Robert Louis Stevenson – Catriona

In modern literature it is not that common to have sequels unless they fit the genre. The historic novel Catriona (1893) by Robert Louis Stevenson is a sequel to his famous novel Kidnapped, but never reached a similar popularity. Most people probably only know Kidnapped and are not aware there is a sequel.

Kidnapped had a conclusion but as it takes place in a historic setting there are always more events happening related to the historic people and events that take place afterwards. Stevenson had intended to write more about the main character of Kidnapped but it took some time until he knew how to make it into a full novel. This is mainly because the historic event he wanted to tell about is not that extensive. What Stevenson did was create a situation for the main character in which he plays a hidden role in the historic event which could have dramatic effects. Even this was not enough and the events only fill about two-thirds of the book. As the title suggests the remainder and some more a taken up by a romance.

Stevenson plays out the situation of the main character to the fullest. There is little focus on adventure but more on psychological situations in which the main character has to prove himself and build and show character. My feeling is that it is done too extensively. Most of that feeling is caused by the great formality with which most characters act. It is all quite tedious. There is little actual danger and mainly threats which have to be countered. With far fewer words a much stronger impact could have been created.

The romance part is quite constrained by the Victorian age in which it was written. Even as the story takes place almost 150 years earlier the author has been constrained by the allowed behavior of those times. The romance will feel weird for the modern reader, even considering the different values. It creates great tensions over little and also this part is quite tedious at times.

Even as it is tedious, the prose is strong but because of its formality not always that easy. The real problem is Stevenson’s extensive use of Scottish dialect in his writing. I don’t mind it here and there, but if a lot of dialogue is filled with it, it gets tiresome. There is even a whole chapter that is mainly written in Scottish dialect while the chapter itself seems to add little to the story.

It is quite obvious why Catriona did not gain the renown of its prequel. It is certainly more literary, with Stevenson aiming for more psychological situations instead of adventure. Stevenson also adds some interesting historic elements but they remain somewhat few to make it a more substantial historic novel as he spends much of the time on an invented subplot to the historic event and a somewhat tedious romance. As a sequel it is still a story that will interest those who liked Kidnapped and want to know more and will not disappoint much, although it is quite below the level of that book.

One Response to “Robert Louis Stevenson – Catriona”

  1. Evie says:

    Excellent review, I enjoyed reading it a lot! You definitely made me hungry for this book:)

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