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Thursday, June 26, 2008

King Solomon's Mines

Have you ever seen the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I absolutely love that movie. The one thing that bugged me when I first saw it is that I had no idea who Allan Quartermain was. I always intended to look him up and get the scoop but of course I never did.

Just recently I saw a review at Books 'N Border Collies of King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (published in 1885). The first thing that caught my eye was the name Allan Quartermain; I thought, Cool, now I get to figure out who he is! Then I read this: "Hero Allan Quartermain is the original Indy, minus the snake phobia and whip." Ok, now I've GOT to read this book! I mean, who doesn't love Indiana Jones?!

Plus, this book counts toward the Irresistible Review Challenge AND the 1% Well Read Challenge - even more reason to read it ASAP.

Following the advice of the reviewer, I read the book online at Project Gutenberg. Ok, ok, so I printed it out (using very small font to save space) and read it on paper ... online reading just gives me a headache after a while. This is an excellent resource for cheap (read FREE) reading thrills - go check it out!

One site I found summarizes the book this way:
Improbable and fable-like, the story tells of English adventurers who travel to the interior of a remote African country, a vanished empire with legends of lost treasure.
That's a pretty good summary, really. Of course there is much more to the book than that, but that IS the basic idea. I also found this tidbit of info which I thought was fascinating. Cool, huh?

I had some issues with the first several chapters of this book. The problem for me comes when I read older books (keep in mind this was published in 1885) and find myself judging the characters by modern standards.

Allan Quartermain's job is hunting elephants. Ugh. With all we know about these majestic animals today, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to kill them; reading about it in some detail was really depressing. I tried to remember that people thought differently in those days but it didn't help all that much.

Then we have the relationships between the white/European characters and the black/native African characters. Racism was part of life when this book was written but again, I'm looking back on it with "modern" eyes and it's pretty sad. Most of the black African characters were stereotypical, as were the white Europeans and white Africans.

However, that being said, it was when Quartermain and his companions get where they're going the story really got entertaining for me and I found it hard to put down. There's nothing in here that is completely surprising but it is still fascinating and exciting all the same. The author's use of language - although somewhat antiquated - was very entertaining. The book is written as a letter from Quartermain in Africa to his son in England; it's full of side notes and PS-type items that Quartermain throws in from time to time to shed light on his story. Plus, Quartermain has that dry sense of humor that I appreciate.

On the whole I truly enjoyed it and am glad that I read it. I don't know if I'd agree that Quartermain = Indy, but he's still lots of fun to read.

And for those of you who are, like me, huge Indy fans, check out the 19 Things We Learned from Indiana Jones. My favorites are #5 & #12 ... which are yours?

As always, if you've read and reviewed this book please comment with your link and I'll add it to my post.
Puss Reboots has a review ... and others?

Today is the FINAL DAY to enter the two contests I'm running! Winners will be announced tomorrow morning so be sure you've got your name in. Click here and here to enter.

10 comments:

Lezlie said...

I'm glad you liked the book!

I didn't mean to give the impression that "Allan Quartermaine = Indiana Jones". I meant more that you could see where the idea for Indy came from. Kind of like you can see the seeds for Captain Jack Sparrow in Long John Silver of "Treasure Island". Maybe I need to rewrite that line in my review. . . :-)

I also agree with you about the beginning. The reader does have to keep in mind when the book was written, but it can be difficult.

I'm going to link your review with mine!

Have a great day, Heather!
Lezlie

Nymeth said...

I had completely forgotten about it, but I read this book as a kid! Your review brought back some memories. It's time for a re-read :)

N.Vasillis said...

I loved The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I'm putting this on my TBR list.

momofonefornow said...

I am so bummed that we will be passing on the highway. That stinks.

We are leaving late on the 28th and staying until the 5th. We are going to pop up to Hershey (for the kiddo's sake, not mine teeheehee)on the way back.

I am excited. This is my first time to the Baltimore area and I just want to soak it all up.

Beth A. said...

I've had a lot of the same problems seeing past racism in historical books. Most recently, I was re-reading Mary Poppins and the Little House books and occasionally cringing. In the Little House books, I could get past it because they have so many other redeeming features, but it pretty much killed Mary Poppins for me.

If you're still looking for graphic novels to read, you should try the first volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and if you like it, you might try some others of Alan Moore's, like Watchmen or V is for Vendetta).

grayskyeyes said...

I've always wondered where Allan Quantermaine came from -- I could not figure it out!

Kim

jessi said...

Great review! I read this years ago for a Children's Literature class. I was a little upset about the elephant-hunting, too, but I enjoyed the book. I was also really excited that I knew who Allen Quartermain was, too. Have you read the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels? They're aren't the same as the movie, but I love them. :)

Darla D said...

I've been meaning to read this one for ages - I guess I'll have to bump it up a bit higher on my TBR list! Great review - and I've added it to the IR Challenge links on my blog.

Mark said...

Hi:

I know this is an old post and this comment may not get read, but, worth a try?

Anyway, I read King Solomon's Mines aloud to my kids and they are all begging me to find another book this good to read aloud. Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Mark

Heather J. said...

Mark - I do hope you'll check back here, because I DO read all the comments (even ones on old posts). :)

A few suggestions for you...

- there are other books in the Allan Quartermain series, although I don't know the titles. Just search by the author and I'm sure you'll come up with lots of titles.

- have you tried Jules Verne? I've been really enjoying his books this year. If you search my blog you'll find several reviews of his books. I suggest 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, followed by The Mysterious Island.

I hope this helps! Please comment and let me know if you'd like more ideas.

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