Historical

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

beach-dawn-dune-662994

Photo by Melanie Wupperman from Pexels

I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

IMG_6057[1]

And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos 🙂

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops). The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?

Why I Read Old Books (and like them)

Let me start by apologizing for going AWOL for the past couple months. I’m back and I’m working to find a blogging schedule that isn’t interrupted by the rest of my life. Now, onto the post…

book-1659717_1920

Have you ever read Chaucer? Dickens? Thucydides? I have. Granted, all of these examples were for school, but I am glad of the chance to consume such literature.

A common problem in many readers today is that of reading only recently published books. But (and I am generalizing here) many of those books are shallow. They contain love triangles, vampires, and dead parents. Especially in books written for teenagers, the writing itself is simple and contains small words. The plot is straightforward and the characters have no crushing moral dilemma beyond whether it is socially acceptable to date whichever attractive person they are desperately in love with.

Now look at old books. Yes, some of them do contain these elements. Jane Eyre is quite the love triangle. But it is more than that. It is a young woman’s journey of growing up and learning what sacrificial love really is. It contains rich dialogue, deep characters, and a morally gripping plot.

Old books not only use more complicated sentences and bigger words (offering wonderful exercise for the brain), they also bring us into the thoughts and ideals of people in the past. Charles Dickens wrote about the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, giving a story of political tumult and redemption which combined many plots into a rich climax. He offered his perspective on the revolution through his characters and his storytelling.

Of course, so far, I have only mentioned novels of a few hundred years ago. But the nonfiction is just important, even though those books may be a bit more dull than their fiction counterparts at times. The Federalist and Antifederalist Papers show us the discussions and disagreements between some of the core founders of the United States. The History of the Kings of Britain shows both the complicated history of Britain and the political corruption (and purity) in some major players in said history.

The theological books are, yet again, powerful and offer insights into the early history of the church. Eusebius gives us a thorough Ecclesiastical History, as does Bede. Augustine wrote countless books on different aspects of theology and the Christian life. He examined the kingdom of God in The City of God; he wrote his own testimony in Confessions; he looked at some basic Christian truths in On Faith, Hope, and Love (the Enchiridion). Calvin wrote almost too much to read in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and while we may not agree with everything these theological giants believed, they were pivotal in the development of the church and fighting the heresies of their day.

Old books offer us wisdom that recent books are unable to provide. They put at our fingertips the knowledge of the ages and the ideas and records of thousands of years. Old books are priceless. They enrich us.

Let me leave with the the advice of the great writer C. S. Lewis in his introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation:

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” (full introduction here)

Go forth and read!

Kira

What’s the last old book you read? What did you learn from it?

The Golden Shark: Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

mati-3126385_1920

Michael started the message down the ship, through each of the slaves, convicts, fighters. Within the hour, he told me I had every man’s allegiance.

“Perfect. Now, how to get the keys? None of us can do anything against George and the rest of my crew in these chains.”

Michael thought for a minute. “Leave that to me, sir.” The next time we pushed our oar forward, he reached out and tapped the man in front of him on the back. The man nodded, seeming to keep with the beat of the drum. A moment later, he collapsed off of his bench, into the center of the ship.

The same voice that had ordered me to row shouted for him to get up, get back to work. He lay still. The man stormed forward and I recognized him as Howard, one of the lesser of my crewmen. He began beating the man on the floor with both his fists and his whip. The man cried out, but didn’t get up.

Michael jumped to his feet, stepping as far as the chain on his ankle would allow, and delivered a sound blow to the back of Howard’s head. He froze and swayed a little. Michael hit him one more time and Howard fell, the sound muffled as he landed on the slave he had been beating.

The slave wormed his way out from under the man and fished around in his pockets for a moment before pulling something out. He held his findings out to me. “Your keys, sir.”

I blinked, still taking in what had happened. But no time for that. Already, some of the slaves had stopped rowing and the voices above deck told me that George had noticed. Someone would be down to check on that soon.

I accepted the ring of keys and unlocked my own chains, and Michael’s. Then I passed them forward. I addressed the slaves as if for battle as they took turns unlocking themselves, all down the ship.

“The crew is armed. We are not. However, we outnumber them. And do not forget that for which you fight: your freedom!” Eighty or so fists raised in the air in silent celebration. “Follow me, men. Today, we fight to regain this ship.”

I led the way up the ladder to the next deck, where a few crew members snored in their hammocks. We crept by, unwilling to waken any extra enemies. I did, however, snatch a stray sword leaning against the wall on the way through.

The moment I reached the deck, I ran for the wheel. That was where George Mullins gleefully reigned. The smile fell from his face at the sight of me and my following of haphazardly armed slaves charging the deck.

As the slaves engaged with various members of the crew, I fought my way to George. It wasn’t difficult, considering how we outnumbered them. Every time a man attacked me, two slaves closed in on him and I moved on, nearer to my first mate.

“Captain.” He breathed the word. “How…”

“That’s not your concern, George. You have two choices: hand back my ship, or have it taken by force.”

“Do your worst.” He slid his own blade from its sheath and I raised mine, striking immediately.

The fight was short – George was not very good with a sword, and I had mine at his throat in less than a minute. “Care to give me back control, now, Mullins?”

He swallowed hard, sheer hatred in his eyes. He ground his teeth together and dropped his sword.

“Order the men to do the same.”

“Drop your weapons.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think they heard you.”

“Drop your weapons!” he screamed.

I smiled. “Better.” I turned to face a deck full of sailors surrendering to galley slaves. “Lock them up, men. We’ll need someone to row the Golden Shark to the islands.”

My new crew cheered and hurried to gather their prisoners. I handed George over to Michael, who prodded him below deck with a rather sharp looking shard of glass.

I gripped the smooth spokes on the wheel of my ship. “And now,” I whispered, “we sail.”

The End

Kira

The Golden Shark: Part 1

mati-3126385_1920

The world lurched beneath me and my head slammed into something hard. I moaned and opened my eyes a crack. The world was mostly dark, with a single flickering source of light at the end of what looked like a long tunnel.

Rows of people lined either side of the tunnel – men, sitting on benches two by two and swaying in sync with one another. Behind me, a beating sound pounded into my head, a slow, persistent thump. Thump. Thump.

I moaned again and was suddenly jerked up into a seated position. “Row!” yelled a rough voice, right in my ear.

Stars still blinked before my eyes and I sat there dumbly.

“I said, row!” A fist collided with the back of my head and I woke myself up enough to grab the piece of wood rotating in front of me and copy the man next to me. Push, pull, push, pull.

What was I doing here? And where was here? I asked the slave beside me – for slave he was – and received a strange look in return. “You’re in the galley, Captain Shores,” he whispered.

I had deduced that I was in some sort of a ship by now, but didn’t understand why the man would be calling me Captain. “Why do you address me like that? I may not know where I am, but I am clearly no captain!”

Push, pull, push, pull. I realized now, that the rowing was in time to the thumping of what must have been a large drum.

“Sir, you are the captain of this ship, the Golden Shark. Your first mate organized mutiny last night and your men confined you to the galley. You must have hit your head…or had it hit for you.”

“The Golden Shark…” I paused in my rowing, the words bringing back flashes of memory. “My first mate…George?”

“That’s right, sir.”

It all came back. The darkness of the night on which George Mullins chose to lead my own men in attacking me. The struggle to fight them off, the cries for any of my men – any at all – to aid me.

And all over some cinnamon.

The Golden Shark was one of the Queen’s navy ships, charged with finding a quicker route to the Spice Islands and bringing back enough spices to make investors and the royal family quite wealthy. Of course, as captain of this ship, I was to receive a considerable percentage of whatever we managed to bring back to England with us. All George needed to do was claim that I drowned at sea or broke the law and tried to take all the riches for myself, turning pirate, and he would be lauded and paid – well paid.

I looked to the man sitting next to me. Galley slaves. All of them. And now I joined them, rowing and rowing, chained to the ship by my ankle, a man with a whip at my back. I must regain my ship.

But would they aid me? Me, who enforced the court’s sentence of slavery for however many years befitted their crime? There was only one way to find out.

“What is your name?”

The slave gave me a sideways glance. “Michael, sir.”

“How much longer are you sentenced to the galley, Michael?”

“Seven years, sir.”

“I assume the others have similar sentences?”

“I’m sure they do, sir. Some shorter, some longer.”

“And do you think they would aid me in regaining control of this ship if I offered them their freedom?”

Michael turned to face me as well as he could without letting go of the long oar. “Doubtless, sir.”

To be continued…

Kira