Waverley

Waverley, Sir Walter Scott, 1814

Waverley Sir Walter Scott

Waverley is an odd novel that kind of captured my heart.  Sir Walter Scott was a prominent Scottish poet before he published his first novel anonymously.   It was immediately crazy popular.  Waverley is often called the first historical novel, which I guess it might be, if you choose to ignore Gothic novels.  I suppose you could argue that Gothic novels are their own genre and Waverley launched the historic novel genre.  It certainly is not the first novel with a historical setting.

Scott set his first novel during the Jacobite Revolution.  Briefly, in 1688 England deposed King James II in favor of the much less Catholic King William of Orange.  As you can imagine, not everyone in Great Britain was on board with this decision.  The Scots mostly remained loyal to King James as he was part of the Scottish Stuart dynasty.  In 1745, James II’s grandson, who went by the adorable name Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland and made an ill-fated attempt to take back the throne.  Waverley is set during this exciting time.

The main character is Edward Waverley and he is the silliest main character I have encountered so far.  I have so many problems with his personality, but I am smiling while I think about them.  His silliness doesn’t ruin the novel for me; it just makes me laugh.  Edward is a naïve, young English nobleman who joins the King’s army and sets off to Scotland to fight the Jacobites.  The Jacobites were loyal to the House of Stuart.  Apparently, if you were a nobleman in the army at this time, you could just take off whenever you wanted and go visit your noble friends.  Who knew?  Edward goes to visit his uncle’s dear friend the Baron Bradwardine, a Jacobite.  Baron Bradwardine.  Such a great name.

While visiting the honorable Baron, Edward learns about his arrangement with a certain Highland chief.  Get ready for the best name of any literary character ever.  Are you ready?  Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr.  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  Oh, I love him.  I love Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr so much.  He is the chief of Clan Ivor.  As Edward learns, Scottish chieftains were basically mafia bosses.  Baron Bradwardine paid Fergus Mac Ivor a fee for protection from other chieftains.  Basically, if Bradwardine pays up, Mac Ivor wont steal his cows.  If another chieftain steals Bradwardine’s cows, Mac Ivor will fight them and get the cows back or he will go steal cows from one of his enemies and give them to Bradwardine.  When Edward hears about this he thinks exactly what you are thinking right now: “That’s awesome!  I want to go visit this awesome guy.”  So, he sets out into the rugged highlands to pay a visit to the local chiefs.  That is the best idea that Edward has in the course of the book, and the only decision he makes for himself.  Everything else that happens is someone else’s idea.

Edward is quite passive, like a female character from this era of literature.  Also like a female, he constantly needs assistance from men.  Every time he tries something manly, he gets injured or sick and has to be rescued and nursed.  At one point he gets a nasty letter which “filled him with such bitter emotions, that after various attempts to conceal them, he at length threw himself into Mac-Ivor’s arms, and gave vent to tears of shame and indignation.”  Adorable, right?  I would like to fling myself into Mac Ivor’s arms, cuz that guy is manly and effective.  The only emotions he gives vent to are pride and loyalty.  Like a man.  (Ok, I know, reinforcing the gender binary.  Sorry.  Whatever.)

The bromance between Fergus and Edward can only be attributed to opposites attracting.  Fergus is a man of conviction.  He believes in the restoration of the Stuart monarchs SO HARD.  I started to believe in his cause too, that’s how powerful Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr’s convictions are.  Edward, on the other hand, is a freaking turncoat.  Really!  No foolin.  He joins the English army, cuz, whatever, he didn’t have anything better to do.  Then he changes sides, but not because he believes in Mac Ivor’s cause.  He joins the opposing army, because his original army is mean to him.  I am not kidding.  Also, they kind of kick him out.  Then when he is fighting with the highlanders he gets all upset when they try to kill British noblemen (you know, because it doesn’t matter if you kill a commoner, but it’s just a terrible shame to spill blue blood) and tries to save them.  Make up your mind, Edward Waverley!  This may be a result of indoctrination during American history classes, but there is something in me that hates a turncoat.

Anyway, Sir Walter Scott’s style is dense and often dull.  He includes many obscure references that only a highly educated British reader from the early 1800s would get.  Also, he makes the fatal flaw of writing a boring character.  Baron Bradwardine is notorious for telling long, boring stories.  Walter Scott includes many examples of those long, boring stories in Waverley.  I don’t think I need to explain to you why that’s not a good thing to do as a novelist.  Honestly, the book is pretty boring overall and the characters have incomprehensible motivations.  Waverley is basically unmotivated.  I can’t relate to Mac Ivor’s royalism.  It’s completely out of my realm of understanding to want to give up your life to make another man king of somewhere.  Just don’t get it. I do admire Mac Ivor though.   I did enjoy the book, mostly because of the incredibly romantic setting.  I got super excited about the highland Scots.  They have a loyalty to each other that I do understand.

Despite its faults, I actually enjoyed reading Waverley quite a bit.  Scott hides a unique sense of humor within all those extra words he uses.  I got swept away by his romanticized vision of 18th century Scotland.  His descriptions of Clan Mac Ivor in their cave hideout are so vivid that I could smell the damp wool of their kilts.  I never liked the main character even a little, but I fell head over heels for Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr.  Heeheehee.  Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr.  Delightful.

You might like Waverley if:

  • you went to St. John’s College or some other Great Books school and are trying to get your money’s worth out of your education by reading literature that references all those great books.
  • you yearn for tales of old Scotland so fervently that you don’t mind slogging through some incredibly dense prose.

You might not like Waverley if:

  • you have a low tolerance for pretentious literary references. 

 

Final Thoughts: Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr!  That is all.

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

Originally, I wasn’t going to reread anything for this project.  However, now it would seem strange to skip over major works of literature in my chronological journey through the canon.  So, I am adding books to the list that I have already read, but I forgot to add Pride and Prejudice until after I read Emma and Mansfield Park.  Hence, my Austen chronology has gotten mixed up and my opinion of Austen got mixed up with it.

Here’s a summary of how I felt as I read the first 4 of 6 Austen novels on my list:

Before: Ugh, so much Austen.

During Sense and Sensibilty: Ugh.  Yuck.  Blergh.

During Mansfield Park: Yawn.  Why does anybody read this stuff?

During Emma: Ok, Austen, I’m not too mad.  Emma is kind of a worthless B, though.

During Pride and Prejudice: OMG, Darcy and Lizzy’s love is more important to me than my own life!  They are the best lovers in literature.  Yay, Austen!


Pride and Prejudice Cosplay

There’s a good reason for P&P being Austen’s most well-read and well-regarded novel.  It is largely absent of the flaws common to her other works.  As I see it, those flaws include excessive length, thoroughly boring characters and conversations, scanty plot and weak characterization.  Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park are the worst offenders.  Pride and Prejudice, however, doesn’t have these problems.  Despite the maxim that authors should show rather than tell, when characters are having a dull conversation, it’s often better for the author to summarize.  In Mansfield Park Austen dedicates 10 pages to a pointless conversation about shrubbery just to show the reader that a certain character is profoundly boring.  In P&P she mercifully tells us that Sir William Lucas and his daughter “had nothing to say that could be worth hearing” and moves on with the story.  That summary made me so happy.  Writer win!

I have probably read this book five times now and each time I find myself more emotionally invested in the lives of the characters.  I wonder how much this has to do with the merit of the book versus the cultural cache these characters have.  Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy transcend their novel of origin.  Am I invested in their love story because I like this book or because I like the BBC miniseries or the film starring Kiera Knightley or because I’m pretty much obsessed with Bridget Jones’s Diary?  Any way you slice it, I really care about their love.  They provide the archetype of the lovers who initially misunderstand and dislike each other, are thrown together by circumstance and grow to have a deep respect and horniness for each other.  By my estimation, 98% of RomComs and romance novels make use of this archetype.  I guess we’re all hoping that the people who dislike us just don’t “get” us and with more time and experience will see how deeply wonderful we are and propose, like, nine times.  Especially if the people that don’t like us happen to be rich and handsome.  The minor characters in Pride and Prejudice are more vivid than in other Austen novels.  The sarcastic, lackadaisical father, the frivolous, inappropriate mother and sisters, and the sycophantic Mr. Collins are literary archetypes in their own right.

The love stories in earlier novels go one of two ways: 1: “Hi, nice to meet you.  You’re hot.  I’m hot.  Our parents are ok with it.  Let’s get married.  I’ll send for the pastor in the morning.” Or 2: “Hey, dummy, let’s elope.”  I think Pride and Prejudice resonates with modern readers, because we want lovers to get to know each other.  We like to see marriages founded on affection.  We want characters to have some experiences together before they tie the knot.  Elizabeth and Darcy do this and it helps the reader feel invested in their romance.

I didn’t like Pride and Prejudice when I read it as a teenager.  Elizabeth Bennet has grit, but you need a decent understanding of the social norms of the early 19th century British aristocracy to appreciate her particular spunkiness.  In the context of earlier novels and when compared to Austen’s other heroines Lizzy is a breath of fresh air that provided me a much needed reprieve from the swooning, confused, inactive ladies of early English literature.  Many people romanticize this era in literature, but in the past I have found it difficult to relate to the concerns and sentiments of Austen’s characters.  With more life experience relating to Austen gets easier.  I have actually spurned a lover for being ill-bred.

You might not like Pride and Prejudice if:

  • Eh hem.  If there’s one thing I’ve come to terms with as an appreciator of English literature, it’s that not liking Pride and Prejudice is not an option.  You will read it and you will like it!  If you find yourself not liking it, revise your thinking.  We, the literati, have decided that there is nothing wrong with this book.  If you don’t like it, there’s something wrong with you.  Bad wrong.
Pride and Prejudice Cosplay

This photoshoot gave me the chance to tell Simone to “Clasp me to your bosom!”

Quote:

“‘I am astonished, my dear,’ said Mrs. Bennet, ‘That you should be so ready to think your own children silly.  If I wished to think slightingly of any body’s children, it should not be of my own however.’”

You might like Pride and Prejudice if:

  • Wait, you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice yet?  That’s crazy.  Borrow a copy from a friend.  Pretty much everyone owns this book.  (My home seems to spawn copies of P+P.  Every time I purge my bookshelf I get rid of two extra copies.)  It’s a quick and delightful read that displays Austen’s unique wit at its best.  Read it now so you can read it again two more times.  It just gets better.

Queen Mab

Queen Mab

Queen Mab, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1813

Queen Mab is Shelley’s first long poem.  Based on the title I was hoping for a mystical, Arthurian tale about a Fairy Queen.  No such luck.  The Mab of this poem is more of a philosopher than a ruler.  The poem contains neither knights nor dragons, but is chock full of vitriol.  Shelley’s Mab is a dusky, ethereal, nebulous, purple beauty who appears riding a chariot through the dawn sky.  She spies just the prettiest, sweetest blonde mortal you can imagine, innocently sleeping.  Based on how lovely and sinless she looks in her slumber, Mab decides to separate the maiden’s unspoiled soul  from her exquisite form so she can take her into outer space and impart some knowledge on her.

Please forgive me, I have neither the inclination nor the aptitude to excel at philosophy.  So, my summary of this poem may lack clarity and intellectual rigor.  Anyway, Queen Mab uses her magic viewy-thing to show all of. . .human history, I guess, to the disembodied Spirit.  Cuz her job now, as the disembodied Spirit of a virtuous maiden, is to know about all of human history; past, present and future.  I’m not sure why.  Anyway, Shelley’s summary of human history is quite misanthropic.  Three strongly held opinions emerge: tyrants are bad, nature is good, religion is evil and the cause of all suffering.  Unlike most poets before the Modern Era, Shelley wears his atheism loud and proud.  Good for him, I say.  Freedom of religion should include freedom to not have religion.

This poem is bit of a jumbled mess.  It left me wondering “What?  Why?  I mean, sure, I guess.”  However, Percy Bysshe Shelley sure does know his way around imagery.  Listen to this amazing thing he wrote about lizard love:

“Those deserts of immeasurable sand,

Whose age-collected fervours scarce allowed

A bird to live, a blade of grass to spring,

Where the shrill chirp of the green lizard’s love

Broke on the sultry silentness alone”

Aw, lizard love calls!  Aw.  Shucks.

You might like Queen Mab if:

  • you are looking for corroboration of your misanthropic, atheist world view.

You may not like Queen Mab if:

  • you like epic stories in your Romantic poetry.

Final thoughts: I’m hoping the other long Shelley poems on the list will have more plot to them.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

I have a lot of thoughts about Austen. I won’t lay them all on you today.  I put all five of her novels on the list, so we will get to them over the next few weeks.  I will say that Sense and Sensibility is a brilliant title.  It keys the reader in to the central concept of the novel, the contrast between the two sisters’ reactions to heartbreak, hardship and injured pride.  Elinor’s measured, restrained, self-denying response highlights the selfishness of Marianne’s effusions of grief, wallowing and lack of concern for the effect her emotions have on those around her.

I do appreciate the point that Austen illustrates about being over-emotional or perhaps excessively restrained and I appreciate the way that she makes it.  I think she presents a valuable observation about human nature.  However, I must be missing something when it comes to Jane Austen overall.  I find her a bit dull and considerably spiteful.  I know that other readers love the sharp-witted barbs she slings at her characters.  That’s perfectly valid, but I get weary of her constant enumerations of the character flaws of aristocrats.  Yes, there are people in this world who are frivolous or mean-spirited or unintelligent, but surely Austen knew some admirable people.  Right?  This really boils down to a matter of taste.  Some readers will delight in what I see as tiresome cattiness.

Like all Austen novels the main concern in Sense and Sensibility is who everyone will marry.  Frankly, I don’t really care who they marry.  Recently, I was complaining about this to my best friend who said “but, you were the one who explained to me why that’s so important.”  What did I explain? Deciding who to marry was the only chance a woman had to determine the course of her own life.  Women had few means of accumulating wealth.  So, “making a good match” was their one chance to improve their circumstances; something women can now do throughout their adult lives without getting accused of being mercenary or callous too often.  I think I may have made this point in reference to “Middlemarch” in which George Eliot clearly delineates the causes and consequences of deciding who to marry.  She shows how ill-equipped Dorothea and Rosamund are to make this decision; how ill-suited they are to get along with the husbands that they choose.  Austen does not do this.  The reason I don’t feel invested in the Dashwood’s marital prospects is not that I don’t think marriage is an interesting topic for a book.  I don’t care who they end up with, because the gentlemen in question lack dimension.  I guess I want Elinor to marry Edward, but only because she seems to want to.  I can’t remember a single thing he says from the entire book, but I distinctly remember that he doesn’t do anything until he proposes to Elinor.  Not one thing.  Sorry, Austen fans, but that’s terrible.  She spent so much time establishing exactly how nasty and self-interested Lucy Steele is in her attempts to impede  Elinor’s marriage to Edward, that she failed (yes, FAILED) to give us a reason to root for said marriage.  This is supposed to be a canonically awesome item of literature.  In the 1995 Ang Lee movie they had to add scenes and plot elements to Edward’s character (remember the bit where he sends the atlas to the little sister?), because not even the irrepressibly charming Hugh Grant can make something out of nothing.

That’s enough anti-Austen rhetoric for now.  Next up, Sydney vs. Mansfield Park.  For the record, I do mostly respect Jane Austen as an author.  I just don’t enjoy her as much as everyone else in the world seems to.  Sense and Sensibility with all its imperfections is not a bad first novel and Austen’s later novels improve a bit in some areas.  She gets a bit better about showing rather than telling, for example.  A bit.

Oh wait, one more thing.  SPOILER, BY THE WAY, IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT DON’T SCROLL PAST THE PICTURE. 

Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

I am completely not ok with the way Austen disposes of Marianne.  She marries Colonel Brandon because her family wants her to and she feels bad about wearing on their nerves during her long mope over Willoughby?  She grows to love him eventually?  You’ve got to be kidding!  I mean here’s Austen’s explanation of why they wish for a marriage between Marianne and the Colonel:

Precious as was the company of her daughter to her, she desired nothing so much as to give it up to her valued friend; and to see Marianne settled at the mansion-house was equally the wish of Edward in Elinor.  They each felt his sorrows, and their own obligations, and Marianne, by general consent, was to be the reward of all. 

Really?  Really?  Colonel Brandon has been through so much, we should do something nice for him, like, I don’t know, give him our daughter as a prize.  Literally, a consolation prize.   You may want to make the claim that Austen is being ironic and mocking her characters.   However, Colonel Brandon and Marianne end up super happy together and in love, which is how Austen rewards the good decisions of the characters she herself has deemed deserving.  Blerf.

You may like Sense and Sensibility if:

  • you like Jane Austen, generally.

You may not like Sense and Sensibility if:

  • you need action in your novels.  I know some readers like characters to do more than loll about wondering who to marry. 

Final thoughts: I have no final thoughts.  My thoughts on Austen are to be continued. 

 

The Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake, Sir Walter Scott, 1810

The Lady of the Lake is an epic poem set in medieval Scotland.  Surprisingly, the title is probably not a reference to Arthurian myth.  When I got to this poem on the list, I really thought I was going to have to jump in a lake in the middle of February and hold up a sword.  I would have done it too, but fortunately the titular Lady simply lives near, not in, a lake.

I had a hard time following the plot of this poem, but I’ll do my best to lay out the scenario for you.  A knight is out hunting and gets lost in the mystical Scottish wilderness.  He sees a beautiful maiden (he can tell she’s a maiden, because Scottish maidens at this time braided ribbons into their hair to indicate that they were unwed and. . .unspoilt) paddling a little boat on a lake.  She is wary of him at first, but noble ladies do not allow noble men to go without food and shelter, so she invites him back to her abode.  Don’t worry, there’s an old bard and some other servants there too.

What follows is not so much a love triangle, but a love square with three men competing for the hand of our maiden.  Oh, and hidden identities.  The knight is King James V.  The maiden is Ellen Douglas, the daughter of his former friend and advisor turned enemy.  Roderick Dhu, a bloodthirsty highland chief who has been helping Ellen’s fugitive father, thinks he’s earned her hand in marriage.  However, Ellen only has eyes for Malcolm Graeme, a lithe young whippersnapper in Roderick Dhu’s retinue.

In my opinion, Scott does a poor job of introducing characters.  By the end of the poem, I had a solid grasp of the temperaments of all our main guys and gals, but it was difficult to understand who was who in the beginning.  “The Lady of the Lake” is not my favorite epic poem, but it does have some highlights.  There is an exciting battle scene involving boats sneaking up on a dear little island.  Canto IV describes a very spooky Druidic sacrifice committed by Roderick Dhu’s priest.  That canto is a strong and entertaining bit of poetry worth reading on its own.

Here’s a quote of Ellen Douglas sarcastically explaining why she does not admire Roderick Dhu:

I grant him liberal to bring,

When back by lake and glen they wind

And as in the Lowland leave behind,

Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,

A mass of ashes slaked with blood.

 

You might like this poem if:

  • you are one of those Scots who is obsessed with romanticized Scotland of yore.

You might not like this poem if:

  • following narratives in poetic form is difficult for you.

 

Final thoughts: “The Lady of the Lake” is not the greatest poem in the English language, but it’s an enjoyable romantic vision of medieval Scotland.

The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeImage

Notable for being:

  • a genre starter.
  • one of the first novels in English.
  • appallingly racist and colonial.
  • continually in print since it was first published in 1719.

Yeah, that’s right, I made it to 27 without reading Robinson Crusoe.  Generally, I’m not drawn to novels with no female characters.  Despite its fame, I didn’t know much about this book going in.  I didn’t know that Crusoe is marooned more than once and I was shocked by the boldly racist and colonial attitudes portrayed in the novel.  It’s as if Defoe is so certain of the superiority of British nobility that he thinks natives of other countries are just sitting around hoping that a glorious white nobleman will show up so they can serve him forever.  Who doesn’t dream of a life of servitude?

First the rudiments of the plot, Crusoe starts out as a headstrong youth, determined to go to sea despite the tearful pleas of his father who begs him not to forsake his easy middleclass setup in England.  Regardless, he sets sail on a ship that gets attacked and captured by a “Turkish rover of Sallee.”  Crusoe’s captors sell him into slavery.  He contrives to escape and takes a Moorish boy, Xury, with him as he can’t sail his escape vessel all by himself.  Xury is a charming companion who helps Crusoe remain safe and fed until a Portuguese ship picks them up.  Crusoe then sells Xury to the Portuguese captain!  He feels conflicted, “not that I was not willing to let the captain have him, but I was very loath to sell my poor boy’s liberty, who had assisted me so faithfully in procuring my own,” but the captain offers to “set him free in ten years, if he turned Christian.  Upon this, and Xury saying he was willing to go to him, I let the captain have him.”  Ugh.  I don’t feel that I even need to go into how horrible that is.

Crusoe ends up in Brasil, where he starts a plantation.  He has a nice thing going for him, but feels that seafaring itch again and, seeking cheap labor, sets off for Africa to capture some slaves.  That’s right folks, the ship that wrecked and marooned Robinson Crusoe was a slave ship.  I didn’t know that.  Seems like a significant detail that should get more attention, huh?  They certainly changed it for the Pierce Brosnan movie.   So, the slave ship wrecks and Crusoe is the only survivor. He lives on that island for 28 years.  No joke.

The meat of the narrative consists of detailed description of our leading man’s efforts to build and fortify his shelters; hunt, gather and eventually farm.  We also, of course, get frequent updates on his emotional state featuring plenty of fear, loneliness, paranoia, pride in his ability to provide for himself, newfound religious faith, acceptance, contentment and gratitude.  A bumpy ride that leads to some wise-sounding philosophical ruminations on the value of having everything you could want and no possibility of gaining anything further.  Crusoe decides it’s desire and reaching for more than you have or need that lead to evil.  Pause and ruminate on Capitalism if you wish.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Crusoe lives in solitude for many years before Friday arrives.  For the sake of those who haven’t read it, I won’t relate the most exciting event in the story.  I’ll just say that Crusoe saves Friday from very imminent danger and let Crusoe tell you the rest: “At length he came close to me, and then he kneeled down again, kissed the ground, and laid his head upon the ground, and taking me by the foot, set my foot upon his head.  This, it seems, was in token of swearing to be my slave forever.”  Come on, Friday, there are two people on this island, there is no need to give up the power struggle so quickly or so thoroughly.  Yes, Crusoe saved Friday’s life and has scary guns, but seriously, he did not need to do that.  I guess the idea of a white man and a “savage” being friends, companions and—God forbid—equals would never have occurred to Defoe.  However, it seems to me that companionship is exactly what Crusoe would be wanting at this moment.  Also, I would think that the complete subjugation of another person is only possible when you have the muscle to reinforce it, which comes not only through superior arms, but by having a social system in place that supports the subjugators.  I find it inconceivable for two entirely isolated people to live as master and slave.  However, the way Defoe writes it, Friday immediately begins laboring to ensure their mutual safety while Crusoe sits back and watches.  Ugh.

Defoe does try to make Friday out to be a lovable savage.  He is energetic, athletic and friendly.  Not to mention “the colour of his skin was not quite black, but very tawny, and yet not of an ugly yellow nauseous tawny, as the Brasilians and Virginians, and other natives of America are, but of a bright kind of dun olive colour, that had in it something very agreeable, though not very easy to describe.”  Apparently, the skin color of Native Americans makes Robinson Crusoe feel like he is going to barf.  Do you kind of wish he had died slowly of malaria?  He converts Friday to Christianity, but mentions that even though he had not the advantage of a Bible, he was way better at Christianity than any of Crusoe’s English buddies.   In other words, he was already a good person without Christianity while many Christians were not such compassionate people.  I have to admit, I skipped approximately three pages of Crusoe converting Friday, because the concept of converting the heathen makes my skin crawl.

Now I have gone on too long about Robinson Crusoe.  I have much more to say about Daniel Defoe and his style and contribution to literature, but I’ll leave that for the next post on Journal of the Plague Year.

You might like this book if:

  • you like survival stories.
  • you like to read about farming, hunting and making things.
  • you are interested in 18th century colonialism.

You might not like this book if:

  • you need your novels to have female characters.
  • you don’t want to think about 18th century colonialism.
  • you like stories to have social interactions and are easily bored by a character pondering his own situation.

Final thoughts: I think Crusoe’s emotional development as he reacts to his isolation on the island is the most compelling element of the story.  I can see how people might enjoy reading about his home improvement projects, basket weaving and making a grindstone for example.  I have no beef with Defoe’s writing style.  He can compose a compelling sentence.  However, if you are seeking entertainment, the book is too long and the plot points too far between.