The New World, by Andrew Motion

9780224097949Following in the path of his last novel Silver, Andrew Motion’s most recent work, The New World is an adventure story that sweeps readers right back into the age of Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Motion continues the famous author’s legacy through Jim Hawkins Jr., the son of Treasure Island’s hero, and Natty Silver, daugh- ter of the infamous John Silver. With far fewer swash-buckling episodes, The New World push- es past its predecessor and onto the dry land of Texas, creating a novel with a much more ‘Western’ feel.

Although a pirate story sequel and remaining faithful to Stevenson’s legacy, The New World is far more interested in the presentation of the only recently ‘discovered’ America. Delving immediately into the exploration of the native tribes of Texas, this novel is abound with a deep sense of loss for a civilisation almost entirely wiped out due to colonisation.

Villainy is present from the first tribe we encounter. Here, the experience of drawn-out torture is of great interest to the community and we also witness the creation of the novel’s persistent evil stalker – Black Cloud. Despite this, there is a sense of sympathy for the tribe- speople especially when the tribe opens out to reveal innocence and kindness; particularly after we bear frustrating witnesses to Jim and Natty’s greed, the fundamental reason for the presence of Black Cloud.

Although we are taken on an entertain- ing journey, at times the characters feel rather superficial. It is only really Jim who we gain a clear insight into; the other characters, including Natty, seem to exist as minor two-dimensional elements of a story that uses the speed of its plot line to push the narrative forward. This is a real shame, especially when Jim is probably the least interesting character, and certainly the most frustrating at times.

However, perhaps this is why Motion chose him to be the novel’s focal point. Through Jim we experience a character that, in Stevenson’s age, has all the makings of a typical English hero conquering a new world. Yet this idea is completely turned on its head as we witness Jim’s concerns sink into a fear for himself, short- ly followed by a fear for Natty which correlates with his love for her and his understanding of their presumed future together. Jim’s thirst for treasure and self-centred philosophy evokes the anti-hero that many of us can relate to and ultimately forgive.

On the whole, Motion’s narrative is sublime in its fluidity. While some scenes are perhaps more tedious than others, it is hard to find a part which makes you want to put the book down. The presentation of each community encoun- tered are insightful and work towards a feeling of unity within the novel, which could easily have derailed into a narrative of stepping stones with little to join each episode together. By the novel’s close, the reader does feel as though they have shared a part in Jim’s journey and perhaps gained a little perspective on the way.

Laura Rowlands

Image property of The Telegraph

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