by Robert Louis Stevenson

Paperback, 2020



Local notes






Independently published (2020), 122 pages


A sixteen-year-old orphan is kidnapped by his villainous uncle, but later escapes and becomes involved in the struggle of the Scottish highlanders against English rule.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

122 p.; 9 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
If you enjoy an historical novel that is true to the 'historical' part of the label, this is an enjoyable read. The contemporary language is not too difficult, but you may need access to a Scot's glossary once in awhile. I highly recommend reading a copy with a map, as Kidnapped gets high praise
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for it's geographic accuracy as well.

Oh, and if you enjoy "Kidnapped", you will want to read Stevenson's sequel, "Catriona", written many years later while living in the South Pacific. "Catriona" has a different 'feel' to it from "Kidnapped", but is an enjoyable read, and ties up a lot of loose ends from "Kidnapped".

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LibraryThing member ncgraham
Previously I have ranked Robert Louis Stevenson among my favorite authors simply on the basis of Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and selections from A Child’s Garden of Verses. Now I’m pleased to add Kidnapped to that list.

In my review of Treasure Island, I called Stevenson a master
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of atmosphere, and that’s true here as well. He has a most miraculous ability to make me feel like I’ve stepped into a new world and am experiencing it for the first time, side by side with our hero, David Balfour:

On the forenoon of the second day, coming to the top of a hill, I saw all the country fall away before me down to the sea; and in the midst of this descent, on a long ridge, the city of Edinburgh smoking like a kiln. There was a flag upon the castle, and ships moving or lying anchored in the firth; both of which, for as far away as they were, I could distinguish clearly; and both brought my country heart into my mouth.

But while every page of Treasure Island seems to be bathed in salty air, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in grimy fog, in Kidnapped the atmosphere varies from setting to setting, from scene to scene. There’s a Gothic air pervading the encounters with Uncle Ebenezer (truly one of the lowest and most despicable of Stevenson’s characters, and not at all similar to his usual Devil-as-Gentleman villain), followed by a nautical section that invokes all of the danger and little of the lightness of Treasure Island. The majority of the tale, however, centers on the romance and mystique of the highlands.

The character who best embodies Stevenson’s idea of highland honor is Alan Breck Stewart; all the complexity that Stevenson spared in creating Uncle Ebenezer he seems to have kept in reserve for the portrait of this adventurous outlaw, who was a real historical personage. Stevenson’s Alan is alternately heroic and petty, friendly and shortsighted. At times he almost seems younger than his juvenile companion, although he’s never less than sympathetic.

By my calculations, David himself ought to be roughly the same age as Jim in Treasure Island, but David is the more complicated character, and thus Kidnapped reads as an “older” story. Unfortunately, it’s also more episodic than Treasure Island, with a weaker plot and an open ending. Still, I enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more Stevenson—including the sequel, Catriona!
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LibraryThing member atimco
It's always fun to revisit childhood favorites. Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure story Kidnapped held two distinct memories for me—David's terrible climb in the dark up the stairs (which somehow seemed much longer and more tortuous to my younger self), and the hideout on the top of the
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rock, right above the heads of a whole troop of soldiers (so clever!).

To get a start in life, recently orphaned David Balfour must make his way to his uncle Ebenezer, but miserly Ebenezer Balfour has a secret to guard. He arranges for David to be kidnapped aboard the Covenant, where the young man has little hope of rescue until a rich stranger is picked up from a shipwreck. Overhearing the captain's plans to ambush and rob Alan Breck, David assists the little Highlander in defending the ship's cabin and winning free. Then follows a wild adventure through the heather, as David must flee or be caught up in a Highland feud. And behind it all is the mystery of why Uncle Ebenezer would go to such lengths to rid himself of an unwelcome nephew.

Stevenson's gift for writing believable characters never shows to better advantage than in his depiction of Alan Breck. Despite his diminutive stature, Alan towers large in both vanity and open-hearted friendship. Generous and brave but possessing a quick temper and a weakness for gambling, Alan becomes David's constant companion and guide through the physically and politically treacherous Highlands. I appreciated the realism of their friendship, quarrels and all.

It was fascinating to read this directly after finishing Rob Roy, which was apparently Stevenson's favorite of Sir Walter Scott's historical novels. I can see the influence. Stevenson dials the Scots back a bit (thank heavens) but still manages to give his dialogue a little Highland flavor.

It was also interesting to note the passing mention of the estate Rest-and-Be-Thankful, which is the setting of Elizabeth Marie Pope's novel The Sherwood Ring. Actually, reading Kidnapped and Rob Roy so close together gave me several insights on Pope's story, which takes elements of both novels (notably the villainous uncle and the Robin Hood-like outlaw characters) and reworks them into a fully satisfying tale in its own right.

Young readers can't do much better than to read Stevenson, and I look forward to reading his novels to my son when he's old enough. Recommended!
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
A great story with a good narrative drive involving the betrayal and kidnapping of the central character, David Balfour, his flight across the Scottish landscape and his eventual rescue and restoration to his fortune. There are a number of other colourful and intriguing characters especially
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David's uncle Ebenezer (similar to his Dickensian namesake) and Alan Breck Stewart. Good stuff, though there are an awful lot of Scots words not recognised in the OED and only a few of which are explained in footnotes in the Delphi Collected Works edition.
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LibraryThing member hbergander
One of my top ten favourites. As in my childhood daily family life was severely marked by the difficult period after World War II, on certain days I wished to wake up tied up in the hull of a ship on the way to America, with no difference to David Balfour. Later on, I realised that there was a
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difference: David did not like, what in my imagination seemed to be a change for the better.
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LibraryThing member mutebIELP
if you think thats you have seens drama with action think again!!
this story are becoming alive while you reading it. amazing details. intersting ending. true stories. its mix happinese and sadnese. i love it very much.
LibraryThing member edgeworth
"Kidnapped" is the third-most famous of Robert Louis Stevenson's novels, overshadowed by "Treasure Island" and "Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde," but it's the first of his that I've read. If it's anything to go by, I should definitely check out his other works.

The novel begins in 1751 with David Balfour, our
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young and resourceful Scottish protagonist, setting out to the house of the Shaws upon the death of his parents. Here he meets his uncle Ebeneezer, a wheedling little man who, rather than welcoming him with open arms, attempts to murder him to seize the family fortune. When this fails he sells David into slavery aboard a ship bound for the Carolinas.

What follows is a swashbuckling adventure of the highest order, containing shipwrecks, gunfights, sword duels, murder, pursuit by the British Army, outlaw hideouts and all manner of boy's adventure tropes. Yet it's a far more serious and polished novel than I make it sound, set against a well-developed political and historical backdrop and featuring several real-life figures - most notably David's friend and mentor Alan Breck, a Scottish Jacobite. I don't quite know what that is! Nonetheless, it grants "Kidnapped" a solid sense of time and place, which drags a little during David's endless flight across the heather but which, on the whole, contributes into making it a more refined novel than the sort of typical adventure tale that any halfway decent writer can churn out (and which, indeed, I have been churning out for many years).

It's also, despite being written in the nineteenth century, a remarkably easy book to read. Writers back then often had higher standards of vocabulary and style, which means contemporary readers often have trouble reading them, but "Kidnapped" could easily have been penned in the mid-twentieth century. This is probably the oldest book I've read that I found both enjoyable and worth my time. ("Moby-Dick," written in 1851, was certainly worth my time, but "enjoyable" is not the first word it brings to mind.)

Overall "Kidnapped" is a pretty fun read, and I'll check out "Treasure Island" when I get the chance.
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LibraryThing member ACDoyleLibrary
"What noble books of their class are those last, "Kidnapped" and "Treasure Island"! both, as you see, shining forth upon my lower shelf. "Treasure Island" is the better story, while I could imagine that "Kidnapped" might have the more permanent value as being an excellent and graphic sketch of the
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state of the Highlands after the last Jacobite insurrection. Each contains one novel and admirable character, Alan Breck in the one, and Long John in the other.... " --Through the Magic Door, p. 262
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LibraryThing member a.stone5
This story grabs the reader's attention through an action packed adventure around Scotland. We follow David Balfour through his travels to find who he is and claim his true inheritance. This story would be suitable for readers in grades 6 and up.
LibraryThing member jburlinson
Second only to Treasure Island at the pinnacle of adventure fiction. The early chapters with wicked Uncle Ebeneezer are my favorites. Is anyone aware of a character in fiction named Ebeneezer who is actually a good guy?
LibraryThing member Lisa.Johnson.James
Well, even though this is supposed to be a kids' book, it was pretty engaging even for this Mom. I loved the fact that in my 1948 edition anyway, that even though the author sometimes writes in dialect, he takes the time to do footnotes of unfamiliar Scottish words that he uses in his writing. Most
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of it is fairly easy to figure out, but I appreciated it.

The story itself is of a young man of 17 who's father passes away & leaves him an orphan, since the mother passed years before. David gets instructions from Mr. Campbell, his father's laird, to go seek his uncle Ebenezer, since he is the last of the Balfour family. Uncle Ebenezer, like the other famous character by that name, is not a nice guy. He arranges to have his nephew shanghai'd by a boat crew, to be sold as a white slave in the Carolinas. Well, all manner of mishaps occur, & the boat never makes it because it's wrecked off the coast. David makes his way across Scotland with Alan, who's a bit of a bad guy himself, but, he takes care of David, & that's how that odd friendship develops. Eventually, David makes his way back...

I won't give away the ending, you'll just have to read it for yourself
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LibraryThing member MissBrangwen
It may be a sacrilege to say this, but this book actually felt like a crossover between Dickens and Outlander!
While I followed young David Balfour from the Lowlands to the Hebrides and across the Scottish glens and mountains, meeting Highlanders, wandering the moors, nearly starving, hiding from
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British soldiers and trying to win his rightful inheritance, I loved this character more and more - and of course also his companion. I enjoyed the descriptions of 18th century Scotland and I found myself googling and researching names and places after every sitting, delighted to find so much historical substance where I had not expected it.
I think there are some chapters that are a little too lengthy, but apart from that it was so much fun to read this and I am glad that I finally did.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
“In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped began serialization in Young Folks magazine.
It was this book, along with the earlier Treasure Island (1883) and A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) which first drew me to Stevenson more than fifty years ago. Along with a handful of other authors these
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books became the foundation of my early reading and love of books. I still have that feeling for Stevenson as I have gradually explored some of his other novels and essays. While he is considered one of England's most popular writers of "Children's Literature", these novels and his others, especially The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, are worth exploring and enjoying as an adult. Jekyll and Hyde in particular, provoked by a dream and written in a ten-week burst during the writing of Kidnapped, is one of the outstanding examples of the use of the theme of 'the double' in literature, and a classic late Victorian text. Though Stevenson wrote prolifically and in almost every genre, these four books from the mid-1880s are all he would need to be remembered more than a century later. This reader continues to look back a the beginning of his reading as a boy and remember when he first encountered the adventures depicted in Kidnapped and Treasure Island.
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LibraryThing member abbottthomas
Coming late to this adventure, I enjoyed reading it, even with the use of the Scots language (the free Kindle version has frequent footnotes translating the more unguessable words). The story is set in the year 1751, five years after the battle of Culloden which finally ended the Jacobite
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uprisings. Scotland is a divided nation and the old clan system is under threat. Highlanders are forbidden to carry arms and wearing the tartan is proscribed. The divisions between the clans are deep, particularly between those that have accepted Hanoverian rule and the Jacobite sympathisers.

The book's hero, David Balfour, is a Lowland Scot. His parents both dead, he sets out to find his extended family. The book starts and ends with his search for his rightful inheritance but the bulk of the book is the story of an epic journey, first in an ill-fated brig around Scotland and then across the country on foot as a fugitive with a colourful Jacobite companion, Alan Breck Stewart. Stevenson takes a true event, the Appin murder, as the start of this. Colin Roy Campbell, the King's factor in the Western Highlands was shot and killed by an unknown sniper. Alan Stewart (an historical character) was blamed by many, probably wrongly, but never apprehended. In a major miscarriage of justice, James Stewart, a clan chief, was hanged as an aider and abetter. Kidnapped has David Balfour joining up with a fictionalised Alan Stewart and sharing his flight to safety.

The first part of the book with the kidnap and the time at sea is exciting although, to be honest, the flight across the heather in the second part is fairly uneventful, focussing more on the variable relationship between David and Alan than any derring-do. The descriptions of the changing Highland weather and landscape are worth reading for the sense of atmosphere.

This was regarded, like Treasure Island, as the equivalent of a YA book in my youth and it is interesting to read in Stevenson's dedication that he doesn't necessarily expect the dedicatee to enjoy it but he thinks his son might. I am glad I caught up with it.
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LibraryThing member themulhern
An awesome adventure and nothing trivial or cliche about it. It is really the first part of a two volume story; it ends abruptly in Edinburgh with only some things resolved and its sequel, Catriona, picks up the story of David Balfour about an hour later. It inspired some thrilling illustrations by
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N.C. Wyeth and has some very funny bits. David's internal musings are moving and amusing and Allan Breck is a right handful. There is no extreme of weather that poor David does not endure.
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LibraryThing member nyakyakyanya
This story was a friendship story rather than a kidnapped story. For sure, hero was kidnapped by his uncle but it was just only beginning of the story. after that he met young man who saw him precious person. They ran away and hid from their enemy. The end was a little sentimental happy end.
LibraryThing member SkjaldOfBorea
At first sight, this work seems disquietingly similar to Stevenson's better known Treasure Island: around the middle of the 18th Century (not Stevenson's own 19th Century), an impoverished, inexperienced, but self-respecting teenage hero is set to sea by circumstance. Here he faces a crew of thugs
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whom, supported by strong role-models, he valiantly defeats. Then follows a long voyage of wandering & discovery until at last he comes to spiritual & material independence under the wise & watchful eye of his mentors, portrayed as very pillars of a romanticized British Empire.

But there the similarity does stop. Kidnapped is exclusively about 18th Century Scotland & its entirely unforgettable inhabitants. Its sea voyage is a circumnavigation of Scotland, no more, no less. The perilous return to the home town takes place across hills & heather. Finally & most important, every character in the novel is as Scottish as its teenage hero - or as Stevenson was himself.

You might say that Kidnapped offers all the assets of Treasure Island, plus one: the tense but warm atmosphere of an independence-loving nation during the waning years of its armed rebellion against the English. Stevenson, in loving mastery of his subject yet never as uncritical as he seems, ignores neither politics, intrigues, & clan quarrels, nor the (predictable) homage to bagpipe & tartans. The book is therefore flavoursome in a manner that even Treasure Island, for all its power, never attains. The historical & cultural depth here is simply greater - & the book perhaps as entertaining.
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LibraryThing member PatrickRiegert
"Kidnapped" was a book that was incredibly thrilling and exciting. This book is suited for children in upper elementary and middle school. The theme being that adventure is always good and that good can always triumph over evil.
LibraryThing member Osbaldistone
If you enjoy an historical novel that is true to the 'historical' part of the label, this is an enjoyable read. The contemporary language is not too difficult, but you may need access to a Scot's glossary once in awhile. I highly recommend reading a copy with a map, as Kidnapped gets high praise
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for it's geographic accuracy as well.

Oh, and if you enjoy "Kidnapped", you will want to read Stevenson's sequel, "Catriona", written many years later while living in the South Pacific. "Catriona" has a different 'feel' to it from "Kidnapped", but is an enjoyable read, and ties up a lot of loose ends from "Kidnapped".

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LibraryThing member fuzzi
Forty plus years after reading "Treasure Island", I have finally completed my second book by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Kidnapped".

Protagonist David Balfour is the heir to his uncle's estate, but his uncle doesn't want to share, so he arranges for his nephew to be taken to the Carolinas as a slave.
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Sometimes plans just don't follow through as we'd like, and David finds himself on the run, trying to survive long enough to get home and enact revenge.

Good story, should be interesting and/or readable for youth and up.

Note: I gave this book three stars: the story moved along nicely, although the Scottish words used throughout the text had me skipping to the glossary in the back of the book, a lot.
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LibraryThing member JillSmith23
This book is appropriate for the upper elementary school grade levels. It is an exciting book of a boy who is kidnapped onto a pirate ship. It is a classic that children will enjoy reading for years to come.
LibraryThing member stuart10er
Two hundred page buildup for a four page payoff. Reminds me of a much shorter "Count of Monte Cristo". All setup for revenge. But with both writers, what a sweet payoff as we see Balfour's uncle get his due. Fantastic. I can read it fairly easily, but the dialect is beyond children now.
LibraryThing member celtic
1751 - Bonnie Prince Charlie and The Jacobite Rebellion still fresh in peoples minds. Sixteen year old, honest and naive David Balfour inextricably linked to fiery, swashbuckling Jacobite Allan Breck. Redcoats chasing them around a Scotland where danger lurks and betrayal is feared for a murder
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they did not commit. What's not to like?
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LibraryThing member Nikkles
This is perhaps my favorite adventure novel. The characters are just great and the plot is very quick. In my opinion its much better then Treasure Island. If you want to read a classic that is actually fun, this is the way to go.
LibraryThing member dagwood
I read this book as a child. It has always been my favorite. I would recommend it for readers of all ages.




½ (1141 ratings; 3.8)
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