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Kidnapped (1886)

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: David Balfour (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,883119644 (3.75)1 / 428
A sixteen-year-old orphan is kidnapped by his villainous uncle, but later escapes and becomes involved in the struggle of the Scottish highlanders against English rule.
  1. 110
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (edjane)
  2. 40
    The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (chrisharpe)
  3. 20
    Birthright: The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped by A. Roger Ekirch (kraaivrouw)
  4. 10
    Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (thesmellofbooks)
    thesmellofbooks: Young men in dire straits on the open seas, a background of oppression, and historical richness are a few of the elements these books share. They are both ripping good yarns.
  5. 10
    The Amateur Emigrant / The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson (John_Vaughan)
  6. 00
    Go Saddle the Sea by Joan Aiken (themulhern)
    themulhern: I have a theory that each book in the Felix Brooker series is an homage to some work of Robert Louis Stevenson's. This one is clearly an homage to "Kidnapped"; there's the kidnapping, of course, but also the shipwreck, the somewhat mysterious parentage, the nefarious relative, the stalwart and canny friend.… (more)
  7. 00
    Prester John by John Buchan (themulhern)
  8. 02
    Foundling by D. M. Cornish (Nikkles)
Elevenses (109)
1970s (188)
1880s (14)

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» See also 428 mentions

English (115)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (120)
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
David’s inheritance has been stolen by his uncle. He is tricked by his uncle, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, and is on a ship bound for America. He meets and is rescued by Alan, a fugitive. Many hard times and great adventures are in store for these two companions. Robert Louis Stevenson goes into great descriptive details about the setting, the action, and the adventures that these two have. To me as a modern reader, it seems a bit over the top and slows down the plot without advancing it. Still, it is a classic, and as such, can be enjoyed for the richness contained in the story. ( )
  Maydacat | Jun 3, 2024 |
Another swash-buckling adventure yarn from Robert Louis Stevenson written in 1886 and set in the Scottish Highlands in 1751 after the failed Jacobite rebellion. Young lowlander David Balfour discovers on his father’s death that he has wealthy relatives and sets out on foot to find his uncle Ebenezer Balfour of Shaw (mildly surprising he had not heard of him before). He discovers a miserly old villain in a derelict mansion who plots to kill David by an accident, and when this fails has him press-ganged onto a ship sailing for Carolina to be a slave in the colonies. Enter the dashing highlander Alan Breck Stewart, real life historical figure, who had returned to Scotland to collect the dues owed by the clans to the Jacobite cause. After striking a bargain with Alan, the ship’s Captain treacherously decides to kill him instead, and a great fight takes place in which Alan and David team up. This is followed by a shipwreck, David being marooned on an island and a long trek across the heathers to find Alan in his homeland Appin. David and Alan then become suspects in The Appin Murder of “The Red Fox”, Colin Campbell of Glenure, the king’s tax collector. Then follows flight as outlaws.

The first half of the story begins very strongly, the second part is less gripping but I enjoyed the highland Scots brogue, rendered well in the audiobook read by David Rintoul, and the obvious tension between the highlanders and the lowlanders, or the Jacobites and the Whigs. A fun historical read. ( )
  mimbza | Jun 1, 2024 |
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Overall impressions:
Good. The classic Scots terminology can take some getting used to. An eBook with a dictionary would be helpful.

Not what I was expecting. I just assumed a pirate novel because I associate Robert Louis Stevenson with Treasure Island, which is a very silly thing to assume.

For those that read classic fiction, yes.
If you are interested in dipping your toes in classic fiction, it is a very good entry point. Not too long, but definitely has a more classic writing style.
If you are not very interested in classic fiction or don't like fiction in general, no. I don't think anything in this book would change your mind about either if you are not already inclined to be interested.

Basic plot:
A young man, David, inherits a large estate. His miserly uncle, in an attempt to prevent David from getting the estate, sells him into slavery via kidnapping. The ship taking him to South Carolina runs into a crushes a small boat. One of the passengers, Alan Breck Stewart, escapes death and is picked up by the ship.

The captain and crew decide to kill the passenger and rob him. David, overhearing that, warns the passenger and the two of them fight the crew to a standstill. Due to mistrust, the crew can't do their job properly and the ship runs aground in western Scotland.

While following Alan's trail, David ends up on the scene of a famous murder in Scottish history. At the scene he rejoins with Alan, who partook in the Jacobite Rebellion and is anti-English, and the two then engage in a flight across Scotland to escape the authorities and to reclaim David's inheritance.

The novel cover's historical Scottish events. The difference between highland and lowland Scots. It also features small ale, which was a term for the very low ABV beers that people drank instead of water. As a brewer, I found that amusing. There's a lot of historical stuff in there. Robert Louis Stevenson was writing from the 1800s and seems to have been big on research.

The story takes a while to get going. It's almost half-way through (at least in chapters) before the plot really kicks off. The meeting the uncle, the ship travels, and the initial wandering through western Scotland are all building up to the murder and flight. It's introduction and background.

Those parts aren't unrelated to the plot, but it does seem like a lot of buildup. It shows a lot of Alan and David as people so you can believe that Alan isn't responsible for the murder. The court case convicted him, but history has decided that he probably wasn't guilty.

Details I really liked:
The struggle for food felt very real. This is something missing from many modern novels. Pre-refrigeration and weaker farming tech makes a big difference in food availability, storage, and transport. Food is difficult and is very frequently bland because you got cold oatmeal because that is what is available and can be made while in hiding.

When David kills someone for the first time while helping defend Alan from the treacherous crew, it caused him a lot of mental anguish that, again, feels very real in a way that, again, many modern novels don't capture. Either the guilt of killing of glossed over or it is overwrought.

The novel deals with multiple languages well. Many of the highland Scots do not speak English or they speak very little. David only speaks English. That inability to communicate is shown very well through David's wanderings alone in the highlands. Alan being a translator is a valuable asset. Also, highlanders getting offends at David's lack of Gaelic is very realistic.

None of them really stuck out to me. All the characters play their roles. Only the main characters, David and Alan, get that much screen time or depth. David mentions some positive sides of the crew in passing. Riach in particular is shown to have a good side, but has little compunction against killing Alan for his money. The uncle Ebenezer has a bit more in his backstory to give him some complexity over a simple greedy miser.

David and Alan showing loyalty and friendship to each other is the key theme of the story. Starting from David warning Alan of the crew's plans and helping him against their assault. Throughout the story, both have opportunities to abandon the other. And, in those times, would be better served by abandoning each other. Even when they come into conflict with each other and their differences in ethnicity, national loyalty, religion, and temperaments stoke that conflict, their shared debts and trials keep them together.
  oriscus | Apr 21, 2024 |
this very interesting novel and the story of this novel is awful whenever you read this novel you feel afraid
and you trying to secure yourself. ( )
  sherry70 | Aug 23, 2023 |
A letter which surfaced only after his father's death sends David Balfour off to Edinburgh, where he meets his elderly uncle Ebenezer. Though rather unpleasant, Ebenezer appears to welcome David, only to turn around and arrange for his kidnapping aboard a ship bound for America. When the vessel founders during a storm, David lies stranded on a small, rocky island in the Hebrides, alone and unsure how he'll ever make his way back home.

I'm confident that at the time of its publication, this would have been an exciting book to get one's hands on. Today, though? It's just OK, but perhaps a bit too dull to compete with contemporary adventure novels. The most interesting aspect to me was following David's journey on a map as I read, curious about the terrain traversed and towns passed through. It might be helpful to have some basic familiarity with the '45 to understand the political factions and motivations for some characters' behavior. Worth a read if you're working your way through a list of "classics." ( )
  ryner | Jul 6, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (232 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stevenson, Robert Louisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ambrus, Victor G.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brundage, FrancesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chatty, John L.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheshire, GerardContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheyne, AngelaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coltrane, RobbieReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elliott, KieronNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fannin, ColeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goble, WarwickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hite, SidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lampén, O.E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Sullivan, TomIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakley, GrahamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhead, LouisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rintoul, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodríguez Rivero, ManuelAppendixsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santidrián, María EugeniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiss, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyeth, N.C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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If you ever read this tale, you will likely ask yourself more questions than I should care to answer: as for instance how the Appin murder has come to fall in the year 1751, how the Torran rocks have crept so near to Earraid, or why the printed trial is silent as to all that touches David Balfour. These are nuts beyond my ability to crack. But if you tried me on the point of Alan's guilt or innocence, I think I could defend the reading of the text. To this day you will find the tradition of Appin clear in Alan's favour. If you inquire, you may even hear that the descendants of "the other man" who fired the shot are in the country to this day. But that other man's name, inquire as you please, you shall not hear; for the Highlander values a secret for itself and for the congenial exercise of keeping it I might go on for long to justify one point and own another indefensible; it is more honest to confess at once how little I am touched by the desire of accuracy. This is no furniture for the scholar's library, but a book for the winter evening school-room when the tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near; and honest Alan, who was a grim old fire-eater in his day has in this new avatar no more desperate purpose than to steal some young gentleman's attention from his Ovid, carry him awhile into the Highlands and the last century, and pack him to bed with some engaging images to mingle with his dreams.

As for you, my dear Charles, I do not even ask you to like this tale. But perhaps when he is older, your son will; he may then be pleased to find his father's name on the fly-leaf; and in the meanwhile it pleases me to set it there, in memory of many days that were happy and some (now perhaps as pleasant to remember) that were sad. If it is strange for me to look back from a distance both in time and space on these bygone adventures of our youth, it must be stranger for you who tread the same streets--who may to-morrow open the door of the old Speculative, where we begin to rank with Scott and Robert Emmet and the beloved and inglorious Macbean--or may pass the corner of the close where that great society, the L. J. R., held its meetings and drank its beer, sitting in the seats of Burns and his companions. I think I see you, moving there by plain daylight, beholding with your natural eyes those places that have now become for your companion a part of the scenery of dreams. How, in the intervals of present business, the past must echo in your memory! Let it not echo often without some kind thoughts of your friend,

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I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house.
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This is the main work for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Do not combine with any abridgement, adaptation, etc.
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A sixteen-year-old orphan is kidnapped by his villainous uncle, but later escapes and becomes involved in the struggle of the Scottish highlanders against English rule.

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