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Old 06-20-2009, 11:55 AM   #1
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Discussion - "King Solomon's Mines" by Sir Henry Rider Haggard

This is the official discussion thread for the June 2009 book club selection - "King Solomon's Mines", by Sir Henry Rider Haggard.

Warning - this thread will probably contain "spoilers". You would be advised to finish the book before reading further.
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
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I'll start with saying I've loved this book since I first read it, although it has been quite a few years now since I last read it and I was a bit worried it would be suffering from rose tinted glasses. In particular, given the period in which it was written, I was wondering how racist it actually was as opposed how I remembered it being.

So, ignoring that concern for the moment, I'll start with it as an adventure story, of which it is a classic - it would seem to have influenced everyone & everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Indiana Jones. It's a rip-roaring, boys-own adventure, what with long lost kings, winning battles against all odds, finding untold treasures and escaping certain doom.

On to the other aspects. Yes, there is a degree of racism - which given when it was written is not surprising. But... it's very clear that Rider-Haggard didn't have the blanket view that all non-Europeans were inferior that seemed to be prevalent then. He seems to have been concerned about the effect that European exploration and exploitation of Africa would have on the continent and the native people. (Moving slightly away from King Solomon's Mines, this becomes even more obvious in the book "Allan Quatermain", in which there are some very scathing comments about Western "civilisation").
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Old 06-21-2009, 03:08 AM   #3
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On to the other aspects. Yes, there is a degree of racism - which given when it was written is not surprising. But... it's very clear that Rider-Haggard didn't have the blanket view that all non-Europeans were inferior that seemed to be prevalent then. He seems to have been concerned about the effect that European exploration and exploitation of Africa would have on the continent and the native people.
Haggard was widely criticised, during his lifetime, for his then extremely "odd" views that native peoples in Africa should have self-government, and not be ruled by colonial authorities. He was certainly not in a supporter of the prevalent view at the time that Europeans government was "better" for Africa.

I think this attitude is very much visible in KSM. Ignosi is portrayed as a wise man and a just king, and certainly not someone who should be subject to colonial authority.
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Old 06-21-2009, 11:12 AM   #4
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On the topic of racism, I was impressed by one saying of Ignosi: when sir Henry wants him to promise to rule fairly and not kill people without trial, Ignosi hesitates before consenting and says the ways of black men are different from the ways of white men, and they do not value life so dearly (I did not bookmark the page so I cannot reproduce the sentence exactly).
I thought it was an interesting remark on the differences between cultures, possibly implying that western civilisation is not "right" about everything.

Another thing that was to be expected in a book from that period is gender issues. I found the dedication of the book quite interesting: [...] to all the big and little boys who read it. The discussion at the beginning about women at the beginning was also interesting, because the narrator discusses what "counts" as a woman or not in order to say if there are women or not in the story, and the witch gagool is deemed too old to be counted as a woman.
Mind you, I'm not taking that against the author, those consideration were to be expected at the time.

Overall I found the book enjoyable but did not like it very much. I understand how it was inspirational to a lot of other stories (Indiana Jones was in my mind while I was reading), but all these subsequent stories in my opinion kind of robbed this book of what it had to bring, and to me it felt like déjà-vu.
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Old 06-21-2009, 01:35 PM   #5
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I did enjoy this, although I might never have got round to reading it if it hadn't been the book club choice as it wouldn't have been my first choice.

It was interesting for the reasons mentioned already, and on the subject of racism I found it interesting that although he clearly thought of the native people as completely separate from white men, he saw them as different not inferior with good and bad people rather than simple stereotypes.

I also liked Allan Quatermain, the narrator, as he was honest about how he felt and easy to identify with. He admitted to being scared and to the difficulties of what they were doing, and didn't try to pretend that the people he was with were perfect either.

I enjoyed the plot, and got very caught up in it which meant I read it very quickly. I think I will probably go on to read others as I downloaded the Haggard anthology, but I'll read something else first!
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Old 06-24-2009, 07:42 AM   #6
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I enjoyed this book very much. An easy read, and with - imo - just the right balance between adventure, magic and realism. I particularly enjoy good books - those which are actually good - written in earlier times. I find it interesting regarding for instance the authors views on races and gender (women).

I was a little disappointed, though, that the Mines were not even more spectacular in its wealth. After hearing so many references, my excpectations where enormous... Oh, well. I'm grateful to MR Book Club for introducing me to this book, which I wouldn't have read otherwise.
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Old 06-24-2009, 07:51 AM   #7
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I enjoyed reading this book. I don't think I've ever read it before, although I have come across film versions.

What sticks out for me is the casual attitude to hunting. They're off to find a lost brother and fabulous treasure, yet on the way they take the opportunity to kill most of a herd of elephants for the ivory, and no-one even wonders whether they should take the time out to do it.

Of course, this was long before conservation became a necessity.
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Old 06-26-2009, 01:33 PM   #8
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I found the book to very enjoyable. I especially like the whole undiscovered civilization. I also found some parts of it humorous, such as Good's marvelous white legs, that made me chuckle. I'm know going to have my entire to read list messed up as now I'm going to read all of the books in the Haggard Anthology from here on mobile read.
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Old 06-26-2009, 07:15 PM   #9
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I also really enjoyed reading this book and would like to say "Thanks" to HarryT for "surfacing" it so to speak. I am looking forward to reading the others in the anthology.....there really is nothing better than finding a new (to me) author to enjoy!
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Old 06-27-2009, 05:54 PM   #10
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What sticks out for me is the casual attitude to hunting. They're off to find a lost brother and fabulous treasure, yet on the way they take the opportunity to kill most of a herd of elephants for the ivory, and no-one even wonders whether they should take the time out to do it.
I noticed the same thing. It reminded me of The Recollections Of William Finaughty, who was an elephant hunter at about the same time period as Allan Quatermain. Finaughty's recollections were mainly of the type "went 20 miles east, shot six elephants. Went ten miles north, shot four elephants. Camped. Got up in the morning and shot five more elephants." There was a lot of text devoted to size and weight and bore of rifles and type of shells they fired. It all seemed very casual to me and Quatermain's party seems to share that attitude. I guess it was prevalent at the time.

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Old 06-28-2009, 04:31 PM   #11
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Old 06-29-2009, 04:32 AM   #12
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Overall I liked King Solomon's Mine. What I rather disliked about it was the elephant hunting. That was a real turn off. If I wasn't reading this for the book club, I would have stopped there and not gone back to it.
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Old 06-29-2009, 07:12 AM   #13
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I Just have to say that i still love this book dearly. It was the first all letters book that I read when I was 7 or 8. I read it at lests fifty times when I was a child and I was curious to see how things evolve in nearly 30 years. Well, the book has aged well. Of course there are many things that seem incorrect or non polite to today's ethical concerns, but on the whole it is still a wonderful story, well writen with loveable characters, which seem to me even more frail and humane than when I read it as a child,
So for me it is still two thumbs up
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Old 06-29-2009, 07:13 AM   #14
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I thoroughly enjoyed King Solomon's Mines, but as posted by others I found some parts were very non PC by today's standards, but for me that was part of what made it so enjoyable. I Had not read this before, but I remember similar reads of 'derring-do' from my childhood.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:30 AM   #15
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It's been a long time since I last re-read it, but it was certainly an old favourite. Certainly it's a reflection of the culture it was written in - even as altready mentioned ahead of it's times in some respects, but I don't think we should be imposing our current views on older books and dismissing them because of it - how many modern books would be dismissed by those in the future for featuring excessive oil use for example!

A fun read. It never inspired me to read the rest of his works though, are they better, the same or failing in inspiration?
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