Robert Louis Stevenson – Kidnapped

After completing Treasure Island I continued with another well-known novel by Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped (1886). As a kid I had seen a adaptation of the book in the form of an animation. This being quite some time ago I had obviously forgotten most about it. Thus the book was a fairly new experience to me.

Kidnapped is another historical adventure story. While adventure drove the story of Treasure Island, it was history that drove Kidnapped. Of course there was plenty of adventure but the theme of the Scottish Highlands and the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 dominated for the most of the story. Naming this is a bit of a giveaway, but essential for my review. I normally try to speak in general terms and avoid being specific, but in this case I cannot avoid it. During the story we meet a fair number of historical figures whose place in history is nicely woven into the story which has little involvement in that background story, as it is fiction. From the historical point of view this was quite interesting and well portrayed by Stevenson, but it dulled the story.

Not all was as dull. About the first one third was very entertaining and nicely styled. A true adventure with some oddities, plenty of action and strange events. There were less historical elements here, just enough for the setting of the story. Just about the right mix. But after this the story lost its momentum. There was still the same pace, but less thrill. While Treasure Island was full with confrontations, the story of Kidnapped was for a large part about avoiding them. The ending was peculiar and somewhat fitting, but not very strong and could not pull the story out of the previous dullness.

As I had gotten used to in Treasure Island, the characterization was well done with some nice development. What seems to be a habit of Stevenson is the depiction of grayness to his characters. There is no clear good or evil and for an adventure story this creates more balanced characters than usual and varying points of view. In a historical setting this is even more important as it is often unclear who was right. Still, Stevenson had a certain preference on who was the good side, even if this was from a romantic point of view.

With a Scottish Highland setting the writing is intermixed with a lot of Scottish jargon and phrases. It creates a fitting atmosphere but also makes it sometimes harder to read. My edition had a few notes, but more wouldn’t have hurt.

Kidnapped is considered to be a classic of literature and although it has some excellent parts, overall it is has a somewhat unbalanced story which will leave a reader not completely satisfied. To me a classic has to be strong as a whole and Kidnapped still lacks some. A recommendable read, but I will not categorize it as a true classic.

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