The Coral Island


Ballantyne, Robert Michael. The Coral Island. 1990 (originally 1858). (Fiction Balla.R)

Plucky British schoolboys, two of them named Ralph and Jack, are stranded on a deserted island. Sounds like William Golding's Lord of the Flies. But no, this is the nineteenth-century juvenile adventure story that prompted Golding, who had enjoyed The Coral Island as a child, to pen his classic dystopian novel a century later. "Ballantyne's book rotted to compost in my mind," Golding said, "and a new myth put down roots." Ballantyne's boys confront evil but never descend to evil themselves. They hunt pigs with spears, face tumbling rocks, and confront savagery--as in Lord of the Flies--but they themselves remain "good Christians."  The characterizations and dialogue are much more stilted than Golding's. But it's a good old yarn, somewhat in the style of Robert Louis Stevenson, who admired the story more than Golding did. If for no other reason, it's a worthwhile read for its connection to Golding's classic.  (Jeff B., Reader's Services)

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