Heather's Reviews > Crusoe's Daughter

Crusoe's Daughter by Jane Gardam
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Aug 12, 12

bookshelves: fiction, library-books
Read from August 09 to 12, 2012

Crusoe's Daughter is the story of Polly Flint, who, when she's six years old, comes to live with her two aunts in a big yellow house on a marsh in the North-East of England. Polly's mother has been dead since Polly was one; her father is a sea-captain and not around much, and, as it turns out, he is soon to be dead as well, leaving Polly permanently with the aunts, and with sour Mrs Woods, a widow who lives with them, along with Charlotte, the housekeeper. It's Polly's story but it's also the story of a place and a country and a time—the changing light and shifting winds on the marsh and the beach, and England at the very start of the twentieth century and then later, leading up to and including WWI and WWII. It's also the story of a solitary child whose biggest love is a character in a book—Polly has a youthful infatuation with Robinson Crusoe that stays with her well into adulthood.

I picked this up at a whim on the library, having heard of Gardam's work (I want to read Old Filth eventually, and I have a copy of Bilgewater that I picked up in the kitchen at work) but never having read her, and it turned out to be exactly the kind of book I was in the mood for. In the preface that's included in this edition, Gardam writes of wanting to write a book set in the place she was born, a book that captured "the elf-light of childhood" that she still felt, and "the wonder of the marsh," and whose heroine would be "a sort of castaway girl," marooned in the island of her place and time and life (13). She says she wanted to capture "the enfolding murmuring magical marsh so flooded with light, sunshine, silvery rain and mist, and the running sea" (14). And she does, beautifully.

Polly comments, when she's ruminating about Robinson Crusoe, on "Defoe's unhurried pace, his grandly confident unrolling of the years," and the description applies to this book just as well (184). It's wonderful to see Polly Flint's life unfold: she's a smart and compelling narrator, maybe especially compelling to me because of how bookish she is, and how solitary.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Erin (new)

Erin sounds familiar and i cant place why


Heather The title, or the author? Jane Gardam has written a whole lot of books; Old Filth probably being the one that's most discussed? Dunno. Anyhow, just finished this one today, and oh, so good!


message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin Hmmm, i'll consider it. yes. Maybe it's just because all book titles of late are called ___'s daughter or ___'s wife


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