Tuesday, August 23, 2011

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard: A Review

This one is all HEY HEY adventure! Guns! HEFFALUMPS AND RACISM! Little to no women, except the archetypal old witch and the other archetypal beautiful virgin!

But I still liked it. It's in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson, complete with condescending tone toward native peoples. But it's not pretending to be great or earth shattering- in fact, Haggard wrote it as a bet. There are manymanymany escapes from painful deaths (see: thirst, tortuous and tusks, elephants). There are Epic Battles with Sharp Pointy Things and feats of heroism (which are my favorite feats). There is an evil witch doctor lady who is really just a cranky old bald gal, who turns out to be more comic than frightening.

And, yes, ok, it's way racist. Blah blah sign of the times blah blah THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT OK. You just have to take it for what it is, ja know? It IS better than Stevenson- the native peoples get to keep their native names. There's an interracial romance (except SPOILER Haggard kills the lady off because he doesn't want to deal with the stickiness of how their relationship would work out should they ever return to England). The narrator even goes on a rant about how he hates the n-word and how many Africans are more gentleman than most English gentlemen. All of this, of course, operates from the idea that the English gentleman is the pinnacle of all things Good and Right, etc.

Just know that you're going to get a rip-roaring (I don't really know what that means) adventure, complete with the silly racial/colonial/sexist viewpoints so typical of this genre from this time period. If you can stomach that, it's quite a good bit of fun. Old chap.

Three stars out of your mom


  1. This shares a title with an absolutely awesomely awful (as in, deserves to be a cult classic) movie - The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines. Have you seen it?? I highly recommend it. With nonsense food, like popcorn and pizza.

    Um, re this one, adventure and heffalumps sound great, but the rest of it sounds a bit dated/racist/political??

  2. I've read She by Haggard and a review of it would read exactly like this. Adventure, heffalumps and racism. Still, as you say, a good bit of fun.

  3. Readingfuelledbytea- Oh, it's totally dated and racist. But, hey. What's a classic if not a bit dated ;)

    CHE- Indeed. Taking it for what it is, it's fine. Probably won't read it again..

  4. Amanda, I just have to say that while I will probably never read most of the books that you review, as classics tend not to be my cup of tea, I love reading your reviews. Your snark factor and creative descriptions of literary worthiness (or lack thereof) make my day whether I know the work or not. Good on ya!

  5. Your rating system is sublime. Love it!!!

  6. You summed up my feelings on this one quite well. It's fun and I liked the adventure, but the racism and such is a bit much.

  7. I finished reading this not too long ago and recently reviewed it. And yeah, I pretty much had the same opinion.