Selkirk’s Island: The True and Strange Adventures of the Real Robinson Crusoe

Written by Diana Souhami
Review by Cindy Vallar

While Defoe’s Crusoe was fictional, Alexander Selkirk inspired the tale. In 1703 this Scotsman signed aboard William Dampier’s expedition to capture the Spanish treasure fleet. Obstacles and disagreements haunted the privateers from the start, and climaxed at an island over three hundred miles off the Chilean coast where Selkirk was marooned. He prayed the captain would return. Instead four years passed before another English ship ventured near the island.

This is a historical account of man’s survival on a remote island with only goats and seals for companions and nature and Spaniards for enemies. Yet, it goes far beyond a telling of Selkirk’s life. It is also the island’s story from its creation to the present day. Ms. Souhami also recounts the privateering ventures that led to Selkirk’s marooning and rescue. To complete the story, she relates how reality became fiction and what happened to those who encountered Alexander Selkirk throughout his life.

Well-researched and accompanied by passages from primary documents, the book is a spellbinding historical account that provides glimpses into the times and adventures of a marooned man who’s often lost in the myth created by Daniel Defoe. Winner of the 2001 Whitbread Biography Award.