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The wild adventure that David Balfour takes in Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped starts with the newly orphaned boy travelling to his uncle's terrifying House of Shaws. Having failed in an attempt to murder young David, the miserly Ebeneezer Balfour, who would rather keep the fortune to which the child is now entitled, arranges for a kidnapping aboard a ship bound for the new world.
A fortunate collision with a small craft from France carrying young Balfour's saviour in the shape of Alan Breck Stewart saves the boy from the intended slavery and sets him on the extraordinary journey across the Highlands and island of Scotland that has become one of the most famous adventure stories of our time.
Set against the backdrop of the Jacobite uprisings and the attempts by the Scottish clans to rid their country of the English, Stevenson used many of the real characters of the uprisings in his novel. Most importantly is Alan Breck Stewart, the chief suspect in the notorious murder of the English government man Colin Campbell placed on the Stewart estates following their forfeiture after the Stewarts' near conquering of the English at Culloden.
Initially dismissed as a boys' yarn, Kidnapped has become one of the most influential of Stevenson's widely admired works. So much so that in 2007, when Edinburgh celebrated its year as the first UNESCO City of Literature, three versions of the book were made freely available to the public, with copies being left on buses and in other public places.
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I read Kidnapped many years ago as a teenager and thought I'd get reacquainted by way of the audio book. It's a classic that hasn't dulled with age and Nicholas Rowe does a fantastic job of bringing it all to life.
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