43 & 44: Treasure Chest Island and Treasure Island

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”
John Masefield

So I suppose it was for me! A couple of nautical yarns to tide me over, around what might have been the most cripplingly painful game of rugby I have ever played.

Treasure Chest Island, first, I read on the exhortation of my father, who accurately describes it as a great adventure story. It’s more in the vein of Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson or The Coral Island than Treasure Island, in that it’s a story of castaways making what shift they can rather than of a treasure hunt; it just so happens that the island they are cast upon has buried treasure. In some senses, that’s all there is to it – it’s a “Robinsonade”, a castaway story, with challenges to be navigated and three decent, upright young men as our stirring heroes. Nothing massively challenging. In some senses, the salutary morals of such stories – the importance of hard work, a cool head, order, cleaving to your notions of what is proper and decent – are almost lost until you reach a story like Lord of the Flies, which shows what a Robinsonade would be without them. It is that depiction of the ease of uncivilisation which drives home the message that works, as it were, behind the scenes in books such as this, and can appear kitsch when noticed.

Treasure Island is, of course, a classic. An adventure, with actual antagonists, and the wondrously compelling Long John Silver, whose pragmatism and charisma almost leap off the page at you. What also comes through is its status as an almost paradigmatic coming-of-age story, in which young Jim grows and matures almost beyond recognition. Classics are classics for a reason. (It’s also technically historical, in case you’re wondering about the categorisation.)

Treasure Chest Island
Author John FC Westerman
Published 1932
Pages 248
Best character George, the inveterate tinker.

Treasure Island
Author Robert Louis Stevenson
Published 1883
Pages 224
Best character The doctor, because he’s about the only halfway sensible person with any decency.


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