If I had to guess which of Robert Louis Stevenson’s books is the most popular, I’d pick Treasure Island. My own favorite is Kidnapped, though, and I probably wouldn’t have reread Treasure Island except that it came free with a reading app for my iPad. Still, it’s a pretty good adventure story.
The plot is familiar to everyone. Jim Hawkins and his parents run the Admiral Benbow Inn in an isolated location near the English seashore. A shifty old sailor comes to stay. He seems to be on the watch for someone, and asks Jim to alert him to strangers. Soon more shifty sailors arrive looking for him. The Hawkins’ guest is drinking himself to death, though, and he dies soon after Jim’s father does. In his sea chest is a treasure map.
Jim has gone for help to the Squire Trelawny and Dr. Livesey. Soon they prepare a ship to go collect the treasure, taking Jim with them. A crucial misstep occurs when the Squire hires the crew without waiting for the captain (something that seemed not only improper but stupid to me). He hires as the cook a one-legged man named Long John Silver. Silver and a good part of the crew turn out to be pirates who know about the map and want the treasure.
I was struck by a few cases when the protagonists behave nonsensically, the biggest being abandoning the ship when they find out a mutiny is afoot. Almost all the sailors are ashore at that point. It seemed like they should just sail away to another part of the island.
Still, the novel is written really well, and Stevenson is good at building suspense. I’m sure that successive generations of young people are thrilled to discover this adventure story.