Page count: 157
The back says: Some time in the second decade of the eighteenth century one Susan Barton told Mr Daniel Foe of her hard and unusual life – most particularly the span of time she spent cast away on an island with a man called Cruso and his mutilated negro servant Friday. This is the story of her story and how it fared at the hands of Foe; distorted truth and inventor of histories.
The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719 by renowned journalist Daniel Defoe. Enormously successful, it is the supposedly true story of a man stranded for many years on an island in the Atlantic with only his servant Man Friday for company. No mention of Susan Barton is made in it.
I say: This was almost as boring a read as the novel it was based on, Robinson Crusoe. And by almost I mean that it didn’t have all of the elements that annoyed me with Robinson Crusoe,
In this version, Susan is stranded on the same island and Cruso and Friday and claims that Cruso told her that Friday had his tongue cut out by slave traders and that they’ve been together ever since their ship sank. According to Susan Cruso lies about everything, doesn’t give a jot about being saved, and is quite unpleasant. Despite all this she allows him to have sex with her; not because she wants to but because she feels like she might as well let him since he’s been without a woman for so long.
They finally get saved (no thanks to Cruso, who dies on the voyage back) and when they land in England Susan feels responsible for Friday so she decides to stay with him. She looks up Foe and writes letters about her life on the island, which he then turns into the story we all know – full of lies and make believe. After being a complete idiot for a few months Susan shacks up with Foe, who tries to teach Friday to write and read. A lot of other random silliness happens that made me want to gouge my eyes out, but I rather enjoy seeing, so I didn’t.
Needless to say, this was a serious work of meh and Coetzee should have left it as sad fan fiction entry on some obscure message board.
I didn’t enjoy the writing because it felt too much like Coetzee was trying to copy Defoe, which can never be a good thing. The premise sounded like a good idea – or at least I thought so when I bought it – but it was executed in a very bad way. Luckily it was a only mere 157 pages,