“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!”
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Reading the original pirate adventure story was something that I had been looking forward to for over a month now as a way to kick off some summer reading. My only experience with this story beforehand was the Muppet Treasure Island movie which I watched repeatedly as a kid and again recently with my own. While the movie is adorable and humorous and I absolutely love it, I knew going into the Stevenson’s novel that the reading experience of the source material would be very different from the Muppet movie.
And it was. And that’s okay. A good ol’ pirate adventure is exactly what I wanted and that’s what this book is. Jim Hawkins has the same hunger for adventure and excitement that I had so I could live vicariously through him. Long John Silver is possibly even more devious in the book than Tim Curry’s movie version (although he does a fantastic job!). I actually found that I liked the book’s version of Captain Smollett better as well. His intelligence shines through when not portrayed by a frog and I felt more of a connection between him and Jim.
So although for the most part the characters shined through even brighter for me in the book than in the movie I still felt like something was missing, particularly in the last half.
Once Long John’s plans are beginning to come to fruition, I found myself far less invested in the story. I think this was largely due to Stevenson’s writing than the story itself. A lot of the story in the last half is of Jim Hawkins by himself with very little supporting characters and the writing just got so dry that I was not engaged with it at all.
Beyond that, where most classic literature is not just about the story but also about deeper themes dealing with human nature, Treasure Island is 100% pure surface-level adventure. Perhaps there are some themes of loyalty and courage but, again, it is pretty surface-level stuff.
All in all, I am sadly disappointed by a book that I had been really looking forward to reading. I definitely need another pirate or ocean themed book to find that sense of summer adventure that I was looking for.