Saturday, February 28, 2015

Part 2 - Stories From the 1870's

Difficult to believe I got through all these years without reading Robert Louis Stevenson. Perhaps after my experience of reading his narrative of his walking journey in 1878, "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes", I'll try one of his novels.  I did not realize that Stevenson was considered, in his day, one of the very finest, most popular writers; his early demise in 1894 stunned the world, especially his fellow writers. He was a world famous, popular and likeable personality. I always thought of him as a sickly little boy who grew up in his sick room and wrote stories to amuse himself. In his "Travels", he is a hearty, callow young fellow who sets off on a solo expedition in a remote, rugged and wild corner of southern France, with money, food and an interesting, early version of a sleeping bag, (no tent, since he feared this would attract attention of thieves, marking the fact that he planned to camp out alone) and of course, Modestine. The book would be dry without the playful antics of his little donkey, about the size of a large dog. She totally exploits the young gentleman's ignorance of how to manage a beast of burden, until someone makes for him a goad to prod her with. As a skilled author for young people's stories, he understood how to enliven the action by relating the animal's endearing traits---like Disney. I also learned of the harrowing history of the religious wars in France and the rebellions of the Camisards, French Protestants who had to either leave France or fight for their religious freedeom in the 17th-18th Centuries. The book is as much a "time travel" as a travel, since the narrative is feels fresh and current after nearly a 140 years.

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