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Exciting storyline and excellent narration really brings this book to life. I could listen to Simon Vance read the phone book. :)
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Robinson Crusoe is a great story, but it has some cringe-able moments. The big one, the one I didn't remember from high school, was the purpose of Crusoe's voyage when he was shipwrecked on the island: he was the supercargo on a slave ship, intending to buy "slaves for trinkets" on the west coast of Africa, some of them destined for his own slave plantation in Brazil. It would be nice to report that by the end of the book, after his association with Friday, he came to realize the trade was evil, but such is not the case.
The first word he teaches Friday is the name he decided to call him by - the day of the week on which he rescued Friday from cannibals. (He never bothers trying to learn Friday's original name in his own language.) The second word he teaches him is the name by which he wants to be addressed: Master.
This bothered me enough that I spent some time looking up the history of abolitionism in England. Apparently it didn't really take off until another generation or two after the book was written (in 1719). So Defoe doesn't quite get a free pass in my book for this, but at least it can be argued that he was simply not ahead of his time on this issue.
Still, it's a great story, and well worth listening to. Crusoe pieces together a life of reasonable comfort, using flotsam from the wreck that stranded him on the island, and a bit of ingenuity. He keeps track of time by cutting notches in a post. He discovers living seeds among the trash he brought back, and by careful experimenting over several years, he is able to raise a respectable crop of wheat. He comes to a kind of accommodation with the cannibals who periodically visit the island: he realizes that he has no right to kill them just because he abhors their way of life.
But eventually he does kill a few and rescue one of their fellow cannibals, who was about to become a meal himself. This young man he names Friday. As Friday learns English and they begin having more substantial conversations, Crusoe tries to teach him Christianity. (I have to admit that I found Friday's questions and objections more persuasive than Crusoe's answers.) Eventually they are rescued and leave the island.
A major loose end in the plot concerns Friday's father and a small group of Spanish soldiers, whom Friday and Crusoe rescue from yet another band of cannibals. They return to the island they came from, where a larger group of Spaniards resides, to bring them news of Crusoe and the greater safety to be had on his island. But Crusoe returns to England before they get back. (This loose end is tied up neatly in the sequel, the Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.)
There are many excellent audio versions of this story available. The one by John Lee is also recommended. (It uses a different set of chapter breaks than this one: apparently Defoe published the story without breaks, and chapters have been added in different forms by later editors.) Simon Vance's version has a slight edge, in my opinion, because his Crusoe has a Yorkshire twang: Crusoe is, after all, a Yorkshireman. (My "expertise" in this comes from many years of watching Sean Bean and listening to Richard Sharpe audiobooks.) Vance, as always, gives a well-modulated, evenly-paced performance.
36 of 44 people found this review helpful
A interesting book which, theiving from Wikipedia, can be summed up by novelist James Joyce, who noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: "He is the true prototype of the British colonist. ? The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity". I would add to that a man with a twisted and egotistical view of religion and a hypocrite, even by the standards of when the book was written (1719). Good book though, a bit slow in places and well read.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed listening to this book, but think I benefitted from listening first. I think reading through the book may have been harder work. Most is monologe (of course, if deserted by oneself on an island) and occasionally dragged. However if you have already read and love the book, you will not be disappointed with this audio version. The narration is very good. I was surprised by some phrases and idealogies, but then it was written a very long time ago, when the status of women, black people, and 'savages' was considerably different, and considered acceptable and normal.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful