Kidnapped

It shows how clueless I am, and how much the My Blind Date with a Book feature will help me, when I don’t even know that Robert Louis Stevenson is actually the author of Treasure Island! Of course, I know the book (haven’t read it) and have seen the movie, but I didn’t know who had written it, so that when I picked up Kidnapped by Robert Stevenson, I had no idea who the author was. So, you see, this new feature is already working at exapanding my knowledge!

Kidnapped follows the adventures of young David Balfour across the Highlands of Scotland. It involves some historical facts and figures, including a controversial murder case; by chance “Davie” finds himself caught up in the mystery.

Starting off, I didn’t enjoy the novel; but eventually, it caught my interest and I found the reading light and easy. The novel was in the first person with David himself telling us his story. As a young boy of 17, he unexpectedly finds himself the heir to an estate. Unfortunately, his greedy uncle manages to get rid of him and from here begin David’s adventures. Tossed in the high seas, shipwrecked and later running for his life across the Highlands with his new friend Alan Breck, David Balfour experiences more life in one year than he did in all his other seventeen.

What made the story for me was the friendship between Alan Breck and David Balfour. It was portrayed so naturally, with all its ups and downs and actually caused me to laugh quite a bit. The youth and emotions of David Balfour as he continues his journey were drawn realistically; he seemed like the 17 year old boy that he was, coping with the situation he found himself in.

Set in the Highlands, the whole atmosphere of the book has a mystical quality to it, with stories of fairies and superstitions a natural part of it; the people in the Highlands have a feel for their land – almost as if they were one with it. I love stories about the Highlands, and the bravery and loyalty shown by its people is often read about.

I enjoyed the book, and might even pick up a second adventure novel by Robert Stevenson. On the whole, I would rate this (see HERE for my ratings) number 3: First date was OK. Second may or may not happen. Having rated it, I still have to say that I’m not sure if the Adventure Novel is a genre I like. To find out, I’ll have to read other books by different authors. Recommendations anyone??

The Three Musketeers

D’Artagnan, a young Gascon youth, sets out from his village with the hope of joining the regiment of the King’s Musketeers. As soon as he arrives in Paris he gets into trouble, first entangling himself in one, then two and finally three duels, all in one day! And with men from the very regiment of Musketeers he had hoped to join! But his adventures don’t stop there; before long, he becomes involved with the affairs of the Queen, Anne of Austria, herself and must enlist the help of his fellow Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Together, the four friends journey through France escaping from the nets of the Cardinal and his dangerous spy, Milady, while all the time fighting duels at the slightest provocation.

I love the summary given at the back of the Wordsworth edition. It describes the book perfectly,

“One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tells the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman. D’Artagnan, and his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis.


Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honor of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background.


But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy, Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains, and Alexandre Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping and dramatic conclusion.”

The characterization in this novel – especially of Milady and Athos – was so good that I actually wanted to meet the characters! The movie on The Three Musketeers does not do justice to either character. Milady reaches depths of evil and horror which aren’t shown in the film. All we see is an ambitious young woman who despite what she does, loved someone once and wasn’t truly evil. But in the novel, the description of Milady and the suppressed animal within, how she is able to ensnare anyone while putting on an act, her ability to sense every weakness in man – all are so wonderfully drawn. As for Athos, he is shown as the true nobleman that he is, and his quiet way of handling even the most alarming of situations makes him particularly attractive while at the same time remaining mysteriously charming. Though not the hero of the novel, he is the most important character and the leader of the Musketeers; Keith Wren, in his introduction to The Three Musketeers sums it up when he writes,

“For Dumas – and for us – it is the three musketeers – Athos, Porthos, Aramis – who represent the fantasy of eternal youth, a refusal to compromise with the greyness of the modern world, the glorification of the undying spirit of adventure.”

I keep forgetting that The Three Musketeers is historical fiction. The Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne were actual historical figures, as was the Duke of Buckingham and his murderer, Felton. Alexandre Dumas has fashioned a unique story with these real live characters. It was rumored that the Duke was in love with the Queen of France (this is also mentioned in The King’s General), and in this novel the flirtation was embellished, with Queen Anne and the Duke having many secret meetings. The various love triangles in this novel make for a lot of intrigues, a lot of duels, and most of all, a lot of jealousy!

Castle Dor: Historical Fiction Challenge


“It is a curious coincidence that no poet, or shall we call him investigator, has ever lived to conclude this particular story. His work has always been finished by another.”

So says Doctor Carfax in Castle Dor. The words have an eerie quality when we learn that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch died before completing his book which was later finished by Daphne du Maurier. The legend of Tristan and Iseult is one that has haunted poets and novelists alike with more than one version still extant. Castle Dor deals with the same legend set in 19th century Cornwall.

The legend
Tristan, a young knight and nephew to King Mark, brings home the Irish Princess Iseult who is to marry his uncle. The young couple accidentally (or intentionally in some versions) ingest a love potion meant for King Mark and Princess Iseult. They fall madly in love and pursue an adulterous relationship, hiding and scheming behind the King’s back. They are betrayed by Iseult’s maid and the King, intent on revenge, kills young Tristan with a poisonous arrow. In some versions he forgives the couple as long as Tristan agrees to leave. In this version, Tristan marries Iseult of the White Hands(namesake of Princess Isuelt), sister to Sir Kahedin, and leaves returning the Princess to her King.

Castle Dor is very detailed in the various versions of the story. We are introduced to Doctor Carfax and Monsieur Ledru who pursue the true origins behind the legend of Tristan and Iseult.  They believe that the place they have come to, known in the novel as ‘Troy’, is the actual setting of the star crossed lovers’ story. Their investigation reawakens the legend into the lives of Linnet Lewarne and Amyot Trestane. Recently married Linnet Lewarne hates her old husband. Descended from royalty her beauty and poise is matched by no other. Amyot, a Breton onion seller from aboard a ship, comes to Linnet’s inn. Even before they meet, Linnet is drawn to him by the sound of his voice. From that moment onward, their lives are connected and as Doctor Carfax realizes, they relive the original legend to the letter. He tries desperately to avert the end.

Linnet Lewarne is the reincarnation of the Irish Princess Iseult. The potion in the original legend is supposed to free the lovers from responsibility for their actions (such actions a noble knight would never dream of doing). But in the novel, although we have a certain drink, brewed and drunk by Linnet and Amyot, it is hard to absolve them of all responsibility. Linnet seems cold, harsh and cruel both to her husband and to all others who have done her no harm. Amyot on the other hand seems genuinely in love while not forgetting his duties to others. While in the beginning of the story I had some sympathy for Linnet, as the novel progressed, I found myself unable to like her.

Daphne du Maurier was the perfect author to finish the novel. Her love of old legends and stories, and the whole atmosphere created by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch suited her own style. In fact, I couldn’t see where the seam came in; where Sir Arthur left off and Daphne began. The story was executed flawlessly.

Hungry Hill: Daphne du Maurier Challenge

I had avoided reading Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier for a long time. Books covering many generations don’t appeal to me. I usually like a story centered around one main character. I picked up Hungry Hill at last for the Daphne du Maurier challenge hosted by Chrisbookarama, and was instantly absorbed. The writing is, unlike Maurier’s other novels, not in the first person-narrative form, but the more common third person.

Perhaps, what interested me was the fact, that although the novel covered five generations of an Irish family, each generation was linked to the Copper Mine built on Hungry Hill. Their lives are surrounded by misfortune even though their monetary strength can’t be challenged. Everyone in the Brodrick family is left unsatisfied in some way. They are all pursued by demons that won’t let them lead the life they try to build.

Who hasn’t felt alienated from the rest like poor young Johnnie? The feeling of being ‘different’ or ‘strange’ is one that we all at some point or another feel; if we don’t, we’re among the lucky ones. Then we have Hal who wants to be respected and loved by his father. He has inherited a feeling of impotence and inadequacy from his uncle Johnnie, who inherited it from his father John. Is their bad blood in the family or is the land trying to expel them? The curse of Hungry Hill devastates the Brodrick family, pursuing them relentlessly.

In the end, Hungry Hill is the land of the people. The Brodricks and the Donovans have fought over it for generations. Each generation faces its own struggle against the Hill and the Donovans. The Brodricks are interlopers on the land, and whereas they have money, they can never possess the spirit of the land.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

The Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry will run from January 1 2011 to December 31 2011. The levels range from reading 20 books, (if you’re really adventurous) to reading 2 (for tentative people like me!) Here are the levels:

1. Severe Bookaholism: 20 books
2. Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books
3. Struggling the Addiction: 10 books
4. Daring and Curious: 5 books
5. Out of my Comfort Zone: 2 books

Although Historical Fiction is definitely NOT out of my comfort zone, I am putting myself down for the fifth category because of my busy schedule during exams! As of yet, I don’t have any books in mind that I would like to read, so suggestions are welcome. I’m thinking of reading something set in Scotland.

You don’t even have to have a blog to join the challenge. Any type of historical fiction is allowed. Each month there will be a new post relating to this challenge to which you can link your own blog post!

The King’s General

It’s cold. I have hot cocoa to warm my hands, but my other hand holding the book is still freezing. Never mind, I still have to read. Why? Because I’m re-reading The King’s General! It is one of Daphne’s less popular books but I find the story irresistible. A historical novel set in the time of England’s Civil War, it contains many real life characters.

Honor Harris has a vivid recollection of meeting her brother’s wife Gartred Grenvile. Even at the young age of 10, she is able to see behind Gartred’s mask. Everyone has fallen victim to her beauty and charm, but not Honor. In her childish way, she mistrusts Gertrude. After her brothers death, Honor thankfully believes that she has seen the last of the ‘Grenviles’. Never was she more wrong. The Grenviles and the Harrises are to play further roles in each others life for decades to come.

At eighteen, Honor Harris and Gartred Grenvile’s brother Richard Grenvile fall in love. Whether their love is consummated we never know. What we do know is that they never marry; they are torn apart only to meet years later. Yet their love endures. Richard Grenvile is now Sir Richard Grenvile: the King’s most trusted general. The King has fallen and soon Oliver Cromwell is in reign, but Richard will do anything to protect his King.

The love story between Richard and Honor is anything but conventional. At times, I was left wondering how their love, not only survived, but strengthened over the years. What was the magnetic quality that drew them towards each other. Richard is anything but a gentle lover. He is cruel and ruthless; so much in fact that Honor fears he will lose what influence he has with the King and his trusted men. I never thought I could ever love a novel which did not end happily. The King’s General proved how wrong I was.

The novel takes place mostly in ‘Menabilly’, an estate owned by the Rashleighs. The house is the one on which she based her descriptions of Manderley in the novel Rebecca. Daphne had always been fascinated by the house and the legend of the bones found in the buttress. With a little bit of imagination and some history, she fashions a love story that you almost believe is true – or at least wish it to be so.

I felt that this book was different from Daphne du Maurier’s other novels because the narrator, Honor Harris, is a strong young woman who has no qualms about who she is. She has a confidence and maturity, even at eighteen, that is lacking in some of her other narrators. She reminds me a little of Mary Yellen, the protagonist in Jamaica Inn. Her realistic and matter of fact attitude is refreshing after the uncertainty and under-confidence of the narrators in I’ll Never be Young Again, My Cousin Rachel and even a little in Rebecca (you know it’s true). Unlike them, Honor has always known her mind and what she intends to do. Her strength is what gets her through her…..let’s just say ‘sorrows’ , and what allows her to let the man she loves go.