on 20 February 2012
I read what I thought was Robinson Crusoe as a child (and loved it) but that first version left out half the story (which turns out wasn't a bad thing). The story isn't really about a man being marooned on an island (though of course he is marooned for decades). It's really about one man's internal journey and how his view of life and himself change because he's forced by his solitary state to think about his past actions and the consequences of them. To me the interesting story starts about page 60 and ends soon after 200 while he's still alone on the island, before Friday the rather annoying saved cannibal-servant appears on the scene or the fantastical rescue.
After reading about the real man who inspired the story, Alexander Selkirk, I can't help wishing that Defoe had interviewed the man and then wrote the man's real story. It would have been equally bizarre, but more believable (particularly the real man's inability to settle back into Society - he lived in a cave for a while, married twice, but could only bear the married state for a very short time before running off...eventually back to sea where he died probably hoping to return to the island where he was happy with his goats and cats).
If you enjoy the history of words or getting into the head of an early 18th century man this can be an interesting book. If you like a story that flows smoothly and makes sense and has a sensible ending...you might want to watch a movie version.
on 19 December 2012
I expected Robinson Crusoe to be mostly the long philosophical reflections of an isolated man and was very surprised by how much happens. There are pirates, cannibals, plantations and bears. Robinson spends only around half the book on his famous island and even then we read about his adventures at farming, hunting, pottery etc.
The book is not simply an adventure story however and Robinson's thoughts on life and the divine are dotted throughout. I found these musings to be succinct and interesting giving the book weight.
Perhaps the thing that surprised me most is how clear and readable the language is. I understand that it might be the first English novel but I found it to be more modern than many books written later.
I only read it a couple of months ago and I am eager to read it again already.
What a wonderfully entertaining story. And so refreshingly politically incorrect. We all know the gist of the story - some poor fellow marooned on an uninhabited island - but until just now I'd never read the original work. I didn't know how Crusoe came to be there or how he was eventually "delivered" and what became of him. I loved it.
Admittedly there were tiresome interludes - so many of them - when Crusoe turns to God, prays to God, questions God, loses faith, regains faith and preaches to the reader, but even these were quite profound in a self-help manual kind of way. Then there was Crusoe's post-Friday obnoxious, imperious behaviour. I almost laughed out loud when the first words Crusoe taught Friday were to call him "Master". Having said this he does learn to love Friday, albeit as a man loves his dog. He always called him a "savage" too. Also his famous slave-trading, kitten-drowning and bear-baiting escapades hardly endear him to the reader. What a guy! But I shouldn't really judge him (and he's fictional, though based on a Mr Selkirk) by today's standards.
A few points of interest I noted: I thought it very strange how lenient Crusoe was to the mutineers who landed on his shore with their prisoner, their deposed captain, whose name, incidentally, we never learn. He not only taught them all he had learnt as regards how to survive, but gave them supplies from the captain's ship and promised to send a ship to relieve them later! This he later did, bringing more slaves (presumably) and supplies. He also left them all his money. He also left the Spaniards on the mainland in the lurch and to the mercy of the now gun-toting mutineers. Why didn't he wait a while? Oh, and he hardly mentions God again as soon as he's safely away from the island.
The introduction - which the reader is advised to peruse after having read the book - didn't really interest me that much. It went a little over my head. One small quibble I have is that the text wasn't broken up into chapters in this edition, which was a little unusual and not a little awkward.
Isn't it funny, also, to think of all the people who have read this book since it was first published in 1719? It's worth reading if not only for its historical place in English literature and as the progenitor to a whole genre.
Robinson Crusoe is best taken at two levels, the literal adventure story of survival on an isolated island and as a metaphor for finding one's way through life. I recommend that everyone read the book who is willing to look at both of those levels. If you only want the adventure story, you may not be totally satisfied. The language, circumstances, and attitudes may put you off so that you would prefer to be reading a Western or Space-based adventure story with a more modern perspective.
Few books require anyone to rethink the availability and nature of the fundamentals of life: Water, food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. Then having become solitary in our own minds as a reader, Defoe adds the extraordinary complication of providing a companion who is totally different from Crusoe. This provides the important opportunity to see Crusoe's civilized limitations compared to Friday's more natural ones. The comparisons will make for thought-provoking reading for those who are able to overcome the stalled thinking that the educated, civilized route is always the best.
One of the things that I specially liked about the book is the Crusoe is an ordinary person in many ways, making lots of mistakes, and having lots of setbacks. Put a modern Superhero (from either the comic books, adventure or spy novels, or the movies) into this situation, and it would all be solved in a few minutes with devices from the heel of one's shoe. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I liked the trial-and-error explorations. They seemed just like everyday life, and made the book's many lessons come home to me in a more fundamental way.
Have a good solitary trip through this book!
on 9 August 2001
Robinson crusoe must be one of the most instantly recogniseable and well known characters ever portrayed in fiction. The basics of the story - Crusoes desertion on a desert island, battle for survival and eventual triumph over adversity, appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. Yet the archaic writing style can detract from the classic adventure story, as can the lack of real action. Instead the book comes across as a story of human resiliance and spirit, the fact that it is apparently based on the real life experiences of a stranded sailor make the story all the more remarkable. Thought to be the first "novel" ever published it is understandable that the writing does not flow in the same way as contemporary fiction, but the overall sophistication of Defoe's ideas is pleasantly surprising in the context that he HAD no contemporaries to influence him or compare to.
It is the romance of the story line that holds him in our collective consciousness and draws new readers to this book in their droves, but to read it as an adventure story of the "Treasure Island" mould is to miss the point, and will inevitably dissappoint. However, read it as a commentary on humanity and it is immensely valuable and enjoyable.
on 25 February 2011
A REVIEW OF `ROBINSON CRUSOE' BY DANIEL DEFOE
Almost three centuries have passed since `Robinson Crusoe' was first published in 1719. In that time, the novel has arguably become a victim of its own success. So many times has the tale been told and re-told, that we all seem to assume that we know the story* and therefore neglect the original novel itself. In short, `Robinson Crusoe' has become immortalised by being condensed into a simplistic plot summary: "The book about the man who gets stranded on a desert island." This over-simplification has been intensified by the countless other `classic' novels which have been heavily influenced by `Robinson Crusoe'. These include, Johan Weiss's `Swiss Family Robinson' (1812), R. M. Ballantyne's `The Coral Island' (1857), Jules Verne's `The Mysterious Island' (1874), and R. L. Stevenson's `Treasure Island' (1883) to name but a few. In more recent years, the film `Castaway' and television's `LOST' have dealt with the book's central theme. Even the great Laurel & Hardy got in on the act in 1951 with their final film, `Atoll K', which was released under various titles including 'Robinson Crusoe Land'. In fact, so familiar have we become with the premise of `Robinson Crusoe', that we risk losing sight of what a truly great and relevant book it is.
* For the purposes of this review, I have deliberately avoided telling the story where possible.
In his 2011 BBC Television series devoted to seminal fictional characters, Sebastian Faulks chose to begin with none other than RC. Perhaps the greatest appeal of the character is his humility (The story is narrated in the first-person and Crusoe's tone throughout is highly self-critical.) and resourcefulness. During his remarkable 28 years on the island, Crusoe drags himself from the depths of despair and self-pity to create a surprisingly convincing solitary way of life, which reveals real ingenuity and creativity in terms of setting up his home(s) and sustainable lifestyle. Many of the novel's key themes still resonate today. Crusoe's existence in many ways smacks of `The Good Life' and raises the question, "How much does man really need to be happy?" As the novel progresses, our hero's discovery of a solitary footprint in the sand leads to wild speculation about its owner, leading him to swing from optimistic highs to pessimistic lows. The dizzying analysis echoes the media-frenzies of the 21st century which inevitably follow any `major' event which shakes the status-quo.
Perhaps the greatest misconception about `Robinson Crusoe' is that it is a children's book. This view owes much to its simplistic retellings. However, the story deals with a range of `big' issues, including religious faith, colonialism and cannibalism. In fact, within its pages, there is some pretty strong violence (albeit described with 18th century reserve).
Of course, not everything about a 300-year-old novel still rings true. To the reader used to 21st century prose, Defoe's written style takes a little getting used to. Similarly, the actual action set-pieces of the story are rather top and bottom heavy, coming thick-and-fast at the story's beginning and end. Indeed, it does rather stretch credibility to accept that for almost two decades not a soul should appear on Crusoe's island, given that, by the novel's conclusion, it (almost) resembles Southampton docks with all of its comings and goings! However, perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of the tale if the hero's lack of concern about any human company for such a protracted period of time, especially that of the opposite sex.
Nevertheless, despite some inevitably creaky joints, `Robinson Crusoe' deserves to be dusted of and read as a novel in its own right. Among its surprises, `Robinson Crusoe' saves the biggest until last. The story ends with our hero stating that he will recount more of his experiences at a later date, which explains the publication in 1720 of Defoe's `Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe'. Now how many of us who think that they know the book knew of this sequel?
Yes, by virtue of its own appeal, the essential premise of `Robinson Crusoe' has been regurgitated countless times over the years. However, for those who enjoy the `classics' or for those who like to genuinely escape into a book, `Robinson Crusoe' still has much to make the modern reader want to cut all ties with the modern world and drift away...
Barty's Score: 8.5/10
on 14 October 2006
Just a quickie. Some of the above reviews remind us of how slow and boring this book can be and how repetitive. Well, guys, that's the point. How exciting do you suppose being stranded alone on an Island can be? What would you do to pass the time? Defoe takes us back to a time before T.V etc. Your day would be boring, although eventually menial tasks save ones sanity. Time does pass slowly as it looses relavance. It's not a classic for nothing.
on 12 December 2013
Never read this before, so being included in the Clothbound Classics series bought it. And what an amazing book it is as well! If you can get over the confused punctuation, strange spelling and no chapters, give it a go. To me, all that only added to the charm and uniqueness of this fascinating book; as well as the structure and use of language from the early eighteenth century. The author biography and analysis of the novel was also very informative: what an interesting life he led!
These Clothbound Classic novels are a real book lovers treat. The design on the cover of this one is particularly striking and apt. Another worthwhile inclusion in the series, are facsimiles of the title page of the first editions. My only gripe, and a minor one, is the foil stamped in to the design has a tendency to wear off where you hold it, spoiling the look. All things being equal though, they are a wholly welcome addition to the Penguin Pantheon.
on 23 July 2016
This - the unabridged version of the classic childhood novel is a fascinating read and well worth revisiting even if you last read it as a youngster and never intended to pick it up again. Chances are that it was an abridged version you read in childhood while this - the genuine article - will throw up some surprises and deep insights into the human condition which were most often booted out of many of the sanitised and severely shortened forms of the novel prepared for the consumption of youngsters.
on 28 July 1999
Robinson Crusoe is one of the first English novels. Written by Daniel DeFoe in the early 18th century during the rise of economic theory, this book chronicles the struggle of an economic hero shipwrecked on an island. He takes advantage of people, always looking to make money or increase economic value. Although Crusoe has religious experiences and gets preachy at times (DeFoe was of Puritan stock at a time when Puritanism was a significant force), Crusoe is a practical man. He does not let morals get in the way of carving out a prosperous life -- there are scenes where the main character is no role model. The novel is episodic, with Crusoe hopping from one scene to another. The narration isn't smooth. However, the "flaws" when compared to later writings may be forgiven because Robinson Crusoe is an early novel. Writers had not worked out the fine points of the genre. DeFoe is an important early English novelist who cobbled together economic theory, religious opinion, travel writing, and borrowed material from a contemporary shipwreck victim to create a work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe is often mislabelled as a childrens book. Perhaps in a watered down abridgement, it is a good children's book. The original, complete, unabridged work is a literary classic that should be read by any student of English literature.