King Solomon’s Mines. A 50-year reread




This book was on the English Literature course when I studied it way back in the 1960s. I suppose its adventure theme, with deadly battles and buried treasure, was judged suitable to capture the interest of 16-year-old boys. Boys and their reading - still a matter of recurring educational concern. 

I came back to the book after having watched a TV programme in which it was referenced. The programme charted the course of the English novel and, as one of its themes, explored literature associated with Empire and colonisation. Hooked, I decided that it might be interesting to reread KSM after more than 50 years. An early front runner of this type of story there are many books of this genre today and this one is still easily available.  

Stuck in my memory

Some of the characters and situations had certainly stuck in my memory and as I met up with them again, I wondered why that was. Since they stuck, there must have been something that appealed, and I consider now that it was that adventurer aspect. However, the most obvious thing that struck me from the reread was just how much society norms and values have changed since that time. Some of the references and dialogue struck me as somewhat racist and sexist, not to mention scenes of hunting and ivory gathering, and on occasions caused some moments of discomfort.  These attitudes were prevalent in the late 19th century. I'm glad that we have left lots of that behind but I'm just as sure that a toxic residue remains. Why keep reading then? Perhaps a good way to learn what one’s values are is to be aware when they are being offended. But was the sixteen-year-old offended? Or did I simply take it for granted? With 50 years hindsight I stuck with the book.

Audio narration

What might have been helpful to me as a sixteen-year-old student was the audio narration that is available, read by Timothy Jones.  Read - the word doesn't do the rendition justice. It was a consummate voiced performance in which he took on the range of voices from the narrator, Allan Quatermain to the screeching Witch doctor, Gagool. The accompanying narration made for a quick reread. On occasions I read, listened and did both concurrently. That's a technique I'll be using more in the future to engage with even more books. 

Biltong

One last thing…A sixteen-year-old once learned what biltong was. That was a word that also stayed in the memory thanks to its use in this story. The product is available in a local supermarket, so I got some. 

Something else to chew on. 

Toeing the line


An indoor queue this time.
The simple strips adhered profusely over the mall floor kept everyone well apart. No jostling, no creeping forward. The shoppers waited patiently for each to be called forward in turn. Respectful distancing.
Seems like we've all got the message.
Complying. Toeing the line.

Palm Sunday 1925

Palm leaf crosses presented to churchgoers on Palm Sunday 


Today is Palm Sunday. 5 April 2020.

The occasion recalls the Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the first Holy Week in the Christian tradition. This year services commemorating the Entry have been curtailed as a result of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
The virus has taken its toll with many succumbing to its deadly onslaught.
Their personal Passion...

My dad was born on a Palm Sunday.
It was 5 April 1925.
As first born in his family it was no doubt a celebration.  A Hallelujah!

It always amused him that his own father would on the occasion of Palm Sunday each year wish him a Happy Birthday. My grandad, we called him Granda Christy, never seemed to realise that Palm Sunday just like Easter is an ecclesiastical and therefore a variable date.  Some still don't get this as calls continue to be made for Easter to have a fixed calendar date.  Commercially driven no doubt.

But maybe in that bygone age it was perhaps more appropriate, congruent with belief, to remember the religious occasion rather than the actual date of a birthday, however special.

Today though, on this date 95 years later, the wishes would have been appropriate.
And my father would have appreciated the sentiment.

Happy birthday dad.
Hallelujah!

Books are like old friends


Books are like old friends. That's certainly the case with this one that an old (and still) friend presented to me as a gift 60 or so years ago.
It says something about the nature of gifts back in those days - the pleasure of the printed word.

It's on my reread list and I'm wondering whether it will feel dated by today's standards.
That's because I reread King Solomon's Mines a while ago and felt that some of its themes and attitudes were of their time and could be considered inappropriate by today's standards.

So in preparation for my reread I did some background research into the Coral Island.
That's a story in itself.

I'm still going ahead with the book and will try to recover the experience of that first read. Six decades ago.
I love the gift of the printed word.  A gift that keeps on giving.

Yes, books are like old friends...the older the nicer.


More:
Interested in the book, its author and creation? Check out the Wikipedia article here.

Latest Read: June 04 2019

The Western WindThe Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Glad I stayed with it. ****

I almost gave up on this book as initially it moved too slowly for me but I'm glad that I stayed with it and almost wish it hadn't finished. The story unfolds in 15th century Oakham, a village backwater in Somerset. Its central character is a priest, John Reve who narrates the story in reverse chronological order about a wealthy parishioner, Thomas Newman, who has been swept away to his death in a nearby river. I wondered about the unusual chronological device and the reason for it becomes clear in the final chapter. I found myself going back to the beginning to try to ascertain the ending!
Much of the story takes place in the village church and particularly in the new confessional booth that has been constructed there. Parishioners confess litanies of sins in the run up to Lent but will anyone confess to the killing of Newman? It becomes clear that the priest John Reve has a secret of his own, something he does not dare to admit or confess to his own superior, a local Dean who has been summoned to the village to investigate the mysterious death.
The Dean is an ominous presence and Reve's feelings toward him ebb and flow in a gentle exploration of the nature of authority. I didn't much care for the Dean but felt that Reve, despite his flaws, became more likeable.
I also liked very much the many descriptive passages and turns of phrase, stopping every now and then to go back over them and reflect on the point being made. And this then was for me the ultimate appeal of the work, its saving grace. It developed a meditative quality, a kind of examination of conscience and an exploration of guilt.
Glad I stayed with it.

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