepts. It is, however, a trick - David is kidnapped and is being taken off to be sold into slavery. He is saved from this fate when the ship founders off the coast of Scotland and David, along with Alan, a man considered a traitor to the state, is shipwrecked. There is a great swashbuckling time on board the ship as David and Alan attempt to overthrow their captors before the ship sinks and they are washed up onto a lonely and dangerous land. It is dangerous for Alan as he is attempting to escape to France and is in fear of arrest, and for David as his name is now associated with the escaped felon.

The tale is told by David, only a boy, who is unaccustomed to having to survive on his own, and unsophisticated in the trickeries and deceits of those who would do him harm. He is a brave boy though and becomes a resilient young man as he must find the resources within himself to survive his ordeals. It is a perfect adventure story for young teens and for adult readers of all ages. I read it after a week on the island of Islay - known to Robert Louis Stevenson, and his father who was an engineer and designer of lighthouses.

The shipwreck takes place on the west coast of Scotland and David makes his way across the moors - still very much as wild as they would have been in the time of this story. It is easy to picture David suffering and lost in the peat bogs.

This is a very satisfying adventure story. The reader becomes completely involved in David’s quest - we worry with him and rejoice at his survival, in this vividly believable tale for readers of all ages.

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