on 10 July 2012
It's really a bit of a cheek having someone like me review something like Robinson Crusoe! It's a well deserved classic in somewhat archaic but wonderful prose. Interestingly, one of the characters in Wilkie Collins "The Moonstone" swears by Robinson Crusoe and always has a copy to hand because it seems to be the answer to so many worldly problems. I'm taking a leaf out of that book and hoping that for me Robinson Crusoe will also supply all of life's answers!
on 20 November 2012
It's very interesting comparing the (mainly US) reviews of this book on GoodReads, with the (presumably British) reviews on amazon.co.uk. The GoodReads average rating is brought down by a cluster of one-star scores, and most of the one-star raters appear to be objecting to the colonialist behaviour of the fictional character Robinson Crusoe, and his (peripheral) involvement in the slave trade. To me, this seems absurd - firstly, for Robinson, a colonialist and merchant, to have judged the contemporary slave trade through modern sensibilities would be bizarrely anachronistic. And secondly, Robinson Crusoe is a fictional character. You do not have to like, 'identify with', or agree with fictional characters to enjoy a book. I would argue that a character whose behaviour or outlook challenges your sensibilities makes for a more interesting read.
Having said that, with my modern sensibilities it was difficult to read about Robinson's interactions with his 'faithful manservant' Friday without cringing. There's no doubt that the book becomes a lot less interesting after Friday arrives on the scene. In fact, paradoxically, I found the action-packed final quarter of the book to be a bit tedious in comparison to the earlier parts and the bulk of the narrative, which deals with Robinson's solitary survival on the desert island.
I was captivated by the minutiae of Robinson's struggle to survive. How he made shelter, grew food, fashioned his own cookware....I was reminded of great post-apocalyptic science fiction like Earth Abides, where a lot of the fascination comes from projecting yourself into the position of a survivor, forced to make do without any of the everyday conveniences we take for granted. But the main interest of the book, for me, was Robinson's spiritual development, as he learned to cope with (and eventually appreciate) his solitude. That he achieves a state of acceptance and inner peace through his Christian faith is another reflection of the time in which the book was written. But the means of his spiritual deliverance is irrelevant - it is beautifully and convincingly described, and I imagine it is this that has ensured the enduring popularity of a novel written almost 300 years ago
Daniel Defoe [born Daniel Foe] is most famous for this novel, though he had many other strings to his bow - trader, writer, journalist, political activist and pamphleteer and even a spy. He was also one of Britain's earliest novelists. He wrote more than five hundred books and pamphlets, on politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, economics and the supernatural. Quite a man! He lived in turbulent times, sometimes backed the wrong side and was in danger of being tried before the infamous Judge Jeffreys; he experienced and wrote about the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London and, though often in debt, was a fairly succesful trader. One wonders whether any work of fiction he wrote could be as interesting as his own life!
However, Robinson Crusoe has captured the imaginations of generations of people. It is surprisingly readable and thought-provoking. It was written and published [in 1719]as if it were the autobiography of Crusoe, leading many people of Defoe's own time to believe that Crusoe was a real person. The story is realistic, but Crusoe is also sometimes thought to be a kind of everyman who sets sail on the sea of life, finds a place of salvation [the island on which he is shipwrecked] and learns to understand God and life's meaning as he faces his struggles, before entering the promised land when he escapes the island. There are a lot of other thought-provoking ideas, too, yet the story remains enjoyable and readable.
Of course, the book reflects the attitudes and prejudices of Defoe's own time, particularly towards slavery. Man Friday, a native whom Crusoe rescues from cannibals, is not treated as Crusoe's equal, though Crusoe loves and values him. It makes uncomfortable reading today. Nevertheless, this is a real and important classic!
on 26 November 2014
An all time classic, although it was written a long time ago and the construction of some sentences is strange to us now, it still reads well. A ripping story we all know, but when reading the book its great to follow his thought process with regards to planning on his island for the future years. There is also a fair amount of script to Robinsons spiritual thoughts along the years and his concern and troubled mind for Provenence is regularly stated.
There is a Robinson Crusoe Island which is now inhabited. The island is where in real life a man was shipwrecked for a few years on his own and it is thought this is where Defoe got his inspiration from.
One thing I do find hard to believe is that throughout the 25 years plus Robinson was shipwrecked alone he didn't manage to finish off all the ships rum which he salvaged from the ship!
on 13 August 2016
Over-long and with too much detailed description for this modern(ish) reader. Noteworthy for the fact that he devotes whole pages to, for example, the construction of a boat which he can't launch, and the husbandry of goats, whereas later his marriage, three children and bereavement on his wife's death occupy but a single sentence. Anyway, it's a classic, we all think we know it and it's free, so why not?
I've been working my way through the classics and actually reading all of those old familiars whose plots you know but that you've never actually finished. I have been delighted by how many of those books remain current, exciting and entertaining for young readers. "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped" are as ripping as you could want. "Robin Hood" is a colorful, savvy, witty and steadfast hero who could have been the model for Aragorn son of Arathorn. Perhaps surprisingly, "Pollyanna" is a tough, earnest, inspirational character without the slightest touch of the lame and sentimental goody-goodiness with which her name has become attached. In the same vein, "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" is a take-no-guff pistol. On the other hand, "The Last of the Mohicans" I found to be prolix and almost incomprehensible. "Swiss Family Robinson" was so tediously bland that I cursed the Disney people for saving them from obscurity.
Which brings us to "Robinson Crusoe". While the idea of the castaway more or less originated with and became eternally popular in connection with this book, the book itself is not at all the boys' own, or even stirring, adventure you might expect. Google critical discussions if you like. What you will turn up is very interesting articles about Crusoe as "the Economic Man", or the European colonialist or imperialist, or the radical Protestant. Defoe was a successful businessman and trader in the new economic order of his time, and Crusoe is in many ways a contemplation or examination of what imperialist trade meant culturally, morally, ethically, politically and economically. There are all sorts of paradoxes, inconsistencies, complexities, contradictions and conflicts in how Crusoe approaches moral, ethical, religious and even commercial and entrepreneurial issues throughout this book, and volumes have been written about what Defoe was really getting at in some passages.
So, bottom line, you could teach a college level course just based on this book, and you could spark some fascinating discussions, papers, and points of view. It's offerings are rich and varied. But this is a difficult and demanding read if embraced fully, and not at all the kids shelf actioner the "classic tale" label might suggest.
on 5 June 2016
Read this as a child when I enjoyed it, but upon te re-reading of this tale of shipwreck and castaway, I realized that as a child there was a l;ot that I missed or didn't understand. Much more enjoyable second time around
on 21 January 2015
Bought this having read it when I was younger.
Now able to assess it with greater critical facilities, the writing isn't quite as good as I remembered, although the author deserves credit for inventing a lot of concepts and plot developments which are still re-used in drama today. This is the first of many fictions about desert islands.
Often you might wonder 'how would I survive on a desert island?', well the author has gone a step further and extended that speculation into a story about how its protagonist does just that.
on 8 November 2014
I got about halfway through this classic before giving up. I know it's of its time, but Defoe's constant bland assertions, with nothing but his prejudices to support them, that people from primitive societies are cannibalistic savages gets on your nerves after a while. He also makes little attempt to give a real feel for the passage of 26 years, other than simply stating that X number of years have passed as we go through the various stages of the castaway's existence.
I honestly don't see what the appeal is of this story.
on 6 February 2016
The old English style of writing doesn't lend itself to the typical brain off, imagination on, most are accustomed to nowdays but after a couple of chapters you'll find your reading it faster and more fluently.
Make sure you have a dictionary installed on your Kindle! I guarantee you'll need it!
Well worth a read though, as it is nothing like the book you probably read in school!