Silver: Return to Treasure Island, by Andrew Motion

Review published on April 27, 2012. Reviewed by John Redfearn

Mr Stevenson, lookout and a non-swimmer, oversaw the voyage of the Silver Nightingale from a vantage-point high above her deck right up to the moment near the end of the tale when he leapt from her with a bar of silver. The Nightingale had been hired by a dying Long-John Silver to return to Treasure Island with his daughter and Jim Hawkins the younger to retrieve and return the bars of silver left on the island years before.

The opening chapters tell of how in 1802 Natty Stephenson helped Jim to persuade himself to borrow the old map of the island from his father and join her on the voyage. Despite misgivings, not unlike mine in reviewing a book by such a renowned author and poet, Jim indeed borrowed the map and they set forth on their dangerous adventure into the Caribbean.

Later chapter titles make intriguing reading. 15: Our Berth. 16: The Other Side of the Island. 17: Scotland. 18: The History of the Maroons. 19: A Walk at Night. Scotland? I thought they were on a Caribbean island? I had to read that chapter first. Don’t succumb to the temptation. No really. Don’t.

Arrived at the island they’re faced with aged pirates, younger guards who have fallen in with them and demoralized captive slaves amid scenes of deprivation, depravity and terror. They and their small crew face a Gordian knot of moral dilemmas. Find the silver and leave? Face the pirates, take the silver and leave? Do something about the slaves or just ignore them? Just leave?

Jim’s misgivings over borrowing the map from his father remain unresolved. My misgivings over reviewing the yarn, what can I say if I don’t like it, what if its more Pirates of the Caribbean than Stevenson, were unfounded. Silver: Return to Treasure Island is a splendid sequel capturing the feel of the original and continuing the story into a new generation whilst ending, rather like the end of an old Saturday matinee, at a point where another installment is eagerly awaited.

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