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The Girl Crusoes

June 1, 2018

I don’t know how I feel about The Girl Crusoes (by Mrs. Herbert Strang, a pseudonym for the same two guys who wrote as Mr. Herbert Strang). I love a good survival story, which I think means this isn’t one. Also I wish people writing about castaways wouldn’t populate their tropical islands; so often it just seems like an excuse to be super racist.

The girl Crusoes are Bess, Mary and Tommy, whose name is actually Katherine. Their uncle sends them out in his one remaining lifeboat when his ship is sinking, and they float around for a day or so before finding a fair-sized island to land on. And honestly, they’re pretty well-equipped, for shipwreck survivors. Their uncle supplied them with several days worth of bacon, biscuit and cake, not to mention quantities of tea and instant coffee. All three have knives, and Tommy has a sort of primitive lighter, so fire isn’t an issue.

And that’s sort of the problem. Everything is too easy and too civilized. The island is full of edible fruit, and between that and fish they do fine for food. They put up a shelter fairly quickly. Their dangers mostly come in the form of illness and injury.

Actually, that’s not the problem. That’s a symptom of the actual problem, which is that the Mrs. Herbert Strangs dumb everything down because Bess, Mary and Tommy are girls. I would love the fact that their shelter construction is based on their weaving skills if it wasn’t part of a larger pattern. And also if their shelter didn’t blow down in the first strong wind. They’re all scared of everything, and that doesn’t change as much as it should. Even Tommy, the tomboy, is full of silly genteel prejudices. None of them want to sleep on the floor. They get more physically fit, but they’re never allowed to stop being ladies and it’s really irritating. And that’s before we get to the natives from a neighboring island and everything goes extra racist.

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