Remember when I briefly mentioned I was going to read more classics this year? She’s really doing it. Starting with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island! Because starting with adventure seemed like a good idea. And then Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion, which isn’t a classic but is related.
Y’all know the Treasure Island plot, right? Our dude Jim is working away at his parent’s inn when a pirate, Billy Bones, shows up. Billy Bones (great name) is rather off putting and drinks way too much. Jim is intrigued by his stories but becomes afraid when Billy warns him about another pirate who’s searching for him. The pirate finds him, Billy dies, Jim and his mom find a treasure map in Billy’s things and Jim brings it to some local men he trusts.
These two recognize it as a map to the notorious Captain Flint’s treasure and thus, a journey to treasure island.
Spoiler alert, it doesn’t go exactly as planned.
It’s funny, because I’m so used to Treasure Island’s cultural impact, there were moments while I was reading it that it felt trite. Like it was lazily copying pirate story tropes. Then I remembered, this is where all those tropes came from! Like, I knew Jack Sparrow didn’t invent yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, but it was still wild.
Additionally, I know the Treasure Planet version so well, the plot of the book felt a little slow. For instance, it felt like it took forever to get on the ship. Then on the island, the action was short lived. Which isn’t fair to the book; it’s a reflection of it’s age (1883 anyone) and it really is a solid adventure story. Darn my modern expectations of action and adventure.
And then I listened to Silver.
Not because I was particularly intrigued by the continuation of the Treasure Island plot, I wasn’t really, but because David Tennant reads the audiobook and I’m going through a STRONG David Tennant phase. And while it wasn’t his beautiful Scottish accent, the English one isn’t have bad either.
Silver is about Jim’s son Jim (double Jim) who meets up with Silver’s daughter to return to the island to get the rest of the treasure Flint left. The only problem is that the island is no longer uninhabited. Not only did the first journey leave a few terrible pirates behind, but a slave ship was blown off course and landed on shore.
It was fascinating because this book seemed like it wanted to be all beautiful pros and social commentary, but still about treasure and pirate legacy. The results felt like a misfire.
There was a fair amount about sailing, almost no pirate shenanigans, and a ton of commentary about colonialism. Which is an important issue to discuss, but not approached in this way. Also, there was like the worst romantic relationship between Jim and Silver’s daughter. Not because of the way they treated each other, but because there didn’t seem to be any actual spark or connection. Maybe it was my expectations again.