If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? --Albert Einstein

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Kidnapped

I’ve discovered I love nineteenth century adventure stories.

For the “Back to the Classics Challenge” sponsored by the blog Sarah Reads Too Much, I read The Three Musketeers (see review) in January and now Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped.
When published in 1886, Kidnapped was already historical fiction based in part on a real life struggle between England’s King George (Could he get along with anyone?) and the Scottish Highlanders. It centers on a 1752 event known as the Appin Murder where the king’s agent, Colin Roy Campbell, was murdered by a sniper. Alan Breck Stewart, a key character in Kidnapped, was accused and convicted of this murder in absentia. The event was also featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy.

In Stevenson’s novel, seventeen-year-old David Balfour (fictional) is kidnapped and on his way to the American plantations as a slave (many are unaware of colonial America’s white slavery) when the ship picks up a stranded Alan Stewart. The two become allies against a sinister captain and crew when their own ship hits a reef and sinks. The remainder of the book is a fictionalized version of the intrigue surrounding the Appin Murder and its aftermath.
Like The Three Musketeers, the book is crammed with compelling characters and fast-paced action that kept me glued to the pages. I read it on a weekend car trip and finished it within hours of arriving home. The dialogue was often written in a Scottish Highland dialect that I found fun to read and included many local and likely archaic words from that area. The definition of some could not be discerned from the content, but I only looked up a handful to understand the plotline.

I enjoyed reading Treasure Island several years ago especially since we live near Savannah, Georgia, where some of that story is based. But I must say Kidnapped was even better. It is a great book and a fun read.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Review: Light in August by William Faulkner

William Faulkner and I just aren’t going to get along. I chose to read Light in August because I had never read one of his books and knew I’d enjoy his Southern setting. Which I did.

The book starts out with a poverty-stricken pregnant girl, Lena Grove, walking across the Deep South in search of her baby’s father. It then describes Joe Christmas, a pale-skinned man with mixed blood who is hounded from place to place by his “defect.” A sad, lonely minister, Reverend Hightower also has a starring role in this book of engrossing characters.

Characterization is Faulkner’s forte. He goes into detail with even the most minor players so that the reader feels connected to them all. Each backstory was fascinating and made me want to know more and more of each character.

Faulkner also is a master of imagery. Without being too heavy-handed with it (like an author who merely wants to show off his talents), he uses similes and metaphors that caused me to pause at their perfection. Describing a brand new fire truck as arrogant and proud, he adds, “About it hatless men and youths clung with the astounding disregard of physical laws that flies possess.” Yes. Exactly.
So, you may ask, what is the problem? Wordiness. Sentences that drag on, phrase after phrase until I’ve long since lost the gist of it. I am aware (and annoyed) that my “Old Age ADD” may be at play here, but I need to stop after a thought or two and digest before adding any other points to the sentence.

Making my point, I said to my husband, “Listen to this.” I was unable to finish the sentence before he barked, “Enough!” It was just too much!

Sometimes pages and pages seemed to go on like that and I found myself drifting away from the storyline. I often actually lost the storyline altogether, becoming frustrated and confused.
I did finish the book out of stubbornness. But I won’t read another one.