Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: The Life And Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

I like to mix up my reading and one genre that I managed to overlook during my development was the classics. Yet as I've matured ("Aged," my wife would correct me), I've added them to my repertoire. 

'The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe' is the original deserted island story. Taking place in the mid 1600s, our protagonist, of English descent, moves to South America to farm and live a life of adventure, against his father's council. His entrepreneurial spirit yields excellent results and he becomes rather wealthy. However, rather than sit still, he decides to invest in the slave trade and sets sail for Africa. Getting caught in a storm, he barely survives shipwreck while his entire crew perishes. 

The tale is a story of survival and a great study of anthropology, as we look into a man's solitary life on a deserted island for over twenty- six years. Of interest is when Crusoe is walking on his island and discovers a footprint. He panics and runs back to his 'castle' and hides out for three days. 

The tome is written in such a different culture and time that it fascinates the reader, as Crusoe never flagellates himself for investing in slavery, yet with our perspective of the industry in the present, we would easily default to that mindset. Earlier in his life, Crusoe traveled by ship as well and was taken slave himself, a foreshadowing of his failure in seafaring ways. Additionally, you would think he would be repulsed at the idea of trafficking in human life. 

The story also depicts Crusoe's spiritual journey, as he manages to retrieve a Bible from the shipwreck. Upon his confession of faith, his perspective improves: “With these reflections I worked my mind up, not only to a resignation to the will of God in the present disposition of my circumstances, but even to a sincere thankfulness for my condition; and that I, who was yet a living man, ought not to complain, seeing I had not the due punishment of my sins; that I enjoyed so many mercies which I had no reason to have expected in that place; that I ought never more to repine at my condition, but to rejoice, and to give daily thanks for that daily bread, which nothing but a crowd of wonders could have brought...”

Reading classic works can be a struggle, as contrary to current work, they can be pedantic and slow. Yet while the book moves slowly (he can spend three pages describing how he protects and cares for his gunpowder), and the story itself depicts a deliberate and quiet life, the reading captures and holds one's interest. Contrary to what current writing teachers preach, the writer consistently tells rather than shows too, apparently not an issue in the seventeenth century. 

A captivating book, the story is similar to the analogy of watching a train wreck; one cannot not look at it. While a methodical train wreck, it nevertheless fascinates the reader.  
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  1. This is so interesting, Kevin, and prompts me to add a classic to my TBR pile. It's been awhile since I opened the pages of one, but I do recall enjoying many of them immensely. I'll have to take a deep breath and be prepared for those lengthy explanations that were so common in these older novels. I think our reading minds are on such a fast track these days, that we want instant reads with little patience for detail. Perhaps it is the modern reader that needs to slow down a bit. Thanks for this review.

  2. There's a reason why "classics" are classics, although occasionally we wonder why now; and most of them wouldn't get published today. But...why are they still talked about and read and discussed? It's good to think about why you're captured by the story and the writing. Thanks!

  3. I enjoy reading the classics. *Showboat* contains such colorful character and setting descriptions--long, but colorful--that it gave me ideas of how to spice up my own descriptions.

  4. Robinson Crusoe is one that I missed in cutting a swath through the eighteenth century. I may catch up with it someday, but right now I'm up to my ears in alligators. I do make a point of reading some classic poetry several times a week. On the subject of slavery: I've learned to judge historical figures and writers in terms of their own times rather than imposing modern standards on them. I hope future generations will judge our times kindly about our culture's acceptance of abortion on demand, a sin far worse than slavery.

  5. Telling is acceptable if the unique voice of the storyteller is engaging enough.

  6. Telling instead of showing can be brilliant if the storyteller's voice is lyrical and unique.

  7. Thanks for sharing a review about a great book from a Christian perspective. That's significant to me.
    And we DO mature as we age:)

  8. Sharon, I would appreciate your infoming my wife about the maturity thing. Somehow she just doesn't get it. Excuse me while I go TP my friend's house.