‘What a joyful thing it is to awaken, on a fresh, glorious morning, and find the rising sun staring into your face with dazzling brilliancy! to see the birds twittering in the bushes, and to hear the murmuring of a rill, or the soft, hissing ripples as they fall upon the sea-shore!’
So begins chapter five of ‘The Coral Island’ by R. M. Ballantyne. I read these words while waiting for Ben to finish work, after which we were going to zoom down the coast to Goolwa, to get away from the rush of work and the city, and especially the Clipsal 500, a awful car race that takes up the whole of Adelaide, and whose track, even more unfortunately for us, goes right by our apartment building. So I completely understood the narrator’s feeling of bliss as awakening at the seaside – it was what I was looking forward to!
I was a bit nervous about starting ‘The Coral Island’, as I had previously read ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson for uni and had not really embraced it. I felt like they both came from the same type of ‘boy’s adventure’ – The Coral Island was published in 1858, and Treasure Island in 1883. However, I was delighted to find that I really like ‘The Coral Island’. How couldn’t you, when it put lovely pictures in your head, like the one I quoted above? Despite the fact that the narrator and his two friends have been shipwrecked, they seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves (at least, so far – I’m only about a quarter of the way into the book) – they think of coconut juice as ‘natural lemonade’ and fetch their breakfast by diving for oysters. Now that I’m back home after a night at Goolwa, and I can hear race cars droning outside my window, I would like nothing less than to be on a deserted island, with nothing but the sound of the sea, and coconuts to nourish me.
I’m sure, very soon however, that the tide will change for the boys on ‘The Coral Island’. I’ll keep you posted.
I love the bit you are on, it’s such an evocative start to the novel, it’s almost idyllic and totally different to Lord of the Flies. More people should enjoy this book.
I read somewhere that The Coral Island inspired William Golding to write Lord of the Flies – I couldn’t think of two more different books!
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