Robert Louis Stevenson:
„If ‘Treasure Island’ is the pirate story par excellence, then ‘Kidnapped’ is the romantic Scots adventure story of all time. Written in 1886, it is set in the turmoil and aftermath of the 1746 Jacobite Scots rebellion against the English at Culloden – events that established much of the national Scots character, which persists to this day. The story follows David Balfour, the canny eighteen year old, who is keen to seek his fortune. He sets out from the lowlands of Scotland to meet his mysterious relative, in search of work and ‘whatere he may find’. His adventures begin at almost at once, and dark family secrets are soon only the starting point for an adventure that is a sort of Scottish Odyssey, with sea voyage, shipwreck, good friends and fights aplenty in the Hieland mountains and valleys.
Penguin Popular Classics
David Balfour, a Lowland boy, is sixteen when his father dies. What he left behind is only a letter that tells David to go to the Shaws; there he'll find his inheritance. David follows his father's instructions and meets his uncle Ebenezer - an awkward person that conceals more than he tells David about his family. Things are getting nastier, and finally, Ebenezer tries to kill David. When this doesn't work, he pretends to give up and wants to see an advocate. David feels safe - and suddenly he's sold to a ship bringing convicts to America.
But when he meets the Highlander Alan Breck, they escape, but things don't go the way they should. David finds himself alone on a lonely island, where his travel through Scotland just begins. Now he has just one aim: Coming back home and make things clear.
Who expects a thrilling adventure story won't be satisfied. But who's interested in Scotland, its people, its manners, its landscape might enjoy "Kidnapped".
Actually the plot has enough potential for a really good adventure story, but Stevenson uses too much space for his descriptions of the surroundings or the manners - therefore some of the tension simply gets lost. At some time he focuses on a pipe bag competition between Alan and another Highlander, which is quite interesting, but is not important at all for the action. Furthermore, it might be interesting, but it's not entertaining. So he takes the story its speed that could be quite high if you consider the few pages.
Actually, it already starts this was. Before the journey of David starts he has to go to see his uncle, be sold and the trip with the ship literally takes ages. You might say that this is because it really takes them a long time to travel; however, later one month is summarized within a few pages. There is just too much focus on rather unimportant events that don't have a great impact on what's going on later.
The travel itself is difficult to follow. I had sometimes no orientation where we are right now - and even Google couldn't help! And again I got the expression that the focus is too much on description than on facts that might be use- or helpful.
Furthermore, the characters are everything - despite likable. David is okay, all in all, but Alan is quite strange. He may be brave and he may live up to his ideals, but sometimes he tends to be narcissistic and egoistic. I never felt attached to one of them or any other character. But still I have to admit that they really are characters, not just flat ones, mere names on the paper. They have their strong and their weak moments; they win and they lose; they undergo a development, and they don't always pay attention. It may not make them nicer, but the fact itself is ... yeah, great.
And even if this book has many aspects to criticize, it still is enjoyable. The language isn't that creative, but the Scottish variety of English is reason enough to read and love it.
It's also interesting that Stevenson doesn't settle for stereotypes - at least not only. Of course there are bagpipes, but the Scottish aren't wild, kilt-wearing barbarians. (This wouldn't even work - think of the Dress Act!) Alan for example has kind of fallen in love with his French clothes and he will wear them even this could mean death, because he's easy to recognize with them.
In addition, the Lowlanders aren't mollycoddled copies of the English. They absolutely aren't!
Furthermore, the book has some great scenes where I couldn't stop laughing. There Alan and David just show what sly old dogs they are, and the fact that the others also fall for their line made it even better. Of course this is a question of taste - but who can ignore the great irony, when someone is caught on an island, nearly dies and then finally recognizes he could have gone to the mainland when it's low tide?
What I liked most about his book is the open end, just because it fits the historical events that are known. We don't know about the whole life of Alan Breck and so Mr. Stevenson couldn't write about that, either. Still, the end is not too abrupt - as I said, it just fits.
All in all, I can only say: You can read it, but you don't have to. It might be worth it when you're interested in Scotland, otherwise it would be better to be lucky with other books.