After the death of his parents, young man David Balfour determines to spend time travelling before settling down to a family and home. As he is leaving the town of his birth, his good friend and minister Mr. Campbell gives him a sealed letter from his father and told that he should take the letter to the Lord of Shaws, Ebenezer Balfour, his uncle. Young David is elated to find that he may have an inheritance and family and sets off at once.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
published in 1886
read by Mark F. Smith
When he comes to Ebenezer Balfour, though, his enthusiasm is quickly dashed by the reality that the current Lord of Shaws is a paranoid, anti-social outcast in his own land living in a never finished estate in complete darkness. David is greeted and treated as an enemy to Ebenezer, who send him on an errand that would have ended in certain death if not for a lucky lightning strike uncovering the design. Once confronted, Ebenezer promises to take David to his lawyer the following day and set things right by giving him his rightful inheritance.
In town, Ebenezer meets with Captain Hoseason, a merchant ship captain that Ebenezer has a partnership with and entices David to visit the ship. David, having never seen anything like the ship or the sea complies. Once on the ship, though, Ebenezer quickly rows back to town leaving David with the seamen. Realization sets in too late. David is knocked out after trying to call for help and wakes to find himself on the way to America to be sold as a slave on a plantation.
Stevenson takes his time describing each episode of this adventure (for there were several sections, the kidnapping on the ship being just the first,) in great detail so much so that each could have been a novella in itself. After the kidnapping there is the voyage at sea, the muder of a Scotish Lord during the sensitive time just after the Jacobite Uprising, a wild flight through wild lands, and finally a memorable conclusion.
There is something special about classic novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Authors didn’t concern themselves with moving through stories quickly to get to the action. There are no Tom Clancy stories where inevitably someone gets blown up or assassinated in the first chapter thus setting up the novel as “action packed.” Be that as it may, Stevenson’s Kidnapped is every bit as full of adventure and more so than some current story tellers who play to the impatience of modern audiences.
Mark Smith is excellent as always as the Librivox.org reader. His calming voice sooths and relaxes the listener. While there were a lot of words and accents that were beyond him (which he admits to in a disclaimer at the start of the book) it is likely that very few readers today – professional or otherwise – would have known the correct pronunciation of the names and words from 19th century Scotland. As such, I certainly could not tell when a mistake was made or not and for my part enjoyed the story immensely.
This is a great example of classic literature that was well read and enjoyable. Visit Librivox.org to download this audio book for free and enjoy it yourself. You wont regret it.
Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.