Selkirk was a buccaneer who sailed the South Seas on looting expeditions for gold and treasure. In 1703 he joined an expedition whose object was to plunder French and Spanish ships. Eventually they reached the island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, where Selkirk opted to maroon himself. Suddenly solitude and silence were imposed, and his only relationship was with the island and with himself. He learnt to kill goats with cudgels and use their skins for coats and shoes. He hollowed out a canoe and circumnavigated the island. In 1709 Selkirk spotted two ships from his cliff-top lookout. They saw his fire and the next morning landed on Juan Fernandez - to be greeted by an unrecognisable savage-looking man incoherent with emotion. He sailed back with them to civilisation where he 'bewailed his return to the world'. Selkirk died in 1720 back at sea, of yellow fever.
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Diana Souhami is the author of many widely acclaimed books, and she has also written plays for radio and television. She won the Whitbread Biography Award for Selkirk's Island.Review:
SELKIRK'S ISLAND by Diana Souhami FMCM Again we are setting an end of month press date for this title with confirmed publicity in Guardian My Life In Writing (20/4), The Herald's My Favourite Book (4/5), and BBC Radio 4 Open Book (21/4) and Excess Baggage (13/4), with local radio including BBC GMR and Austrian Broadcasting Company plus BBC World Service's Outlook (25/4). Plus the shelflife interview for The Scotsman (27/4). And reviews are now coming in: 'This book not only illuminates Selkirk's five years as a solitary castaway - the experience inspired Robinson Crusoe, though Defoe did not include any reference to sexual congress with goats - but also probes the circumstances that led the disputatious Selkirk to this predicament and what happened to him afterwards'Independent "The gripping and true story of Alexander Selkirk, more famous as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe." Daily Telegraph "His story still holds thefascination that inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe... meticulously researched." Daily Mail 'To Souhami, the island itself is a character, its flora and fauna and dramatic weather changes so evocatively described...Butshe is good at all levels: delving into contemporary sources she explores Selkirk's aggressive, resourceful and complex character, and writes vividly of the horrors of shipboard life and the venality of some of those who set sail in search of riches'Sunday Times Souhami tells the story of the real-life Robinson Crusoe in terse, well-judged prose, and explores some of the ambiguities of his exile: although desperate to be rescued, he also achieved a kind of spiritual at-oneness with the island. She also provides many colourful details about eighteenth-century sea-life: the horrific illnesses and injuries, thevicious squabbles, and the general contempt for human - especially non-British - life'Observer 'Souhami's research into contemporary political and maritime matters is admirably wide ranging'The Times "Whitbread biog of the year, Diana Souhami's examination of Alexander Selkirk and Robinson Crusoe is a glittering assembly." Time Out - Paperback of the Week. '...an unusual and engrossing book...It is a great tale and Souhami tells it crisply and well.'Sunday Telegraph
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