Thursday, October 04, 2007

Survivor--Real Life

I just finished Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett. A nonfiction book that describes the experiences of castaways on the Auckland Islands circa 1864. The book mostly focuses on the five survivors of the ship Grafton. They were on the island for almost 2 years. As far as I can tell the author pieced the story together through survivor journals, articles and books written by two of the castaways, as well as newspaper accounts.

The book was slightly dry but the story interesting enough to keep me intrigued. I kept wondering how they would finally make it off the island. I was also amazed at the ingenious ways these men devised tools and learned trades such as shoe making to come up with everything they needed to stay alive and stay meagerly comfortable. The Frenchman, by the name of Raynal, was utterly amazing to me in engineering things they needed such as soap, shoes, tools, the chimney of their house, a boat, and killing and hunting seals. It seemed whatever they needed he could come up with. Definitely the right person to get shipwrecked on an island with.

There was also a parallel storyline about another group of sailors of the Invercauld ship where only 3 of 19 survived to be rescued. Basically, the book concludes that the Grafton survivors were able to eventually get off the island because they worked together and lived very democratically with each of them treating the others as equals. The Invercauld crew lived exactly the opposite of the Grafton crew. They remained in their hierarchy of officers vs. crew, did not stick together, didn't bother to work hard, laid around. And miraculously, the three remaining survivors were rescued long before the Grafton survivors.

There were long sections of the book dedicated to the intricacies of seal/sea lion hunting and mating. These were somewhat boring and too in-depth for my tastes. But perhaps someone will find them interesting. I suspect the author used it as filler to make her book longer. While reading this book, and particularly the part describing the differences between the two groups of castaways, I thought of the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I haven't read this book since middle school and I believe the movie came out about the same time as I read the book (1990). I decided I was going to get it from the library again and reread/skim it to see what I thought about it now as an adult.

The other thing that kept coming up in my head while reading Island of the Lost, was the reality television show Survivor. Okay, although parts of Survivor are completely contrived and edited to make certain things seem like a bigger deal or more intriguing, you learn that the tribes that work together as a team and stay together or align together get the furthest in the game. If I'm ever stuck on a deserted island, I guess I've learned that I will for sure be a team player. :-)

I think this book might be an interesting book club choice if it seems to be a topic your particular book club would be interested in.

PS. Yay! This is the 100th post to On My Bookshelf!

1 comment:

allisonmariecat said...

Ooh, 100 posts!

Thank you for the great review. It sounds like it might be an interesting read, though I'll probably skim past the seal hunting parts (shudder).

I have a used copy of Joan Druett's first mystery novel set on the high seas, A Watery Grave, on order. I thought I'd start with that and then maybe pick up Island of the Lost :)