The first book of 2013 is this 1885 adventure by H. Rider Haggard, which represents one of the first examples of the Lost World genre. This is Haggard’s first book featuring Allan Quatermain, an adventurer and great white hunter living in South Africa.
I am of two minds about this book. I really didn’t enjoy the beginning of the book – I found Quatermain to be generally irritating, and the extreme colonialism of the book was off-putting. I found the scenes where the main characters are wantonly slaughtering giraffes, elephants, and other African wildlife nothing less than disgusting. There was a point at which I wasn’t sure that I would finish the book.
However, somehow, this book – which is rather short – wormed its way into my brain, grabbed hold, and wouldn’t let go. It was violent and reduced the natives to caricatures, but it is representative of its time, and, in the end, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed it for what it was. It is certainly a lesser classic, and cannot compete with Tolstoy or Dickens or Eliot or the Brontes for depth. But, it provides interesting, if less than flattering, insight into the British colonial perspective, and is important because it is an early example of genre fiction.
January is adventure month for my genre classics project. I’m not sure what else, if anything, I will read in this genre. I expect that this will end up being an entirely unforgettable read.