Books

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson CrusoeTitle:  Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: 2009 (1719)
Genre: Classics / Adventure Fiction
Summary: ‘I made him know his Name should be Friday, which was the Day I sav’d his Life…I likewise taught him to say Master’. Robinson Crusoe’s seafaring adventures are abruptly ended when he is shipwrecked, the solitary survivor on a deserted island. He gradually creates a life for himself, building a house, cultivating the land, and making a companion from the native whose life he saves.


I enjoyed Robinson Crusoe much more than I expected to. I did read it about five years ago but I couldn’t remember anything about it which is why I wanted to re-read it for the Classics Club challenge.

Robinson Crusoe is a story of one man’s survival in solitude but it also includes pirates, shipwrecks, cannibals, mutiny, and much more. It’s a very rich tale which examines isolation, loneliness and the will to survive. Crusoe, as a narrator, is a bit annoying at times but I do sympathise with him somewhat. I, too, would have ‘fled […] like one pursued’ if I saw a footprint in the sand, that wasn’t my own, after being stranded alone on an island after 20-odd years.

This particular edition of Robinson Crusoe isn’t split into chapters which means that the narrative is continuous which is something I really enjoyed but it can be difficult to find an appropriate place to stop reading if you need to. The continuous narrative almost invites you to read the story in one sitting. There are journal excerpts scattered throughout the novel which do bring some much-needed variety into the narrative. Occasionally, the narrative was repetitive, especially before Crusoe meets other people on the island, but he’s stranded on an island for a long time so that’s to be expected if Defoe was trying to be realistic.

Defoe’s writing is very clever, full of intricate detail at the beginning when Crusoe is fascinated with his new surroundings (and has ink to spare) but deteriorating when the novelty factor wears off (and the ink runs out). It does feel very similar to reading seventeenth-century travelogues, which was Defoe’s intention, but it’s definitely a piece of adventure fiction as Defoe skillfully amps up the tension and action towards the end of the book. I really enjoyed reading it.

Defoe’s book was written in the 17th century and, therefore, cannot be judged by 21st-century values but I know some people find it truly offensive. I have read enough 17th-century literature, especially travel narratives from the era, to know what to expect when reading a book like this. This was not as bad as some of those travel narratives, believe me. I think you can both appreciate aspects of this book and acknowledge that it is archaic in its depiction of race and religion.

Read as part of the Classics Spin #21 and the Classics Club Challenge. This post does not contain affiliate links.


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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

  1. I was expectant to know your opinion on this beloved title I’ve read out loud twice to my family. We love it. As you say, we are gracious with the limitations, we understand that time played a part on the views of race and religion, but we are very glad for how generous this book is in many regards. A first, I dare say, in its genre and the perfect mix of action and ruminations.

    We also read the one without chapter breaks, but the homeschool curriculum I used had it broken into 18 or 24 weeks, and we savored it until the last pages, which we had to devour in one setting to know the fate of this remarkable man. The quality of the language, how it ties with what it’s happening to him, etc., the ingenuity of it all. Guys, this is before Google! It’s a cherished title, a solid classic I’m glad people keep reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! It’s nice to know how others have read and reacted to a book like this. It took me a couple of days to read it because I was reading on my daily commute but I could easily have devoured it in one sitting if I had the time.

      It’s an incredibly interesting and intricate book. Defoe was a very clever writer and he mimics travelogues very well. It felt like I was reading an actual travel journal from the time, which is what Defoe intended, and there’s a lot to appreciate about this book!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As familiar as I should be with this book, I don’t think I have ever read it, except perhaps in a Children’s Illustrated version when I was young. Not sure I could tackle it now at this stage of my life. Here is my SPIN book review: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

    Liked by 1 person

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