8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2001
Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe never lived with a number of other people on his deserted island, competing for food and immunity icons every week, a television camera constantly in his face. Crusoe lived his solitary life not for the entertainment of others, but to suffer the plight of the lonely.
Ignoring the advice of his wise father, who begged him to choose an honest life close to home, Crusoe heads to sea and almost dies three times before ending up on his deserted isle. He chooses a life of a plantation owner, hiring slaves to do much of his work. He chooses to ignore the teachings of God, and puts himself at the top of his own kingdom. On a journey to collect slaves to increase productivity on his plantation, his ship wrecks on the rocks of an island. All are lost but him. He saves some provisions from his ship, but has to work the land on his own to survive nearly three decades in solitude. It isn't until one lucky Friday that Crusoe's isolation ends and his purgatory is over.
Defoe's book is really a treatise on humility, of suffering for the sake of one's soul and finding one's place in the world. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Crusoe, alone for 400 pages, keeps our attention to the end.
This is a children's edition, put out by Simon and Schuster's Aladdin Paperbacks. What makes this a children's addition is the foreword by Avi, a children's author, and the reading guide at the end worded for children.
But there's little, really, to distinguish this edition from others. As a book for children, Robinson Crusoe needs more than a few simplistic questions and a wispy introduction. There is much in this book from another age that parents and children will want to discuss: racism, slavery, misuse of your fellow man, cannibalism, butchery. Defoe's readers believed that cannibals inhabited many of the unchartered islands of the southern hemisphere, and the children of today, though not stupid, will need guidance to disavow them of this same incorrect thought and others. We should not censor this book -- it's as much historical document as it is literature -- but parents should be aware of what their children are reading, read it with them, and help them understand the world as it was (and wasn't) 300 years ago.
I would have given this book 5 stars (Robinson Crusoe alone deserves 5 stars) except for the mistakes on the back cover --Unabridged spelled "Unabrdiged" -- and in Avi's foreword -- foreword spelled "foreward," comma splices, and a reference to Crusoe's 24 years on the island (he was on the island 28 years!). Errors creep into most books, but in a children's book a publisher should take more care to ensure that the information is accurate.
This is a beautiful edition, marred by errors and lacking in supporting reading. Any other edition would suffice.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2000
I must admit that I wasn't "wowed" by this book after I finished it. I'll even confess that I was mostly glad to be done with it. However, I've learned not to make hasty judgements about works, to spend time reflecting and researching in hopes of broadening my appreciation and understanding. My research has helped me resolve questions regarding why Defoe stressed some things to tedium while leaving out other more interesting details.
For example, as many have noted, he goes on and on and on about his projects on the island. The modern reader may tire of reading description after description about his cave and livestock and cooking methods. I thought to myself, "I know these people didn't have TV, but why would they want to know every cotton picking detail!" During my research, I learned that the reason for the detail was that Robinson was concerned about demonstrating mastery over his environment because that was a high priority during that time period. The most successful men learned how to work an environment to maximum efficiency. Men were concerned with conquering the land and establishing their dominance over others as well. This also explains why Robinson is more interested in learning how to live well on the island than in getting off the island.
Then there were other times when the book started to get more interesting, only to find Defoe skip off to a new topic. For example, I kept waiting and waiting for Friday to enter the storyline, and I assumed that he would be a great buddy of Robinson's. I was disappointed to learn that Friday didn't enter unless very late in the novel and that even when he did, Robinson wasn't very attached or concerned about him as a person. Again, after doing some research, I learned that their relationship reflected standard ideas at the time regarding masters and servants. There was an established hierarchy back then that regulated human relationships back then, whereas things are much more fluid and democratic these days. The concept of individual human rights did simply not exist in the form it does today.
So, although this work will never be my favorite, I have come to understand the people and values of that era better because of it. It's interesting to think about how so many basic ideas have changed since then.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2004
For twenty-four years Robinson Crusoe was stranded on an island far away from anything, after being the only survivor of the shipwreck. Until one friday he rescues a prisoner I felt that book moved very slowly through the whole story, but it kept me interested throughout it. He turns his deserted island into a tropical paradise and learns to deal with his surroundings. It was an easy read. He returned to England the eleventh of June, 1687; after thirty-five years of being stranded out at sea. Daniel Defoe made this book made it seem more realistic than fiction, with his very descriptive writing. Overall I liked the book, because it had a good plot.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2002
Initially, I was hesitant to read this book since has the reputation of being the first English novel, and would therefore be very clumsily constructed and difficult to read. However, my curiousity got the best of me, and after the first ten pages, I was hooked, unable to put it down. Indeed, though its categorization as a work of classic literature is not undeserved, this is not really accurate. It is not hallmarked with flowing prose or poetic passages. Instead the language is simple and gritty, and the plot never meddles with unnecessary details. It is such a readable book, that after finishing it, one can hardly doubt why it has been one of the most popular novels of all time: It is a fantastic story, simply told, whose sole, driving purpose is to entertain. I refuse to give away any of the plot, since the less you know, the better it will be.
I'd like to mention briefly that the Modern Library paperback is very handsome and for its quality, could easily sell at double its current price.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2003
In the literary world it is perhaps blasphemy to say a bad word against Daniel Defoe's most acclaimed novel. So here goes. The fact that the book was originally titled The Life And Strange Surprising Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe illustrates the major flaw in Defoe's literary form. Put simply, this would be a far more interesting and gripping story were it not so superfluously lengthy. The author makes a habit of repeating himself, especially when it comes to the act of dispatching kittens, which seems to be more of an obsession here than octogenarian ladies are to MatronsApron. It is difficult, you may think, to keep the subject matter fresh when describing the daily tribulations of a fellow stranded on an island for thirty years, without occasionally repeating yourself. True, but perhaps a straightforward solution to this diminutive quandary would be to simply truncate the duration of the story. There are some wonderfully intriguing and suspenseful moments, and some juicy action to boot, but sadly these are gratuitously diluted by lengthy descriptions of the unremarkable everyday goings on in Crusoe's life, and rather than serving to build up the suspense, they merely obstruct the reader's relationship with the more exciting parts of the story.
However, those with more patience than my ignorant self will find in Robinson Crusoe a delightful tale, which as well as being a fictional documentary of the most unusual thirty years of Mr. Crusoe's life, also has time to ponder upon philosophical and theological ideas, in a style that makes the reader feel as if they are involved in the conflicts between the functionalist and cynical thoughts going on in Crusoe's mind. It may not be a gripping white-knuckle adventure, being rather more leisurely and acquiescent, but it is still rather easy to see why Robinson Crusoe is regarded by some as one of the greatest novels of all time.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2006
In Robinson Crusoe a man is ship wrecked on a remote islands and must survive the wilderness. In the beginning of this book Robinson wants to travel at sea but his father strongly advises against it . Eventually Robinson disobeys his father and becomes a merchant at sea. On his second trip his ship is boarded by pirates and he is imprisoned eventually he escapes and heads back to brazil. Soon he decides to gather slaves in west Africa but ship wrecks on a remote island. At first he builds a shelter by the shore. Robinson soon became ill and thought he saw an angel that told him to repent. He then decided to explore the island and see what he could find. He came upon a valley with plenty of grapes to eat. Later he saw cannibals with a victim, he helped the victim escape and named him Friday. Eventually he got a boat from Spaniards and returned home. He got married but his wife died soon after. The was a very interesting book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
In this book there was always something happening. In the very beginning he was attacked by pirates, then later he was fighting of dangerous cannibals. It was interesting but this made the story very hard to follow and I just read the 250 page condensed version.
Robinson Crusoe changed a lot over the span of the book. At first he thought he was destined to live at sea but at the end of the book he would much rather just walk. Also when he first crashed on the island he hated being there but soon he came to love his shelter but when he had a chance to leave he fainted.
When anything good happened to Robinson Crusoe something bad was just around the corner. When he was just becoming a success he was shipwrecked on an island. And finally when he gets home he finds that all of his family except for two sisters are dead.
This was a very thrilling and interesting man versus wilderness book. It was hard to follow due to all the information. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2000
This is a simple, beautifully written story of a young man who rejects the advice of his father and pursues a life at sea. His fate, of course, is to dwell alone for many years on an isolated island. The main point, however, is his slow realization that, in finding God and religion, his "cup is not half empty but half full". This is NOT a childs book and should be read by those in their 30's and above...otherwise the message may be lost on youth.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2002
This is one of those books in which I feel that those who give it one star are right on the point, as well as those who feel that it is a masterpiece.
It is obvious that almost none of us knows what sort of interpretations will receive in the year 2560 a novel written in 1990 and held in our time, by both, popular opinion and literary circles, as a msterpiece. Maybe future readers will feel that is a bunch of rubish and that the nature of the character is not that of the hero but that of an obnoxious artist. The same way some people see today Robinson Crusoe as a repelent friend of slavery.
Judging the moral merits of a novel more than 300 years after it was written is sort of futile because we can not demand from the author to be attuned to the cultural beliefs, world views, literary technique and metal structure of today's reader. But all the critics of whether it is fun to read or not, are perfectly valid, since being entertained is powerful reason to pick up a book at any time in history.
Now, for me Robinson Crusoe is a great book because it can be read at several levels, that is for some people is just the story of a guy stranded in an island. For others is a parabole about the reediming power of the faith. Some see an existencialist struggle between the freedom of the individual versus the complex workings of society and not few percive a shameless propaganda for white supremacy and slavery, and will gladly have the book banned as compulsary reading in schools.
The fact is that by the end of the XVII Century, a writing of this characteristics was unknown, nobody wrote like that. Such spark of originality is recognized and deserves attention, because it creates a turning point in the history of literature. If for today's reader is fun to read or not, that is really another issue. As you will see for many of Amazon.com's reviewers the answer is quite extreme between the opposites of 1 and 5 stars. I invite you to know why.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2001
Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel, "Robinson Crusoe," written when Defoe was 59 years old, is a multifaceted work whose layers of significance can easily escape those who read it in their youth. The English precursor to the survival/adventure/shipwreck narrative, "Robinson Crusoe" details the career of an errant youth who discovers hope and faith through experimentation. Crusoe's exploits are also important to a developing early 18th century notion of the ideal industrious middle class citizen, as well as reaffirming the growth of British Imperialism.
As a boy in a household already fractured by rebellious sons, Crusoe lives aimlessly with his father and mother, always desiring to leave the confines of his home for the sea. Against the better wisdom of his father, who advises him to remain where he is and enjoy the fruits of an easy-going middle class life, Crusoe takes to the ocean. A series of ill-omened occurrences, including shipwrecks and enslavement lead Crusoe to a deserted island off the coast of South America, where he is forced to provide and fend for himself.
Though Crusoe's spiritual awakening has been much noted in reviews, one important facet of his Christian moralizing in the novel that is noteworthy is the way the novel problematizes Protestant-Catholic relations throughout the novel. The vast majority of Crusoe's early encounters are among Spanish and Portuguese colonists and traders. It is interesting how Crusoe measures the English against them, and how that comparison extends into Crusoe's evaluation of the various 'savages' he comes across in the novel.
Another great layer of significance in "Robinson Crusoe" concerns its attitudes toward English history and colonial ventures. Note the language of possession, authority, and control that colour Crusoe's descriptions of himself and the uninhabited island he must learn to live on. I find especially telling, in accordance with his religious views, how England's 18th century colonial competitors, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and French, are characterized by Crusoe.
I could also cite the often explicitly homoerotic undertones in the relationship between Crusoe and his Native American manservant, Friday, as a source of compelling interest in Defoe's novel. In the realm of the socio-economic, Crusoe's appropriation of utilitarianism in regards to raw materials, money, and even people is an important theme. For those who have read it a million times or never, Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" is entertaining and edifying, always worth reading and rereading.