Aided by the hundreds of movies and theatre productions that the book spurned, Crusoe is a household name. Credited with being the first “real fiction” book, this fictional autobiography tells the tale of a young man who found himself shipwrecked on a remote island for 28 years.
The story is said to be based on the dramatic life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived alone for four years on a Pacific island. With a recent trend in reality TV shows based on survival and being “castaway”, everybody has ideas on how they would cope alone in the wild. So, why read this novel if we think we know best?
The truth is, Defoes portrayal of the trials and tribulations of Crusoe give raw insight into the reality and loneliness of having no companionship and no hope. Described by Samuel T. Coleridge as “The Universal Man”, there is certainly lots to admire, whether you like the character or not.
Many imitations have been written over the years but nothing grabs the reader quite as much as Defoes tales of solitude and desperation.
The book has a simple narrative and at times is overly descriptive but is always engaging. Adventure fans will love the jam packed action, where we see Crusoe taming animals, hunting, venturing into cannibalism plus the odd pirate or two.
The modern reader is likely to struggle with some of the moral issues that the book brings to the surface, with dubious views on slavery and strong religious overtones but don't let this put you off. The book is a classic for a reason, it provokes deep emotion whether that be negative or positive.