Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is another classic adventure book that my mom read to me and my siblings when we were young. I remembered this tale as being rather long but interesting and have wanted to re-read it for a while. After watching the Pierce Brosnan Robinson Crusoe (1997) film (more about that later) I had several questions about the original plot so I found this audiobook recording on and listened to it again. I was totally unprepared for the amazing story and testimony included in this story!

Story: Young Robinson Crusoe has a secure future ahead of him until he follows his reckless desire to sail the sea and find adventure abroad. His father's words of doom come true as Robinson meets stormy seas, slavery, wild animals, hardships and eventually is wrecked on a deserted island. How will Robinson Crusoe survive when faced with hunger, sickness, the heat and worst of all...savages?

Author: Born in London, England, Daniel Defoe (circa 1660-1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.

Interesting Bits: Tons! Sailing through storms, escape from slavery, fighting lions, shipwreck, exploring an island, sickness, details of Robinson's efforts to keep himself alive, cannibals, daring rescues, mutiny, wolves and a huge bear. Yeah, this is probably the most well known adventure story of all time!

Spiritual Content: I was pleasantly surprised and blessed by the amazing testimony of Christian faith included in this story, something I had forgot and that gets overlooked often. Robinson Crusoe is the ultimate prodigal son story and at his lowest point Robin has nothing but a Bible to read and turns to God for forgiveness. Robin's time on the island gives him time to read God's Word and learn from it while learning to trust in God to provide for his every need. His story is a wonderful reminder that God gives salvation and forgiveness freely to those who trust in Him but that often there are still consequences for our disobedience. Also how God wants us to spend time reading His Word and rely on Him for our strength. Later in the book the complete Gospel message is told when Robin shares it with Friday and he gets saved! Friday then has a missionary's heart and desires Robin to share this "good news" with his people - sadly they are unable to do so.  This is essentially a story of God's forgiveness and provision - an amazing testimony in the midst of sad events!

My Thoughts: Firstly the character Robinson Crusoe will forever to "Robin" in my mind (not Robinson and not Crusoe) so I hope you don't get too confused by my peppering this post with talking about Robin. :)
After watching the film mentioned below I had serious questions that the original book might also have dodgy morals and a cowardly main character so I felt I should let the book and it's author speak for themselves. How glad I was to be wrong in this instance! Robinson Crusoe contains so many surprises, interesting adventures and wonderful moral messages!
One of the things that totally surprised me was the whole plot and timeline of Robin's life and adventures. Robin is of German decent but living in York, England and is eighteen years old at the time the story begins. The story follows him through almost 10 years of his life before he makes that doomed voyage and is shipwrecked on his island. Likewise Robin lives on his island alone for about 24 years before he even sees signs that natives come there and it's 2 more years before he meets Friday! For being together such a comparatively short period of time Friday is completely devoted to Robin and lives the rest of his life serving Robin as a valet of sorts. It also was surprising that the story follows Robin's life events a few years after he leaves the island - the last chapter strangely detailing how he and Friday travel through the snowy mountains of France on their way to England and the wolves and bears they meet along the way!
It was a pleasant surprise to find that Robin's faith in God is a huge part of book and there's several chapters that talk about the salvation message and how God is continually protecting and providing for Robin in all areas of his life. The chapters that talked about Friday's salvation and his spiritual questions brought tears to my eyes and most of the chapters talking about Robin's faith made me want to shout "Amen!" it's just that good!
Another surprising thing is how detailed the book gets sometimes in describing what sort of things Robin does to provide for himself while on the island and how it describes his inventions and experiments in tool making, pottery, boat building, planting and harvesting, cooking and much more! I remember my mom often saying that just by reading this book a person could know how to survive in the wilderness - and it's so true! If I was ever going to be on a desert island I'd want to take my Bible and Robinson Crusoe!
I highly recommend Robinson Crusoe to anyone who has never read it! It does get a bit dry at times but there's so much of interest that you'll want to keep going to find out if and how Robin gets off his island!
I'm looking forward to listening to The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe very soon - it details the last half of Robin's life and what becomes of his island and of Friday.

Thoughts on Robinson Crusoe (1997) - This film had long been of interest to me so I watched it on Netflix. While it was an interesting film, with only a few minor questionable scenes, it does a poor job at following the original story and in changing several things cuts out the spirit and morals completely. In this film Robinson Crusoe is a Scotsman, falsely accused of murdering a man, who gets shipwrecked when he is fleeing the law by boat. The film shows little of Robinson's ingenuity in planting and making things to live on and instead skips fairly quickly to meeting up with Friday. The whole Robinson/Friday friendship is used to present messages of tolerance of religious beliefs (Robinson eventually gives up trying to convert Friday to Christianity) and anti-slavery (Friday becomes mad at Robinson when he discovers he's been calling Robinson "Master" just like a slave would). Also the film ends tragically with the pair going to Friday's village where they are made to fight each other and Friday is killed by a foolish Dutchman. Although this film uses the same names it does NOT resemble the story written by Daniel Defoe, it is just 105 mins of PG-13 rated fluff. Read the book! 

Interesting Quotes: There are so many but I wanted to share a few with you here!

“How mercifully can our Creator treat His creatures, even in those conditions in which they seemed to be overwhelmed in destruction! How can He sweeten the bitterest providences, and give us cause to praise Him for dungeons and prisons! What a table was here spread for me in a wilderness where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger!” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“Call upon me in the Day of Trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify me...Wait on the Lord, and be of good Cheer, and he shall strengthen thy Heart; wait, I say, on the Lord:' It is impossible to express the Comfort this gave me. In Answer, I thankfully laid down the Book, and was no more sad, at least, not on that Occasion.” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“How strange a Chequer Work of Providence is the Life of Man! and by what secret differing Springs are the Affections hurry'd about as differing Circumstances present! To Day we love what to Morrow we hate; to Day we seek what to Morrow we shun; to Day we desire what to Morrow we fear; nay even tremble at the Apprehensions of;” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe 

“These reflections made me very sensible of the goodness of Providence to me, and very thankful for my present condition, with all its hardships and misfortunes ; and this part also I cannot but recommend to the reflection of those who are apt, in their misery, to say, Is any affliction like mine? Let them consider how much worse the cases of some people are, and their case might have been, if Providence had thought fit.” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true Sense of things, they will find Deliverance from Sin a much greater Blessing than Deliverance from Affliction.” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“This grieved me heartily ; and now I saw, though too late, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it.” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted : and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them ; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that he has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.” ― Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe


Have you read Robinson Crusoe?

Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?

Have you watched any film adaptations (or interpretations) of Robinson Crusoe?


JaneGS said...

This is a classic that I've not read and it hasn't really been on my radar to read, but your review really intrigued me and so I'm adding it to the list.

It is one of those books, like Pilgrim's Progress, that I think shaped and influenced generations in that it was a powerful story and often one of only a handful that many people had access to.

I enjoyed your review and the comparison of movie to book. I always feel it's a shame when filmmakers hijack names and titles and basically throw out the meat of the story.

Collar City Brownstone said...

I thought that I read Robinson Crusoe when I was in high school, but from your review it doesn't feel like a familiar story to me. I will make it a point to read this book. I have not seen any movies based on the book.

I enjoyed reading your review.

Elisa said...

There was one version made in 1954 and nominated for an Oscar.
Disney has a light hearted version titled "Lt. Robin Crusoe" (1966) with Dick Van Dyke in the lead role.

Rachel Danielle said...

I love the in depth review-- I've heard of Robinsin Crusoe in passing but never was told it had such nice faith elements, or that it was so exciting. I've honestly never read the book or seen a film adaption-- so now I'll be looking into it! Thanks!

Hamlette said...

I've read RC two or three times -- I recall that in one of the first chapters, there's one sentence that goes on for more than a page, lol. But I haven't read it in years, so maybe I'll dust it off one of these days.

I know I've seen the Pierce Brosnan adaptation, but it was long ago. I just recall that it was not at all what I was hoping for :-(

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