Saturday, August 26, 2017

Six notable novels with a strong evocation of atmosphere

Kate Hamer is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat and The Doll Funeral. "When settings are really successful in a novel," she argues, "they mean we can experience it as a complete world." One of her six favorite stories that pull it off, as shared at LitHub:
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

I was obsessed with the beginning of Treasure Island when I was a child. (I always abandoned the book part-way through.) It’s a classic coming of age story where adventure comes knocking for the young hero Jim Hawkins. The Admiral Benbow Inn is Jim’s family home on a remote stretch on the west coast of England. The atmosphere of the place is both sinister and wild, the sea roars up the cliffs during storms and the cove is rocky yet the bay is sheltered enough for it to be an ideal location for pirates. This, and the isolation of the Inn is the reason it’s chosen by a menacing figure, later revealed to be the pirate captain Billy Bones. The lonely untamed atmosphere of the inn and the pirate cove reaches a pitch of terrible menace when an evil vicious beggar called Blind Pew arrives, the sound of his stick echoing through the fog, to deliver to Billy Bones the black spot—a mark of imminent death among pirate crews. Stevenson escalates the atmosphere of the landscape with his brilliant use of sound, the tapping of the stick, the waves crashing, so the opening of the book is like a wrap around cinematic experience.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Treasure Island also appears on David Robb's six best books list, Gillian Philip’s top ten list of islands in children's fiction, Robert Gore-Langton's top twelve list of the greatest children's books of all time, Emily St. John Mandel's list of the six books that influenced her most as a writer, David McCallum's six best books list, Bear Grylls's top ten list of adventure stories, Eoin Colfer's top 10 list of villains in fiction, Charlie Fletcher's top ten list of swashbuckling tales of derring-do, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best first lines in fiction, John Mullan's list of ten of the best pirates in fiction, and among Mal Peet's top ten books to read aloud, Philip Pullman's six best books, and Eoin Colfer's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue