I picked up The Story of the Treasure Seekers on a whim. My girls have listened to E. Nesbit‘s The Railway Children over and over and over again via audiobook, so I already knew her storyweaving appeals to them.
I also recognized the surname Bastable, the name of the family The Treasure Seekers is about, so I thought there must be some reason why that name stuck in my mind once upon a time. Plus, the novel is free for the Kindle. (Let me be honest: this is the main reason I chose this title. Convenience and economy. 🙂 ) It turns out that this is the first of E. Nesbit‘s many novels, and while I eventually found it enjoyable, there were many times when I would’ve willingly abandoned it in favor of almost anything else if my girls would’ve let me.
This is the story of the six Bastable children and their attempts to “restore the lost fortunes of the House of Bastable.” Their mother is deceased and their father is somewhat inattentive due to his business troubles, so the children are left mostly to their own devices. They cook up all sorts of schemes to make money–everything from selling one brother’s poetry to a newspaper to borrowing money from a Generous Benefactor to becoming highwaymen. There are some hilarious moments in the story, and this is what compelled me to stick with it (that, and my girls’ persistence). My favorite scene involves the Bastable children accosting a man they think is a robber. They later find out is one of their father’s old friends who had dropped by for a visit, but only after he helps them deter a real robber. Another part of the story I really enjoyed is the poetry one of the younger brothers (I always mixed up the children!) writes. Here’s a sample:
Quarrelling is an evil thing,
It fills with gall life’s cup;
For when once you begin
It takes such a long time to make it up.
The poetry is remarkably bad, but in a funny, juvenile way. I also got a kick out of this observation one of the children made about there being six of them:
I have often noticed that it is the worst of our being six–people think six a great many, when it’s children. That sentence looks wrong somehow. I mean they don’t mind six pairs of boots, or six pounds of apples, or six oranges, especially in equations, but they seem to think you ought not to have five brothers and sisters.
This struck me as funny since we now have four children in our family. 🙂
It is an entertaining story, but it’s somewhat dense. This is what made me want to chuck it more than once. It’s extremely British, which is something I don’t usually mind. However, in this story, there are references and words that even I couldn’t figure out. I don’t know how much of this I should blame on my postpartum brain and how much of it really is inscrutable. I also never quite gave each of the children a firm identity in my mind, so I never really got them straight as I read the story. I hate it when that happens. This, coupled with the density of the language, makes the story seem unneccesarily complicated. There are also lots of references to drinking alcohol in the story, which I’ve somewhat gotten used to in so many of the British stories we read. It still makes me feel odd, though, since we’re a teetotalling household. 😉 Last of all is the fact that the story is not at all PC. I’m usually okay with this, but I was shocked when I came upon the “n” word in the story unawares. The story ends rather abruptly, too, and the ending is not all that satisfactory.
Okay, so why did I finish this story again? Oh, yes–my girls enjoyed it, and it’s funny. Your mileage may vary.
What’s in your read aloud basket this week? Share in the comments!