In the words of Italo Calvino, “a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” These are stories that have stood the test of time, that communicate a thought or weave a tell that has touched deeply a multitude, and continues to do so decades and centuries after its inception. But that doesn’t mean that every single “classic” work of literature will strike a cord with anyone who picks it up. Unfortunately, this book is now an example of that in my life.
I wanted so badly to love Treasure Island. Here is a tale of pirates and buried treasure and gun fights and a young boy named Jim Hawkins who seems to be the center of everything. Here is the origin of Long John Silver, one of the most famous pirates in literature. This novel is one of the ultimate classic adventure stories. And yet, I couldn’t connect with Stevenson’s writing at all. For such a small book, it seemed to drag on forever, with little resolution. I just couldn’t make myself care. Jim Hawkins annoyed me, with his propensity for getting into trouble that somehow ends up saving the day. For a tale of piracy and mutiny, everything Jim “stumbled” into and out of seemed awfully convenient to me. The most three dimensional character in the book was Silver, who I’m pretty sure Stevenson never meant for his readers to like. Every single scene in the book also felt overblown to me, too fraught with emotion compared to the circumstance. I guess it just struck me as overly dramatic, like a literary soap opera from a bygone era.
While this story didn’t speak to me, that doesn’t mean it was a bad book. Classics just tend to be hit-or-miss, and though it was a miss for me, I know plenty of people who absolutely loved it. The wonderful thing about books is that we all read them differently. So don’t let me experience deter you. It just might draw you in!