Silver by Andrew Motion
July, 1802. In the marshy eastern reaches of the Thames lies the Hispaniola, an inn kept by Jim Hawkins and his son. Young Jim spends his days roaming the mist-shrouded estuaries, running errands for his father and listening to his stories in the taproom; tales of adventures on the high seas, of curses, murder and revenge, black spots and buried treasure–and of a man with a wooden leg.
Late one night, a mysterious girl named Natty arrives on the river with a request for Jim from her father–Long John Silver. Aged and weak, but still possessing a strange power, the pirate proposes that Jim and Natty sail to Treasure Island in search of Captain Flint’s hidden bounty, the”beautiful bar silver’ left behind many years before. Silver has chartered a ship and a hardy crew for this purpose, whose captain is waiting only for the map, now locked away at the Hispaniola.
Making haste from London, Jim and Natty set off in the footsteps of their fathers, their tentative friendship growing stronger day by day. But the thrill of the ocean odyssey gives way to terror as the Nightingale reaches its destination, for it seems that Treasure Island is not as uninhabited as it once was…
Featuring a cast of noble seamen, murderous pirates, and stories of love, valour and terrible cruelty, Silver is a worthy sequel to Treasure Island–one of the greatest adventure stories ever told– and a work of extraordinary authenticity and imaginative power from one of England’s greatest writers.
Jim Hawkins was afforded an education, but spends much of his free time in the marsh lands near his home more interested in botany. After long days scouring the swamp he returns home to the Hispaniola to help his father and to clean up after long drunken nights. Having been told the stories of Treasure Island all through his youth, Jim imagines his own adventures. When an opportunity to follow in his fathers footsteps comes along, he is uncertain of which path to take. Having set eyes on the mysterious Natty Silver his heart has commandeered his senses and is steering him in whichever path she leads.
After a series of predestined events, Jim and Natty find themselves on the island of their childhood fantasies and the realities of their fathers. Darkness has crept over the island during the many years away and it wastes no time in wrapping it’s slick tendrils around the lives of the decendants who started it all.
I chose to include the last passage of the book summary noted on the inside of the cover to point out one part in particular. “Silver is a worthy sequel to Treasure Island”. Those are very heavy words to be tossing around so lightly. Andrew Motion is a well praised english author known for his poetic verses, yet Silver seems to be lacking such lyrical waves to carry us along Jim and Natty’s voyage. The fact that the novel is advertised being worthy of a sequel, or in some cases simply being referred to as a sequel is rather misleading. Certainly, it contains the familiar characters and locations, but is missing such things that give a story longevity and notarity to be coupled with a literary classic. I believe the visual aspects put into this edition of book and the reference to Treasure Island blinded my other senses. If it had been that of another version online with an outline of a pirate I am certain I would not have been fooled.
There were many good ideas that form the bones of the story. The fact that the main characters are now the children of those of the original tale; the guest appearances of said characters and even a few ghosts from the past; the legendary Treasure Island and the adventures on the high seas. As dead men tell no tales, the bones cannot carry motion without the supporting muscle of the story. There are times when the story seems to go no where, inserted with irrelevant rambles that are evident space fillers. The most annoying is the constant introductory teasers of scenes from the narrator, young Jim, followed by a note that further explanation will appear in due course. Do not waste my time hinting that there is more to come in the story, I can see by the number of wasted pages I have yet to turn. These inserts are to reinforce the fact that the story is a retelling of the events that occurred and essentially spoilers as to whom is left in the end to give such details.
Credit should be given to the author for the concept and framing of the tale, but in the end I find myself choking on the salt water I am forced to tred while lost at sea in the wake of this shipwreck.