King Solomon's Mines (Modern Library Classics)

King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard This is an old fashioned adventure yarn and its hero, Alan Quatermain, is a direct ancestor of Indiana Jones. I'm not going to claim that Haggard even at his best is the same order of classic as the best by Charles Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot or Thomas Hardy. But like fellow Victorians Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson or Rudyard Kipling, Haggard really could spin a good yarn. Ten of his books are on my bookshelves. I gobbled those up in my teens and most I remember very, very well even decades later. My favorite of his novels involved Ayesha, known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, especially the book Wisdom's Daughter. King Solomon's Mines is his most famous novel though, probably helped by the film of that title. It does have humor, some unforgettable scenes and images, and lots of adventure and daring do. Yet I could list several novels by Haggard I liked better. And I think that has to do with Quatermain himself, the epitome of the "Great White Hunter" with the kind of casual racism of the age and glory in bagging game you might expect. I prefer Haggard's Eric, the Viking from Eric Brighteyes. Or Olaf from The Wanderer's Necklace. Or his Odysseus from his Homer homage written with Andrew Lang, The World's Desire. And above all his indomitable Ayesha, one of the great heroines of Victorian literature. So while this is Haggard's best known work, I don't think it's necessarily his best or the one a contemporary reader would enjoy the most.