Books, Learning, Memes, Writing

Adventure And A History Lesson In Stevenson’s Kidnapped

K is for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. This letter stumped me initially, I could not immediately recall a book that I wanted to feature for it. Granted, after prodding my brain a bit, my first pick was the story of Krishna (in it’s ACK format and another format) and next was a book called Koala Lou. But somehow I was not sure if they were ones I wanted to feature so I dug deeper into my memories of books I read earlier, and the result – Kidnapped. I read it ages ago but I do recall that I was fascinated and fast-forward to now, when I researched the book and discovered it was based on real events, I was fascinated all over again.

What Amazon’s description says about one of the versions of this book pretty much sums it up: Shipwreck. Murder. Flight. Intrigue. And, of course, kidnapping. David Balfour’s adventures on the high seas are among the most evocative in classic literature.

Robert Louis Stevenson has been a much loved author of mine and I have read and enjoyed many of his books, including (of course!) ‘The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde’ (first read in comic form), and ‘The Treasure Island’.

“There are two things that men should never weary of, goodness and humility; we get none too much of them in this rough world among cold, proud people.”

To the reader of this post: So have you read the book? Or others by RLS? Let me know which ones and your thoughts on them. and while you are on my blog reading about this Scot and his book, check out if the luck of the Irish is with you on the giveaway I am having here.

Now, some cool facts about the book and its author:

  • Truth, not fiction:
    • James Annesley: A story of a long lost heir to huge fortunes returning to claim his rightful inheritance, his life (during that long lost period) a series of misfortunes and twists which he somehow fought through to return, evil uncles (or others) to fight to reclaim what was his – this was a plot that has made its way into many a book in some form or the other – but it was not a story – this was reality.  Many believe that Stevenson, a voracious reader of history himself, was inspired by the  James Annesley case of over a century ago to write Kidnapped (among other stories that inspired him in the writing of this book). Roger Ekirch’s Birthright tells that story (and its impact on Kidnapped).
    • Appin murders: Robert Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, wrote that one inspiration for Kidnappedwas The Trial of James Stewart, a contemporary account of the Appin murder, and the story does makes its appearance in the book.
  • Is it one of the longest (sub)titles in literature? Decide for yourself. The full title is: “Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751; How he was Cast Away; His Sufferings in a Desert Isle; His Journey in the Wild Highlands; His Acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other Notorious Highland Jacobites; with All that He Suffered at the Hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, Falsely So-Called. Written by Himself and Now Set Forth by Robert Louis Stevenson with a Preface by Mrs Stevenson”.
  • Words galore! Oh, yes, I agree the words are a mix of archaic Scot-English dialect and most not found in dictionaries (easily?) making the book a bit difficult to read but if you persevere, I am sure you will be happy you did! And the words, even if unknown, do not make the text (or the context) itself obscure in anyway and the reader does get the gist of the story so keep reading and you would have picked up some cool words to use (maybe for your trip to the Scottish highlands!). Some of the words in this edition have the meanings mentioned as footnotes on the pages or below the word itself, while others have to (and can) be understood in context:). You will only get smarter, not gyte, ye ken? (gyte meaning mad, you know?)
  • From Series to the Book: Like a few other books of that time, it was first published in a children’s magazine as a series from May to July 1886. And the novel (in its book form) appeared as a ‘boy’s novel’  in July 1886.
  • Adventure, History, and Culture: This is an adventure novel in the truest sense, with action and excitement on every page, and at the same time proving to be a fictional retelling of real historic events. Many of the principal characters in the book are real too – including Alan Stewart, the Red Fox, James Stewart – are real historical figures. So, in the reading of this book, you would have already picked up a bit of Scottish history and look into the people and places as well in addition to those words I mention earlier (my Kindle version is now highlighted a zillion times!). And with all this, it made me smile at places too – like when Alan tells David as he is trying to recall something: “Not yet,”says he’ “but I’ve a grand memory for forgetting, David.”
  • And the book in the current times:
    • Edinburgh was designated as the first UNESCO City of Literature (this is something cool I learned as part of researching this and you can read about this project here). In February 2007, the first major event to celebrate Edinburgh’s designation was a city-wide reading campaign based on Stevenson’s Kidnapped. 25,000 copies of three different versions of the novel were freely distributed by leaving them across public places in the city to promote this campaign!!
    • The book is on the 1001 Books to read before you die list as well as many other ‘greatest/best novels’ lists including this one.
  • And other useful/fun things:
    • An activity pack for the book that can be used by educators for younger kids reading the book can be found here.
    • You can listen to a BBC radio drama of Kidnapped here.

This post goes towards ABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letter K (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22 is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely).

 References: Wikipidea and The Guardian  as well as the City of Literature project

16 thoughts on “Adventure And A History Lesson In Stevenson’s Kidnapped

  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of K is for Kidnapped. I will say that I get easily distracted when the language is hard to follow. But your description has intrigued me. I my have to give it a try!

    1. Hi Erica, the book’s title is Kidnapped and it is one of the books written by Robert Louis Stevenson. I am featuring this book for the letter K and hence the ‘K is for Kidnapped’ phrase..

  2. Haven’t read any of his books, but you make them sound intriguing! Tbh, I haven’t read a book in a long time since i’ve had kids (6 years ago). However, I’m gonna start building a list so one day, maybe when they go off to college, i can sit back and read to my heart’s content! Thank you for such an informative post!

  3. I haven’t read anything by Robert Louis Stevenson before but I’ll definitely look into Kidnapped – I’m in search of new reads now that winter is about to hit in Australia and we’ll have shorter days – thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  4. That is really an awesome concept to read books by the alphabet. I will have to mention that my sister for my niece and nephews. I believe they would enjoy doing that and create a game trying to find books that go in order.

  5. I need to find time to start reading books again! This one seems interesting. Also neat that it was made into a radio drama.

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