- BuyKing Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
Vintage, 337 pp, £7.99, May 2013, ISBN 978 0 09 958282 3
- She by H. Rider Haggard
Vintage, 317 pp, £8.99, May 2013, ISBN 978 0 09 958283 0
I first encountered King Solomon’s Mines in the children’s section of a public library in Harare. Most of the books smelled of water damage and many had been taken out so rarely that the last ‘return by’ stamp pre-dated Mugabe and decimalisation. I was working through shelves of books about horses and morality tales written by women who manifestly did not like children, and took King Solomon’s Mines because it’s set in ‘the Manica country’, a province a few hundred miles east of Harare. It seemed run of the mill at the time, much like the other books in the library: it was tightly plotted, suspense-driven, lavishly sexist and racist. In fact, though it is often read as a children’s book, it isn’t; nor is it run of the mill. It is the book which sowed the seed for John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, for Indiana Jones and James Bond, and though less slick than its successors, its anxieties and lunacies are more interesting. It isn’t suitable for children; perhaps not suitable at all.