THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND – by Jules Verne
This classic adventure is perhaps on the lengthy side for a children’s/ family novel but rarely fails to engage the reader. It is in the same genre as ‘Robiinson Cruesoe’ and the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’; detailing the many amazing experiences that five American castaways have. The novel opens fiercely with the dangerous descent of the castaways in a balloon that they had used to escape from enemy territory. They drift thousands of miles away due to the unpredictable winter winds. When they land on an islet, one of their group is lost .. along with the dog that accompanied him.
The second chapter proceeds to give each castaway some backstory and also explains how they came to meet as a group.
The characters are as follows. Captain Harding is a very skilful and tireless engineer, who acts as the leader of the group. As the story unfolds his fate is left up in the air, and the manner of his eventual return is one of the book’s best moments of surprise.
Gideon Spillet is a remarkable reporter who details the Civil War’s events.. often from a front-line position. Neb is a Negro servant of Harding who is utterly loyal to his master, and also happens to be a skilful cook. Jack Pencroft is an experienced sailor who his stubborn concerning his beliefs and values; yet poseses a disarming manner of humour and affability.
Last of the group is Herbert – Pencroft’s young teenage understudy.. who proves to have skill and stamina that are quite remarkable for someone of that age.
Verne conveys the characters’ beliefs and personalities in such a convincing way that they soon become like people that the readers has known for a considerable amount of time. The manner in which they colonize the island is wonderful and completely plausible.
The book is split into three even and logical parts: a – how they settle on the mysterious island ; b – how they acquire more companions, animals and provsions; c – how they face convicts and meet the amazing force behind unexplained incidents during their isolation.
I enjoyed the book considerably when reading it at an age that was firmly in Verne’s target audience. Despite the odd word being anachronistic the overall prose has dated well. Anyone who wants something to pass onto a son, daughter, niece or nephew could not do any better than suggesting this novel.
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