'Kidnapped' was a childhood favourite - or more specifically a favourite from the years that seem to be classed as young adult now; a term I'm a little bit suspicious of but I assume covers the stage when one grows out of The Famous Five but doesn't yet feel compelled to walk around with a conspicuous copy of something Russian. (I wonder if there's a polite term for that phase?) I probably had a battered Puffin Classics copy back in the day but it's long gone, so a few years ago I felt impelled to purchase a rather more grown up looking Canongate version (it looked exceptionally scholarly) which has kicked around the shelves ever since waiting to be picked up until finally I was in the mood for something Scottish and Victorian.
A few pages in and I wondered what I'd signed up for - it was clear that 'Kidnapped' wasn't entirely the book I remembered (it was also clear that I didn't really remember much about it). Re-reading it, it's a much more complex novel than I would have imagined a week ago. Having started this post the Scottish one and I have spent the last 2 hours discussing Jacobite's, the suppression of the clans, and Scottish independence. I grew up with a romantic notion that the Jacobite cause was a noble one and that Bonnie Prince Charlie was a hero (in Shetland where traditionally there is little love for the mainland Scot) He grew up being told that Bonnie Prince Charlie was a nasty little man, foreign at that, who was the ruin of the Clans (in the Highlands where you might imagine a different attitude would prevail).
I assumed that a good portion of my pro Jacobite sympathies were culled from 'Kidnapped' but reading now I see no evidence of enthusiasm from Stevenson. His Alan Breck Stewart is in most ways a ridiculous little (literally - his lack of hight is frequently referred to) man with a distinctly skewed idea of honour and morality. Resourceful and brave certainly, but also overly proud, vain, quick to take offence, manipulative, and unscrupulous. He certainly has no qualms about taking a second rent from his clansmen who can ill afford it so that his chief can live in some comfort and safety in France. David Balfour - the Lowlander happy to swear his allegiance to King George is on the other hand a model of youthful integrity whose only discernible fault is his inability to tell when he's on a tidal Island.
As a children's book it's a ripping yarn which manages to mix the fairy tale elements of a young man destined to find he's the long lost rightful heir of an estate and fortune, with adventure on the high sea's, a life and death journey across a wild landscape, and just a little humour. As a grown up book there is far more humour, more tension, more horror and plenty of the duality that the introduction in my edition insists upon. David leaves behind a world of certainty for one where nothing is assured and where the weather is as much his enemy as the red coats are.
As for 'Kidnapped' itself - well the chances are anybody reading this will already have know it reasonably well, but should you be on the look out for a copy I absolutely recommend this edition. The notes, glossary, introduction, and maps are excellent (I learned stuff) and as a book to provoke conversation it has a lot going for it - not least as it feels remarkably relevant in a time when Scottish independence is very much on the news agenda.