35. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

There are two principal reasons why I loved Kidnapped. First and foremost, it’s one of the most exciting adventure novels I can think of, a model of brilliant plotting, compelling narrative and sharp, magnetic characterisation. The story of David Balfour, the young ingenu sold into slavery and cheated of his inheritance by wicked Uncle Ebenezer, is probably the best coming-of-age narrative I can think of – it never labours its points, but it shows David learning from each experience and acquaintance until he’s man enough to claim what’s rightfully his. But there’s another level to Kidnapped, one which only struck me when I re-read it in my 40s – it’s a profoundly homosexual novel.  I can see readers rolling their eyes at this point, but bear with me. Whether Stevenson realised it or not, the kidnapping of the young man and his experiences at the hands of older, more powerful men is fraught with erotic energy, and his friendship with the charismatic Alan Breck is highly romantic. Some critics point to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as ‘proof’ of Stevenson’s homosexual leanings, and I can see their point – but for me, Kidnapped is the dead giveaway (and the better novel). In fact, this was the book that inspired me to write the first of my James Lear novels, The Low Road, which is a sexed-up version of the same basic story.



Filed under My top 100 novels

2 responses to “35. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

  1. David Benedict

    Elaine Showalter’s argument about Jekyll and Hyde and homosexuality in “Sexual Anarchy’ is pretty damn good but for no good reason I’d never clocked that this played the same game. Shall definitely read it – thanks for this!

  2. I must say I find Showalter LESS convincing than I used to, but I think she made some great and important points. Just sometimes took it a little too far!

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