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- Publisher: Quercus Publishing
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 132mm x 198mm x 16mm | 156g
- Publication date: 28 March 2013
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1782060316
- ISBN 13: 9781782060314
- Sales rank: 86,671
Alexander Selkirk was marooned on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez in 1704 after a row with the captain of his ship. He had been on a treasure seeking adventure to the South Seas. His abandonment meant he was alone for four years and four months, dependent for survival on what the island offered. When rescued he was clad in goat skins and had forgotten how to speak. His story inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, the first English novel. In this startlingly original book, which is as much a biography of the island as the man, award-winning author Diana Souhami draws on contemporary memoirs, letters and documents, as well as her own experience of the island to evoke one man's struggle with solitude, fate and his environment.
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Diana Souhami is the author of The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and winner of the US Lambda Literary Award), the bestselling Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (also winner of the Lambda Literary Award and a New York Times 'Notable Book of the Year'). Her latest book is Murder at Wrotham Hill. She lives in London and Devon.
By Adrian just 05 Sep 2013
Unfortunately this book does not read as it is described. It does not necessarily concentrate on the island and its place in shaping the story and in fact I make out only 33 pages at best dedicated to Selkirk on the island, out of a book of 199 pages of actual text. Most of the book surrounds the story of Selkirk on the island ie the before and after, but when it comes to 'selkirks island' as the book is named and described,it is actually rather thin. What's more the origins of the Selkirk story are referenced throughout many texts dealing with sea voyages of the era, many with interesting anecdotes and inferences. Fair enough since the famous 'Robinson crusoe' ( not the full and original title by Defoe) was only based upon Selkirk and not actually about his travails, but they do not need to harp on and on about selkirks supposed intimacy with goats to make an interesting story. The book 'Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the creation of a Myth' by Katherine frank is a far more compelling and well researched and targeted story of the origins of crusoe and his island. Likewise, since the book deals so disparagingly with captain Dampier for effect, a more accurate telling of this part of the story might be sought by reading Diana and Michael Preston's 'A pirate of exquisite mind, the life of William Dampier'. Finally if one is seeking the truly swashbuckling origins of a classic sea tale ie The just as famous Moby Dick, look for 'in the heart of the sea, the true story that inspired Moby dick' by Nathaniel Philbrick. I would not recommend Souhamis Selkirk island, except for the follow on parts about what actually happened to Selkirk after he returned to England, but this is just the last few chapters. I may have been more convinced if the book had been described as 'the life of Selkirk'.
'A book that is as hypnotic and compelling as the island that forms its real subject. A great adventure story, a great read and a real advance for the art of biography' Whitbread Judging Panel. 'Masterly. Souhami's excellent book should be read for its insight into a vanished world' Beryl Bainbridge, New Statesman. 'Souhami skilfully conjures the whiff of raki in strange ports, the comfort of nameless women and the pain of scurvy-swollen gums, opening a window onto the perilous life of the eighteenth-century privateer' Literary Review. 'A delight from the moment the reader opens it' Christina Hardyment, Independent.
Table of contents
A Personal Note. The Island. The Journey. The Arrival. The Rescue. London Scribblers. Home. The Island. Endnotes. Acknowledgements. Index.