Book Review: The Swiss Family Robinson

So, I recently read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. This book is old school, like 1812. I got it when the local Borders was going out of business, mostly because I grew up loving the Disney movie based on the book. My little sister and I used to watch the movie all the time, consuming frozen grapes as our snack of choice. Somehow that was the snack we deemed necessary for the movie. Anyway, let’s just say the book is very different than the movie.

The movie had pirates in it, and I thought the book might be sort of exciting. Umm, wrong. So lets start of by saying that Johann Wyss was a Swiss pastor. The book centers around a Swiss pastor and his family (mom and four boys). They were on a ship which was going to establish a new colony somewhere in the Southern hemisphere. They end up being ship wrecked as a result of the storm. The pastor and his family decide to stay on the boat. When they awake the next morning, the rest of the crew is gone. There is an island nearby, so they decide to build a raft to get them and supplies to the island. Lucky for them, since the ship was going to set up a new colony, there was all sorts of wonderful things on board, like livestock, and nails, and grains, and seeds to grow plants.

So,  they go to the island, bringing along some livestock. The rest of the book focuses on them building a suitable home, going back and forth to the boat to get supplies, and exploring the island. They end up adopting and domesticating all sorts of animals, mostly because the boys were a bad shot and they felt bad leaving injured animals behind. They end up having a monkey, a jackal, a hawk, and a bustard.

I was disappointed with how easy this family had it on the island. They had a ship full of supplies that they brought back to the island with them, including livestock. Also, food on the island seemed to just fall into their lap. Oh look, a field of potatoes, a grove of mango trees, a school of herring in the sea, a field full of cotton for making clothes, a cave filled with salt. I mean, it was too easy. There was no challenge. And being a good Christian family, they always thanked God for their good fortune, “Thank Providence” is something they would say quite a bit.

 It’s not that the book badly written. But there was no adversity for the family to face. It made it boring. Also, there is no way that all of the animals and plants in the book that were described could have lived together. Some were from Australia, others from Asia and Africa. Something that bothers me since I’m a biology nerd I guess.

Hubby and I have a habit of telling each other about what is happening in the books we are reading. The ongoing joke for this book was “Oh Happy Providence, something wonderful fell into the laps of the family yet again”. So, overall, not badly written, but just boring. But what can I expect from a book written in the 1800s.  I had to watch the movie again after reading this to help revive the memory of when Swiss Family Robinson used to be fun.

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One thought on “Book Review: The Swiss Family Robinson

  1. IKR! I’m in 6th grade and I have to red this for school. I don’t know honestly if I’m reading the book the wrong way or something, but I get myself bored while reading this. And I have NO option on what to read! The whole thing is just a big pile of “Get this from the boat,” “Kill this animal,” “Make this,” “Build this,” its like an endless cycle for Pete’s sake.

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