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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781609450694
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609450694
  • ASIN: 1609450698
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #547,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Polly Flint, the central figure in this civilized English novel, is six years old as it opens in 1904, an old woman at its end, in 1985her mind and imagination filled with the presence of her heroic exemplar, Robinson Crusoe. Installed by her seafaring father in a big yellow house in Yorkshire under the care of two pious aunts, she spends her life in and near that spot. Once she loved a young poet who died in the Great War; later there was a German-Jewish refugee who placed his daughters in Polly's care before he died. Events occur undramatically, related with equal weight no matter what their relative significance. Companionable though it is, the novel lacks urgency; even when Polly speaks directly with Crusoe, they exchange tepid, truistic remarks about the nature of memory and fiction, memoir and imagination. Then he is gone and the tale ends as quietly as it began. Gardam's award-winning books include God on the Rocks and The Pangs of Love.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

After her father leaves six-year-old Polly Flint in the care of her elderly aunts, the girl is virtually marooned in a yellow house in a salt marsh in northern England. From that day in 1903 until the eve of World War II, we observe Polly's isolated existence and her obsession with her literary and spiritual ancestor, Robinson Crusoe. But Polly is never alone, and the revelations of the passions and foibles of the humans in her world are uncovered slowly in this richly textured novel. A final section, set in 1984, shows an elderly Polly in self-chosen seclusion. Although the novel lacks rousing action, much occurs on the emotional landscape. We know Polly intimately, and she haunts our imaginations as surely as Crusoe haunts hers. For academic libraries and public library patrons seeking a thought-provoking book. Kathy Piehl, English Dept., Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She was awarded an OBE in January 2009.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
It is a book about reading and it is both strange and wonderful.
Helen Raven
For part of the book, I became discouraged with the character, but by the end, the whole thing tied together nicely.
Gardam's strength is the roundness of her characters, the immediacy of her writing, and above all her truth.
Roger Brunyate

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Jane Gardam, introducing this beautiful Europa Press reprint of her 1985 novel, calls it by far the favorite of all her books. It marked a deliberate break from the potboilers* she had been producing up to that time. It was written to last, as indeed it has lasted. And it was based on a subject she knew well: an imaginative reconstruction of her mother's life growing up in the North of England. But here she plays some tricks. She tells you about her mother's life; she also tells you how she intends to alter it; but the story that now unfolds differs from both, for Polly Flint, her heroine, is her own creature, and her life takes its own turns.

Polly is six when she comes to the yellow house on the Yorkshire coast between the marsh and the sea. Her parents have died, and she comes to live with two middle-aged aunts who, with another woman who shares the house with them, undertake her education. But she is a child on a virtual island with no one of her own age for company. So she becomes a voracious reader of books, making a special place for ROBINSON CRUSOE, whose self-reliance and spiritual journey becomes a touchstone for her own. It is the very beginning of the twentieth century. By the time Polly is old enough to have met any actual young men, the 1914 war is upon them; her story will take us to the 1939 war and beyond.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By L. George Allan on October 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gardam is one of my favorites - I got interested in her after "Old Filth" and it's successor "The Man with the Wooden Hat" and this book was up to my expectations. She is enigmatic, throwing something out there and letting you find it's significance later, and otherwise not inclined to make the reader comfortable (sent me to the dictionary about a dozen times in this book -I was glad to be reading it on my Kindle for quick look-up).

So it's not an "English Cozy" and not really a suspenseful plot. What it is - a carefully crafted study of human nature battling against the odds of unusual circumstance - a young girl extracted from her environment after the death of her mother and placed with her two eccentric aunts on a British Isle. There is some humor and relief when she is transported to a relative's large, luxurious home which is a residential facility for gifted artists. There the eccentricities abound with great fun.

We follow the protagonist to the end of her days where she is living in the old yellow house by the sea that she inherited from her aunts. She bounced from the efforts to indoctrinate her into religion, learned about love & sex with such candid observations that are also humorous. I recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Gardam is a scintillating writer. Her characters live their strange lives "as if a skin had been peeled off everything," to borrow an metaphor from Crusoe's Daughter. Every sentence shimmers.

Published in 1986, Crusoe's Daughter is not much read today. A sad oversight that would not have surprised the heroine of the novel, Polly Flint. Repeatedly abandoned, she felt as isolated as her literary hero, Robinson Crusoe, for much of her life.

We meet Polly in 1904 at age six, left by her sea captain father with two maiden aunts in an improbably Italianate yellow house on a salt marsh in the north of England.

One aunt is vague and holy, the other warmhearted and conflicted. There's also an unexplained woman living in the house, penniless and peculiar, who teaches young Polly German and French. Polly completes her education by reading the hundreds of books in the family library.

This is very much a book about books, and readers with a literary bent will like this. Others might not. Robinson Crusoe is Polly's bible, illuminating human nature and the cruelties of existence.

(I wonder if Gardam was inspired by Betteredge in The Moonstone. Wilkie Collins' quintessential butler also frequently consults Robinson Crusoe for guidance.)

We follow Polly's life through two world wars and beyond. Her story mirrors the fate of England, forever changed by war and by progress.

Crusoe's Daughter abounds in thwarted romances and heated literary discussions. Loveable and unlovable eccentrics, appealing servants, absurd artists, self-absorbed lovers and Polly herself in love, in despair or in recovery, wend their way through a plot full of perplexities - all ultimately clarified.

I wasn't happy with the last chapter, which felt self-conscious and superfluous to me. I'm simply overlooking it in giving this book five stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Conant on April 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the third Gardam book I've read ("Old Filth" & "The Man in the Wooden Hat"). It is one of her earliest books, and she says it's a favorite. I can see why. It's wonderful store-telling of an apparently ordinary life that becomes rich and interesting as the life unfolds. She does an excellent job of creating a sense of place, of giving the reader insight without revealing everything, of bringing things to a resolution that is both realistic and rewarding. LOVE her writing!
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