Five best reads of 2014 No 5: Treasure Island

I should have read Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful, classic story of pirates, buried treasure and derring-do years ago. Why didn’t I?
A common problem: I tried it too young and was so terrified by Blind Pew and the Black Spot that I never got further than the first couple of chapters. So, parents, resist the temptation of giving it to 9 year-olds. Even if they’re tougher than I was, they might struggle a little with the old-fashioned prose. By the time they’re 11 they’ll get into the story straight away, from the moment a mysterious dark stranger turns up at the Admiral Benbow Inn, frightening away all the customers with his pirate tales, and entrusting to young Jim Hawkins a chest containing a map of a distant island….
How Jim sets sail to find the treasure, in the company of trusted adults including the silver-tongued, fatherly Long John Silver, and the shifting alliances that lead to subterfuge, clever ruses and full-blown battles – all this makes a cracking read, more fun and more exciting than I’d ever guessed from my faltering encounter with the book all those years ago. If you, too, missed out, grab a copy now, it doesn’t matter how old you are.
Just don’t be too young.

(First published 12 Jan 2015)

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