Wednesday, February 1, 2012

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  King Solomon's Mines (1885) is a popular novel by the Victorian adventure writer & fabulist, Sir Henry Rider Haggard. It tells of a search of an unexplored region of Africa by a group of adventurers led by Allan Quatermain for the missing brother of one of the party. It is the 1st English fictional adventure novel set in Africa, & is considered to be the genesis of the Lost World literary genre. 

And here's what I thought:   This is the first book in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge hosted by Booking in Heels.  I had never read this book, although I was a bit familiar with what it was about --- and while it wasn't the kind of book I would normally pick up for a read, it was pretty interesting.

Written in 1885, this is an adventure novel that takes place in Africa, a country the author was quite familiar with.   Haggard's writing style is pretty descriptive, and it's clear that he had knowledge of Africa, and hunting, and African culture.    Quatermain's voice throughout the story is quite clear --- in fact, I could practically hear him narrating this book (and I think this could be an interesting audiobook, depending on who was reading it).    Haggard also has a bit of humor coming through in the story, especially when he's describing one of the other characters, Captain John Good, R.N.    Good is one of those men who seems to maintain his clean appearance and good manners, no matter what the situation.  He is described as such: "There he sat upon a leather bag, looking just as though he had come in from  a comfortable day's shooting in a civilized country, absolutely clean, tidy, and well-dressed.  He had on a shooting suit of brown tweed, with a hat to match, and neat gaiters.  He was, as usual, beautifully shaven, his eyeglasses and his false teeth appeared to be in perfect order. and altogether he was the neatest man I ever had to do with in the wilderness."  (p. 269 my edition).   Those false teeth make a significant appearance later in the story.

This book reminded me a bit of an Indiana Jones adventure (except with hunting), and to be sure, there is a lot of action going on here, and a bit of mystery, as well.  Hunting isn't really my thing, however, so I admit the parts where Quatermain is hunting elephants (and some other animals) were ones I skimmed a bit.  But, I enjoyed other parts quite a bit --- which I was surprised by.  I suppose I was thinking this would be a "men, men, men" book, and it was --- but the Indiana Jones-esque feel and pace made it an enjoyable read.  I don't know if this is a book I'll re-read again, but I appreciate it for what it was when it was written, and feel it's a classic for good reason.

For more about the author, Wikipedia has a goodarticle.
First sentences: It is a curious thing that at my age - fifty-five last birthday - I should find myself taking up a pen to try and write a history.  I wonder what sort of a history it will be when I have done it, if I ever come to the end of the trip!  I have done a good many things in my life, which seems a long one to me, owing to my having begun so young, perhaps.  At an age when other boys are at school I was earning my living as a trader in the old Colony.  I have been trading, hunting, fighting, or mining ever since.


Jessica said...

I signed up for this challenge so thanks for reminding me! My reading is all booked up for Feb so I must start in March. Glad you kind of enjoyed it, I pretty much expected it to be like you described really.

Peek-a-booK! said...

I'm reading it just now for the same challenge! It's my last book so I'll finally complete the challenge.
Thanks for your review! :)


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