Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: King Solomon's Mines

I apologize for the lack of posting. Mother nature has decided to wage war with my body by recruiting my sinuses to commit hostile attacks against me. (I have horrid allergies and must wait until the 10th of May to see a specialist). So with my breathing severely curtailed I hadn't felt much like blogging. I did, however, get some reading in. There wasn't much else I could do this weekend in my state.

At any rate, I finished King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard on Saturday. It qualifies for the Our Mutual Read challenge. I enjoyed this book, for the most part. I did want to say "get on with it" a number of times when Haggard would lapse into great descriptive detail of unimportant things, or would needlessly draw out action by describing it in massive detail, including details that don't relate to the action themselves. This trait seems to be symptomatic of literature of that time period in general though. Or at least in my (limited)experience this is the case. Additionally, the wanton destruction of big game animals for the joy of hunting and/or their tusks made me heartsick, and the condescending manner in which most of the native peoples were treated by the English men made me very uncomfortable.

I realize that the book is a product of its time, and that that to decry it for these faults would be imposing modern day sensibilities to a time over one hundred years in the past, but still. Still. It bothered me, and it mitigated my enjoyment of the book somewhat. Fortunately, these occurrences were fairly infrequent, and thus allowed me to move past my feelings. I also took comfort in the fact that it was a work of fiction and while these behaviors did take place, I was at least not reading a first hand account of these events. I doubt I could read an entire journal of someone who was in Africa at that time, or really, any other time or place when racism was so widely embraced.

Overall, I found King Solomon's Mines to be an entertaining story, but lacking in polish and subtlety. I figured out all three plot twists well in advance of the characters which I never like. My edition also happened to come with a copious amount of end notes, many of which gave unnecessary information, although many more proved quite illuminating. I am not sorry I read the book, but I doubt I will read more of Haggard's work.

1 comment:

Solomon Mao said...

Good for you for trying out a different genre! Haggard is one of my favorites (I have a three novel omnibus of Quatermain novels in the to-read pile, actually). For a European writer of this period Haggard is remarkably free of racist attitudes and seems genuinely respectful of native African peoples and customs. He also writes some compellingly strong female characters. Again, note the caveat "for a European writer of this period". Still, I can see why he's not your cup of tea. I think I'll put that omnibus on the top of my stack though. Haggard is always a grand adventure! (BTW if you haven't figured it out, I'm FryDaddy in disguise. This is the handle I write my own blog under... See you in the stacks!)