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Customer Review

on 4 July 2011
Daniel DeFoe's classic novel of shipwreck and survival is given an alternative re-telling by South African Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee in this short novel "Foe".

The story is told from the first person perspective of Susan Barton who is left adrift on a small boat with a dead captain after the crew of the ship she was sailing on to find her missing daughter on, mutinied. She washes ashore a desert island and finds that she is not alone. A man named Crusoe and his tongue-less former slave and manservant Friday are the only other two people living on the island. Their life on the island and subsequent escape to 17th England is documented here, up until she meets Daniel Foe, a budding novelist whom she wants to write her story and make her a celebrity.

Daniel Foe is of course Daniel DeFoe, who bought the faux title "De" to add before his last name to make it seem that he was nobility when he in actuality was not.

The book talks about stories and storytelling, the power of fiction, the power of words and narrative, and how we live and how we see ourselves in our heads in relation to the real world. I found the book a very fast paced read and enthralling in parts. Barton's encounters with Foe were particularly fascinating and Coetzee does a good job of recreating 17th century England well. Despite a rather obligatory literary ending - dreamlike and vague - I found it to be a good read that I enjoyed reading on holiday this summer. Coetzee's best is still for me "Disgrace" but "Foe" is a fine addition to this remarkable writer's canon and those looking for an accessible and interesting novel by this writer would do well to start here.
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