These days, nearly every movie or book that has a story similar to a real life one has a disclaimer attached to it – “This is a work of fiction and bears no resemblance to anyone dead or alive”. It’s only sensible, considering the lawsuits that can come chasing you! In such a scenario, it’s refreshing to see a novel that’s based on actual events without being apologetic about it – it even has the people’s real names! Well, that’s Robert Louis Stevenson for you!
Kidnapped is the story of David Balfour, a 17 year old who is well, obviously, kidnapped, as per his evil uncle’s instructions. The story is told in first person and details how David escaped and his adventures there on, till he comes back full circle to his uncle. The basic plot is based on the real case of a man who was cheated of his inheritance and kidnapped by his uncle. From the time he is kidnapped to the time he gets back home, David meets several characters, many of who are real people. The most significant of these is Alan Stewart, an exiled Highlander. Alan turns out to be David’s partner in all his adventures, although the two often have brief arguments and spats!
On the surface, the story doesn’t seem to be much; the title tells you the basic plot! However, it is the events that occur through the story and the characterization that adds meat to it. David is portrayed as a regular teenager, who can be cranky at times, but is mostly honest and straightforward. Alan, however, can be cunning when he chooses, probably since he’s an outlaw and has been out and about much more than David. However, it’s interesting to see the relationship between the two develop as the story progresses.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing makes you feel like you’re in the story, travelling with David and Alan. You can almost smell the dark ship, feel the damp weather and hear the Red Coats chasing you. The pace is quite fast, and keeps you invested throughout. You can see a lot of the author’s life reflected in the story – the frequent travels on sea, David’s deteriorating health and David’s last name, which is Stevenson’s mother’s maiden name. All these make Kidnapped a special novel – it’s like there’s a little bit of Stevenson in it. That, and the smells, sounds and sights of a different era and a faraway place, all wrapped up in an exciting package!