Monday, 21 January 2013

Book Review, King Solomon's Mines

Days seem to go by so fast, how in the world can January nearly be over ?
Even as I look back, I know this month has flown. But in my mind it seems to have been a nice slow passed sort of January. I have no idea if this is due to the fact that I have spent nearly every day with my nose crammed between the Page's of a book, or pouring over my aqua typewriter, Jarvis.
(Yes I named my typewriter) What ever it may be I hope the rest of this year is like the first month out of the gate.
 January is a strange month in Connecticut, it snows hard and fast the ground in blanketed like my bed. Twice it has rained dark stormy nights, with wild wind and then strange calm warm spring days. But winters not over yet not by a long shot. Oh no. Even if the iced over bird bath did melt twice, it has froze solid on more occasion than that, and the snow is not far off from falling today, I can smell it.
So in the nature of settling in for a winter that's sure to be here a wile I thought I would give you, dearest reader a book review. I told you before I have been reading like crazy, with nearly eight books this month, alone.
But I shall start with the adventure novel King Solomon's Mines.

Cited to be one of the first African Adventure novels, this book was surprisingly entertaining.
While I have been filling my brain with random facts about Victorian South Africa, in the name of research for my recent novel. I really was just going to read this book because I heard that Mr. Haggard was known for his descriptive details of the landscape and of peoples. But found by self pulled immediately into the plot and enjoying myself immensely.

The story: Three men trek to the remote African interior, in search for a lost friend, and at the end of a perilous journey reach an unknown land cut off from the rest of the world. Where terrible dangers await anyone who ventures near the spectacular diamond mines of king Solomon.
That's the summery on the back of my copy.

Well let me say that the story isn't nearly as simple as the above summery.
Alan Quatermain, a seasoned adventurer and white elephant hunter, embarks on a journey to help find the lost brother of a English nobleman, accompanied by the latter's friend a former sea captain.
The story told in the first person, a type of writing I'm not very fond of was easy to read.
The language not as flowery and metaphorical as other novels from the same time is written in plain easy to read English.
The journey that awaits them is perilous. from a dessert trek that nearly kills them to nearly starving atop a frozen mountain. All while being guided by a map three centuries old written by a crazed starved old man on the verge of death willing to draw the map for his future ancestors
in his own blood. Knowing that disaster has befallen all who have journeyed across Africa to king Solomon's mines, they embark anyway fueled by the hopes of reuniting two brothers lost to one another by a quarrel. The story has quite a lot in it for its few pages, from a lost African king finding his way home to an all out war, a wild adventure with strange and memorable characters, laced with imaginative historical questions. And I'm not even going to tell you what happens when they do finally reach the fabled mines.
The whole way, they are faced with danger, but the writer saw fit to make these three men impossibly over come these, including an unfriendly tribe of African natives, though noble and even refined. with wit and smarts.
But this tale isn't just an adventure novel, it had a large amount of wit from the writer, more than once I laughed out loud, and it wasn't just due to the fact that it was 2:00 am and I was in lack of sleep.
But the story had an important aspect that I loved,  even though main character Alan Quatermain is  a self professed coward, when he is faced with danger somehow he is able to keep a cool head and though still inwardly terrified is the one who more than once is able to save his friends.
which says a lot about a person, I found my self cheering these men in battle as they fought for the freedom of an African tribe they did not know.
Which brings me to the other thing that's great about this novel, the way Haggard describes the natives as a noble and proud people with charm and social grace to rival the ladies back home in London was refreshing. True he put some aspect that these were wild people accustomed to there own ways, and some of those ways weren't exactly nice like a witch hunt,  but on the whole I liked how he kept a respectful tone for the people that kept watch over the mines with reverence and fear even making some of these characters hero's and heroines. Something unheard of in Victorian England.

On the whole this novel was really well done, and the knowledge that Sir Haggard wrote the best seller in just six to sixteen weeks, and because of a wager with his brother that promised six shillings, that created a new genre known as the lost world genre, is inspiring. Apparently he inspired many other authors as well.
I can't wait to read the sequel.
Please do give this book a go if you find it in your hands, or if you have read it I would love to know your thoughts, just leave me a comment.

photo via pinterest


  1. I have a friend who loves this book - and all things African. I think she has a silent wish she will one day meet an Alan Quertermain and they will go on a similar adventure. I shall have to send her your way so she can read this review as well.

    What kind of typewriter do you have? (as in, what year was it made?) I have one from the 40's...or maybe it is the 50's, and one from 1917. They are such fun to write on, I don't see how they ever went out of style.

    Oh if you loved the movie of Howl's Castle you will love the book. It is a bit more complex, but still just as wonderful and the characters are SUCH a delight to spend time with. (Especially Howl.) And that was my only complaint with the book, he wasn't in it enough. (Though him being on every page might not have been enough either.)

    Glad you liked the summery of my book!

    1. Oh please do that would be awesome, I would love to meet a fello fan.
      I only wish my typewriter was an old one, the one I have is from the early 70s I think if I'm not very much mistaken. It could be a 60s, but no earlier than mid-late. As I said I really hope to get an old Remington or something, that would be amazing.
      The one I have is a smith corona, and I'm not sure if I spelled that one correctly. Shame on me.
      I would love to know what kind yours especially the 1917 one, goodness me. I do all my novel writing on mine so, I'm not aware that they have gone out of style. :))) but I have heard.....
      It sounds to me that you might as your friend has, a silent wish to meet Howl ? Hmm. But done we all have that character we would love to meet.
      I really can't wait to read it.


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