Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Many years ago, back when I still thought I was going to be an 18th-century scholar (and over the next few months, I will repeat this refrain when I sift through more unread books that I collected), I purchased Robinson Crusoe and then ran from it in fear, because I’d heard that it was a slog. Finally, I conquered my fear and just read the damn thing already. It’s hefty, but I feel like a conqueror! I read Robinson Crusoe!
Robinson Crusoe is a major idiot, let’s just start with that. He goes to sea against his parents’ wishes and promptly gets into trouble on the west coast of Africa (the Barbary coast, if I’m not mistaken). And by that, I mean enslaved. Through his trickery and abuse of an African’s kindness, he gets out of that scrape and travels to South America, where he builds a highly prosperous plantation, and then is bored with success. So he takes a ship that promptly wrecks and washes him up on an uninhabited island for something like the next 27 years. He has to build a life for himself from the ground up, from shelter to finding food. Defoe details this process proficiently, but then it gets a little melodramatic when it comes to the cannibalistic indigenous people on the island.
To say I was bored is an overstatement, because there are several entertaining and interesting parts. If you’ve read The Martian and enjoyed Mark Watney’s MacGyvering of materials on Mars, this has similar appeal. There are also hilariously melodramatic and xenophobic aspects which I place firmly within the time period in which this book was written. In her Goodreads review, narfna points out that you can totally tell that this book is one of the first novels ever written. She’s totally right. I don’t think this is a waste of time, but it’s certainly a mixed bag.