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Selkirk's Island: The Original Robinson Crusoe

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  222 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Piracy and betrayal frame the epic story of solitary endurance that inspired Daniel Defoe's classic novel. Who was the real Robinson Crusoe? And what did he really experience during his solitary stay on a remote island in the Pacific? Diana Souhami's revelatory account of Alexander Selkirk's adventures on the high seas and dry land leads us to the answers to both these que ...more
Paperback, Voyages, 239 pages
Published July 3rd 2003 by Phoenix (first published 2001)
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Sep 10, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: armchair time travellers, historians and Defoe fans
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: a chance find in a second hand shop
Until I read this I didn't realise that the story of Robinson Crusoe was based loosely on a true story. Maybe I'm dumb and everyone else already knew this? I'd always just assumed that it was a fanciful tale cooked up by Defoe while he was cooling his heels and thinking up the plot of Moll Flanders.

The real life Crusoe was a Scotsman called Alexander Selkirk who, after some minor transgression involving a church-related episode of indecency (no juicy details provided) disappeared off to sea to
**actual rating 3.5**

I liked this book but I took away half a star because I thought there was too much written about after Selkirk was rescued and not enough about his actual time on the island.

This event is what Robinson Crusoe was based on but Dafoe left out one little tidbit. Selkirk had....umm....."relations" with goats. That's right, THOSE kinds of relations. I found this pretty funny because he ate them too and I was picturing him appraising the goats and deciding which of the goats was
This book has an interesting contrast in approach to Souhami's part-novel, part-memoir based on another remote island, Pitcairn. She has spent time both there and on the Juan Fernandez Islands, where Selkirk, the hero of this tale, was marooned and survived for several years. This book begins intriguingly with a speculation about how the islands were formed and what their pre-Selkirk history might have been. (I imagine this was stimulated by studies of how the Galapagos Islands evolved, albeit t ...more
Sandy D.
If you like Patrick O'Brian's books, you'll probably like this true-life but fictionalized story of a sailor who was stranded on an island (far) off the coast of Chile in the early 1700's, for "four years and four months".

Alexander Selkirk wasn't particularly likable, though. He got in fights with his family & shipmates (leading to his being marooned), he treated goats on the island pretty bestially (pun intended), he married a couple of women and abandoned them.

The descriptions of the life
Sep 29, 2015 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book, I had no idea Robinson Crusoe was based on a real person, although loosely. I found the history about sea voyages and the English funding expeditions for treasure was good information. I was disappointed at how little there was about Selkirk's actual time on the island, but I guess since this is a factual book, the facts are, there isn't much more information about it. Sea travel was extremely dangerous and the ships hardly seaworthy, I had no idea so many died on e ...more
Katie Lynn
I think the name is a bit of a misnomer; The Island is only loosely a character or main theme of the book. A fascinating read nonetheless with lots of historically accurate information. This is the second time I read this book (because I just keep forgetting what I've read) and I appreciated it more this go round. I think that is primarily due to the fact that I was expecting less of Selkirk's island experience and more of the wider picture the author covers of the time, the man, and the island. ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of natural history books, and this one is well-researched and written without trying to embellish the story. It's equally fascinating that Selkirk survived the ensuing battles and constant threats of disease and death after his rescue.
Natural history and science readers who enjoyed Longitude, In the Heart of the Sea, The Map that Changed the World, the Lighthouse Stevensons and Calendar will find this one worthy reading.
Mar 12, 2012 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure if it was the early 18th-century language and odd word spellings that did it, or just the fact that Alexander Selkirk was something of a scoundrel, causing grief even after his death, that made this book drag for me. I liked it, but didn't love it - when I put it down, I didn't think, "Man, I can't wait till I have time to get back to that book!" The tone was kind of cold and clinical - the author didn't seem like she really cared about the story one way or another; it felt like a b ...more
Joan Huehnerhoff
Amazing! this brought historical fiction to light. Robinson Crusoe was based on a real man. This book is historical. Selkirk was a very unsavory character, a generally all round bad guy. If this book had a movie rating it would be R. Not a book for the kids or sensitive individuals.
Glenn Robinson
Interesting bio of a man that was dropped off an island for 4 years and how he survived. Selkirk was on a voyage of plunder, had a drunk of a boss that dropped him off and was saved by new sailors 4 years later. Interesting book. Not brilliant, just interesting.
Jamie Barnes
Oct 26, 2012 Jamie Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The authoress, Diana Souhami writes beautifully. That's just for starters. The book recreates the story of an itinerant Scottish sailor who's marooned on an island for over four years. The immortal story of Robinson Crusoe is based on this man's adventures. Souhami uses exhaustive research to create the times (early 18th century) aboard pirate ships attempting to overcome Spanish ships loaded with gold returning from South America. Souhami actually lived for three months alone on the island to g ...more
Don Wilton
Feb 09, 2016 Don Wilton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly researched and entertaining book.
Rob Lever
Oct 25, 2015 Rob Lever rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Having studied several of the buccaneering characters affiliated with Selkirk, it seemed apropos to dig into this study of Selkirk himself. The tale was what I expected, fascinating. Souhami's word choices throughout the work raise questions to her professionalism and appropriateness of piece for academic use (see references to Selkirk's goat sex).
Sep 03, 2013 Carl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well researched and covers many aspects of the life and tribulations of Alexander Selkirk. The problem for me was that he wasn't that interesting a character. The most interesting part is his four year and four month exile on The Island, now known as Isla Robinson Crusoe after Defoe's novel inspired by Selkirk's tale.
Gunnar Hjalmarsson
Frekar þurrkuntulegar lýsingar af atburðunum í kringum tæplæga 5 ára dvöl Selkirks á Juan Fernandez eyju, sem síðar varð fyrirmyndin að Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk þessi gat juðast á geitunum en Robinson fékk Frjádag. Finnst nú að þessi bók hefði getað verið betri.
Daniel Callister
Really cool story, poorly written. You can pretty much stop reading about 60% of the way through, the rest of the story is really really boring and could have been summed up in a few pages.
You marked that you were interested in award winners and true adventure: this title is both. Winner of the Costa award, this book tells the true story behind Robinson Crusoe.
Jan 02, 2009 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting to read the historical record of the man that inspired the tale of Robinson Crusoe. Beware all goats!
Aug 05, 2011 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked the original Robinson Crusoe better. Kind of ruined my previous image of a paradise island.
Tim Corke
just the ticket if you're feeling uninspired. l couldn't put this down and read it one go!
Oct 03, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just bought 5 books for $5 each at a chain store closing down sale... better start reading...
I guess I wanted something more like Robinson Crusoe...
Oct 14, 2013 Derek rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too negative and cynical for me.
Jan 24, 2009 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great book, a must read
Graeme Purves
Graeme Purves rated it it was amazing
Jul 29, 2016
Graeme Potter
Graeme Potter rated it liked it
Jul 24, 2016
Ronald Davis
Ronald Davis rated it really liked it
Jul 24, 2016
Amy rated it liked it
Jul 23, 2016
Timo rated it really liked it
Jul 24, 2016
Tom Paterson
Tom Paterson marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2016
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Diana Souhami is the author of 12 critically acclaimed nonfiction and biography books, including Selkirk’s Island (winner of the Whitbread Biography Award), The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (winner of the Lambda Literary Award and shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography), the bestselling Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter (winner of the Lambda Literary Award and a New York Times Notable Bo ...more
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