Thursday, 27 May 2010
WHEN I was small, my late grandfather bought me a book he insisted I read. It was a book he'd loved all his life and he wanted to share it with his young grandson. He was nearing 80 when he gave me it as a present one Christmas. I don't think he was much of a reader but clearly this book had made enough of an impression on him to want to pass it on to another generation.
That Christmas morning - I think it was 1975, so I would have been seven - I eagerly tore off the wrapping paper to reveal the book in its glossy dust jacket showing a pirate and a ship in the distance.
The book was Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Is it a children's book? I don't know, but what I do know is that I devoured it, swept away on Stevenson's magical storytelling. I was scared witless by Blind Pugh, the Black Spot and the sense of anxiety created in anticipation of Long John Silver. For those few hours I was reading, I was Jim Hawkins.
My admiration for Stevenson's storytelling genius and my love of that book have not dimmed over the years and I've re-read it at least twice. I still have that copy, now minus its dust jacket and looking as if it's been stuck for years at the bottom of a long-forgotten treasure chest, but it is still one of my most prized possessions.
It's a lovely connection with my grandfather, who died in 1978 aged 82, and one day I intend introducing it to my own children.
My daughter and I are working our way through the works of Michael Morpurgo (our current favourite author) and I was thrilled to discover that he was influenced at an early age by Stevenson and Treasure Island.
What an amazing book that it still continues to weave its magic.