Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped is, in my view, the greatest Scottish novel ever. I’d rank Kidnapped in my list of ten favourite novels of all time. Discover its treasures with me.
I do not believe in Heaven, but if I did I can tell you that one of the things on offer there for me would be a daily reading from Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson himself, in his gorgeous Scottish accent (my favourite accent in the world!) and at least once a week he would read to me his brilliant chapter ‘The Siege of the Roundhouse’ which is one of the finest pieces of dramatic writing ever penned by anyone. It sends thrills through me every time and when Alan says to David “am I no a bonny fighter”, my cheers echo to the rafters!
My mother read this book to me when I was a child. I loved the story and adventure but, being utterly ignorant of Jacobite history, I was extremely hazy about why Alan’s life was in danger and what cause he was supporting. As an adult living in Scotland, with far more knowledge of the background to the novel, I re-read the book and was blown away by it. Since then I have listened to audio versions (a fabulous way to experience this book!), learned more about Stevenson and visited many of the places associated with his life and his novel, and the book has come to hold a very special place in my heart. I adore Alan Breck Stewart – were he to give me one of his silver buttons, I’d swoon with emotion. I love the evocations of Scottish history and landscape, and one day I hope to take the Stevenson Walk across Scotland which covers many of the places in the book.
“Kidnapped is his masterpiece, an unforgettable novel of action that would inspire writers as varied as Joseph Conrad, John Buchan, Graham Greene and Muriel Spark. It is also a fascinating meditation on the complexity of the Scots character, half Celt, half Saxon. As in Jekyll and Hyde, it shows him obsessed with the divided self, and in the year of the independence vote, Kidnapped remains essential reading.”
― Robert McCrum
Few writers have equalled Stevenson in a gift for storytelling, but his brilliant narrative abilities were matched by his acute psychological perception and his passion for history. I’d have so loved to meet Stevenson and have loved following him around the world, seeing his homes in Edinburgh, France and Samoa, walking in his footsteps with a donkey in the Cevennes and being lucky enough to dine in his childhood home in Scotland. He’s one of my most loved writers ever, and I feel so sad that he did not live for longer.
Once I thought of Kidnapped as an exciting adventure story for children, now I rank it as one of the greatest novels ever written for children and for adults. It is up there amazingly close to the novels of Jane Austen in my esteem – what higher compliment can I pay this novel?
I hope that you too will revisit Kidnapped and experience its power. Come with me to experience kidnap, treachery, the abuse of power, the growth of friendship, loyalty in many different forms, and some of the best narrative writing you will ever find.
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