Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Book 9 of 2013: South Sea Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson

My current OU course came with a list of set texts that you have to read, plus, once you received the traditional goody box with all the course materials in it there was a bonus book of short stories; South Sea Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson. The course required us to read (and write an essay about) the first story in this collection, 'The Beach of Falesa', but I don't like to just dip into a book like that, so I set out to read the whole thing.

There are several stories in this collection, of varying lengths, but all set around the Pacific islands that Stevenson made his home. A large portion of the course chapter look at the location of the story, 'The Beach of Falesa' and the relationship between the white traders or settlers and the native Pacific islanders. As well as 'The Beach of Falesa' there are also two shorter stories; 'The Bottle Imp' and 'The Isle of Voices'. There's also a longer story called 'The Ebb Tide' and two short little snippets that are sort of fables.
'The Beach of Falesa' is the one that I, obviously, read in most depth. To begin with I wasn't too sure whether I liked it or not, and despite the fact that I was studying it alongside the chapter dealing with it in the course book, I felt like I maybe didn't totally appreciate it. When we were talking about it in the tutorial, people kept on mentioning things that I'd missed. Though when it came to writing the assignment about it, I didn't have any problems thinking of things to say.
I enjoyed the shorter stories more than the longer ones. My least favourite was 'The Ebb Tide'. It just seemed to go on and on and on, and even now I can't remember how it ended. I think part of it was because the characters went by a couple of different names and so I struggled to remember who was who and what had happened to them. Plus, at the time I was reading it, I was gearing up to write my assignment and had my mind on other things.
Of all the stories 'The Bottle Imp' was probably my favourite. This tells the story of a magic bottle with an imp that grants wishes. The catch it that if the owner dies while possessing the bottle, they'll go to hell, and the bottle must be sold on to the next owner for less than what they paid for it. I liked the fantasy element to this one (and 'The Isle of Voices').
The stories all gave you a real sense of their setting and made me long to read more set in that sort of Pacific location (or watch films there). I did enjoy studying 'The Beach of Falesa' and it wasn't actually that bad to write an essay about. Overall though, I didn't enjoy chunks of this book, particularly the annoying notes throughout the text (there'd be a star, so you knew to flick to the back where the notes were contained, but if it was something that had been mentioned before, you'd then have to flick back to another note several pages earlier) they were frustrating; it was an interesting read and not something I'd normally choose myself.


  1. This is the evil minion in me coming out. If you had someone you did not care for you could sell them the bottle for 1 cent. That way even if you had to put up with them in this life you'd know their final destination.

    1. Ah, but the thing they discovered was that different currencies were worth different amounts when compared to each other, so they had to go to a different country to sell it on. You might sell it to someone who then was able to sell it on again. Then you might end up feeling guilty about condemning someone who was innocent. ;-)


Let me know what you think. :-)