Top critical review
How do you make a shipwreck novel so mind-numbingly boring?
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 14, 2021
I tried, folks. I honestly did. This is supposed to be a classic, and I'm usually willing to give most classic novels a fair shake. But this novel's status as a classic and one of the earliest novels wasn't enough to make me persevere. Even classics should still be well-written and entertaining, in my opinion, and despite being one of the most famous novels in the world, this book is neither.
Most people are familiar with at least the central conceit of this novel -- the titular Crusoe is stranded on a desert island and has to fend for himself, alongside the native man he befriends and makes his servant. Many reviews have touched on the racist undertones of this book already, and I'll simply state that yes, they're present, and yes, they were the prevailing attitude at the time. This doesn't make these views and attitudes RIGHT, but it's an explanation, though not an excuse.
My main problem with this book is that it's just so stupefying boring. Yes, it was written at a different time, and language and word usage has shifted, but it's still a chore to read. Defoe manages to make things that should be exciting, like a lion attack and a terrible storm at sea, mind-numbing instead of thrilling. He has no qualms about a single lengthy run-on sentence taking up an entire paragraph, or to splice a bunch of unrelated thoughts together with semicolons. Maybe this was how people wrote back in the day, I don't know... but it sure doesn't make it readable.
I gave up on "Robinson Crusoe" about 10% of the way through. Yes, I'm a quitter, but I don't care if this is a classic. I was reading it for fun, not to analyze or study or for a class, and so I have no qualms about bailing now and warning people that, unless you want to analyze this book's writing or social mores, stay away from it.