The brook, of which the banks were clothed with dense masses of a gigantic species of maidenhair fern interspersed with feathery tufts of wild asparagus, babbled away merrily at our side, the soft air murmured through the leaves of the silver trees, doves cooed around, and bright-winged birds flashed like living gems from bough to bough.King Solomon’s Mines, H Rider Haggard
King Solomon’s Mines was the ‘colonial’ half of a post/colonial literature module that I studied at university, and there’s certainly a lot to say about the colonialism and the treatment of race in the novel. At the time, I was surprised to find that, despite that, it’s a very easy book to read. The beautiful descriptions of the landscape reminded me of Island, though King Solomon’s Mines is a great deal more violent. Brief, brutal moments really make an impact, despite the fact that they’re not dwelt upon by any of the surviving characters. Before the war was even declared, I numbered the body count at 108.
H Rider Haggard’s characters are enjoyable, but none of them really has an arc of development throughout the novel. The three British men are much the same at the end of King Solomon’s Mines as they were at the beginning, despite having undergone a unique adventure. Even Umbopa, whose circumstances change the most, is essentially the same person throughout. I haven’t read enough adventure stories to know whether this is typical, but I didn’t feel disappointed by it. King Solomon’s Mines is driven by plot, not character, and H Rider Haggard certainly delivers on the adventure premise.
The thing that most surprised me was how interested I was in the tactics of the battles. This isn’t something that I usually look for in books; as someone who struggles to visualise in much detail, overly complicated fight sequences can leave me confused and disorientated. But H Rider Haggard makes everything very simple and clear, and is thus able to establish the stakes in a way that might otherwise have gone over my head.
We are, in others words, in the world of the Adventure Story for Boys, a form which, deriving originally from the earlier adult novels of Defoe, Scott and Fenimore Cooper, had grown rapidly in the nineteenth century, partly as a reflection of Britain’s emergence from the Napoloeonic Wars as a great imperial and military power.King Solomon’s Mines, Introduction by Dennis Butts
I don’t know if anything from King Solomon’s Mines will really stay with me over time, but it was interesting to revisit it! It’s made me curious about adding more classic adventure stories to my TBR, simply because it’s not a genre that I have a lot of history with.