Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book review: St. Ives, Being the Adventures of a French Prisoner in England

Book review: St. Ives, Being the Adventures of a French Prisoner in England
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907
438 pages

This is a re-do of my earlier post on Stevenson's St. Ives, because I now confess that I stopped reading at p. 390. So, don't worry about spoilers….

I've always maintained a coldly mechanical willingness to stop reading a book whenever the time comes….in St. Ives, the time comes at Chapter XXXI.

Stevenson died after writing XXX chapters of St. Ives, and a respected contemporary, Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, wrote the remaining VI chapters from Stevenson's notes.

Stevenson's oeuvre is fastidiously lush, precise, sophisticated, with deeply contextual character development and dialogue that leaves me breathless with anticipation for more. There's an abstractly beautiful love interest. Did I mention that I'm a fan of 19th century prose?

Quiller-Couch doubtless had his merits as a 19th century writer. He ain't no Stevenson.

Q-C's contribution to St. Ives lacks the prepossessing heartiness of Stevenson's dialogue and storyline.

Q-C can't quite gin up the panache and persiflage that RLS animates on nearly every page.

Q-C makes a too sincere but unavailing effort to match the rural patois that Stevenson offers for the reader's delight.

Q-C bungles the parlous adventures of the eponymous protagonist, injecting a wretched slapstick element that leads an RLS fan to transition uncomfortably into pursed-lips mode. 

Stevenson's prosaic mastery is, sadly, missing in the last VI chapters of St. Ives, and, therefore, ignorance shall be my penalty for closing this truncated masterpiece before I reached the end.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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