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THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN BY MARK TWAIN

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Aidan Rose

Is this book the origin of the river cruise? Certainly it is a river based adventure and it would have been lovely to have read it whilst enjoying a river cruise with Viking luxury. However, in these COVID-19 times that is not possible. Huckleberry Finn has a well-developed sense of right and wrong and this gets him through many scrapes; his imprisonment by his father, the sinking of his raft, the schemes of the ‘Duke’ and ‘King’ con men and freeing his loyal slave friend Jim. The outrageous racism is upsetting but we are dealing with a culture many years ago and who is to say that if we had lived in that environment that we would not have been affected. Let’s hope that we return to normal times with Viking before too long.

Catriona Hunter

Considered to be the greatest American novel, Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884, but is set in pre-Civil War America, when slavery was still legal. For the majority of the book Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, are sailing down the Mississippi on a raft. They suffer numerous mishaps and misunderstandings, including a near fatal accident with a paddle steamer. For a while they are accompanied by a couple of fraudsters and in one memorable incident, Huck disguises himself as a girl, but is caught out because of the way he tries to thread a needle. In the final part of the book, Jim is captured, and Huck and Tom Sawyer, who suddenly appears on the scene, hatch an increasingly elaborate and fantastical plot to free him. Tom massively overcomplicates the rescue effort with highly amusing consequences, and there is a happy ending all round. I enjoyed reading this and think it would be a great read on a river cruise, especially if that river was the Mississippi. However, I was uncomfortable with the frequent casual racism but accept that the book has to be read in the context of the social attitudes of the day.

Linda Smith

I read Tom Sawyer at school aged ten and found it disturbing so Huckleberry Finn is not a novel I thought I would ever read, but that was sixty years ago and this book is a classic. I found the first six chapters tricky, the dialogue alien and the story brutal. However I began to find the charm within and from then on looked forward to picking it up and reading a few chapters whenever I could. The adventures are quite absurd and the necessary dialogue tiresome to read at times, particularly when long. It helped that it is written in the first person and you see everything through Huckleberry's eyes. The book felt authentic and I particularly enjoyed the descriptive parts and the sense of place it evoked, which is important to me. Huckleberry is a likeable character and even though he thought himself wicked because he was forced to go along with the deceit and lies of others, he was essentially good. His concern and care for Jim, the runaway slave is proof of this. As reader I wanted everything to turn out all right in the end and it does. I thought this book a worthy read.

Jayne Ash

I have to admit I had never read this before and was at first disappointed to receive this as my book club read. I am so pleased to have been 'pressured' into reading this as I would not have done so had Viking not sent me a copy to review! Such a classic and so worth reading. It is sometimes slow going when reading in the dialect of the character but that really brings out their personalities and differentiates between them more distinctly. First published in 1884 , it is written in such depth that I realised modern authors often lack this ability. The book follows the emotional and physical journey of Huck in his fight for survival and outlines the balance between his instinctive 'goodness' and societies often corrupt values . Huck’s experiences of emotional abuse running parallel with his knowledge of society’s failures such as slavery. A good, if somewhat slow read, but worth the effort.

Judith Gillis

When I opened the package I was transported back to my childhood. My father was a great reader and admired the works of Mark Twain and Jack London which he encouraged his children to read. I, however, was more a fan of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and the Chalet books and was not attracted to my father‘s recommendations. Having now read Huck‘s story perhaps I missed out. I always read a novel which reflects the places that I visit. I like to learn history from the novels I read. Huckleberry Fin is a great adventure story. I learnt a great deal about the Mississippi, the banks of the river, the islands and its dangers and the river from which Samuel Clemens took his name. The river plays a major role in the story. Huckleberry Finn has a series of adventures as he drifts along in a makeshift raft meeting a variety of characters en route. Mark Twain’s range of characters is amazing from the kindly Widow, his appalling father, his companion Jim, the runaway slave, the Duke of Bilewater, and any others as Huck journeys on. There is humour, there is character, and suspense and adventure. Slavery, living conditions of the diverse group Huck meets show his deep humanity and his wonderful sense of loyalty. A great story and a rattling good adventure story and an ideal read for a river cruise.

Sue Newell

This book would be a good choice for any book club but for this particular club it was also an astute piece of marketing: who wouldn’t want to go on a Viking Mississippi cruise after reading it? The descriptions of the river, its appearance at different times of day, its currents and eddies, its steamboats and other craft, its banks with their vegetation all make it come to life. The plot is gripping and carries the reader along and there’s a good cast of characters, some of whom are kindly and endearing and some who are absolute crooks and confidence tricksters. Hank and Tom (when he appears) are interesting characters with their own version of morality. Any harm they do is seldom intentional. Hank and Jim are close and Hank comes to realise how much Jim cares for him. He also realises that negroes have feelings like everybody else. I liked the way that Mark Twain renders the different dialects even if a bit of effort is needed to make sense of some of the dialogue. I’m glad this book was chosen as I enjoyed reading it.

Rita Crowe

I read a great deal, mostly Murder Mysteries, so reading a classic is a new experience for me and I wasn't sure what to expect. I was told by friends and family that it was "brilliant", "a classic", "an un-put-downable historical fiction" but I kept an open mind and approached it with caution! I found the novel full of adventure, as expected, and it gave a detailed portrait of the 19th century in America. The exploration of the relationship between Jim and Huckleberry Finn was brilliantly done and really brought them to life for me. Racism and prejudice were there in the background but the two main characters rose above that. I found the dialogue a bit hard to deal with initially until I got used to it and then it was easy going. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, it would not have been at the top of my reading list. However, it was a very enjoyable read, thank you Viking Book Club.

Rosemary Pile

This is a story of a white boy’s journey on a raft down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave and is set in the mid-19th Century. It does make for a good adventure story but underneath it all are the issues of race and inequality with a good mix of religion and deception thrown in. The young boy ultimately finds himself torn between the expectations and values of the society he grew up in and his own understanding and beliefs that have grown out of the longstanding relationship between him and the runaway slave. It demands a fair amount of concentration from the reader particularly in understanding the different dialects used by some of the characters but I found this added to the understanding of these different characters and how they all related to each other. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a real page turner and I couldn’t wait to get to the end and see how it all worked out!

Janet Woods

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book and at first I found it difficult because of the language. But as I got used to it, it became easier to read. It gives an insight into life in the deep-south of American life in the eighteenths century and how life was and slaves were treated. Huckleberry Finn is basically a good boy and his friendship with Jim, the runaway slave, is interesting as it develops. Huck hasn’t had an easy life with his drunken father but his adventures as he sails down the Mississippi on a raft are very revealing. The book finishes as I like a book to. They all lived happily ever after!