Castaway

by Lucy Irvine 

Fine adventure story, if a bit odd at times. In 1981 this guy who literally wanted to live like Robinson Crusoe, advertised for a woman to accompany him for a year on an uninhabited island. Lucy Irvine answered his query and went with him to Tuin Island, which is near Thursday Island (I\’d heard of that one) which is between Australia and Papua New Guinea. It sounds kind of crazy- they didn\’t know each other, and after a week of being together didn\’t even like each other (and notably had very different reasons for going to the island)- but had to officially get married or the Australian government wouldn\’t let them live on the island. They started out with meager supplies, knowing it was going to run out but planning to subsist on local fruit, coconuts, fish from the sea, and vegetables they would grow. It was far from easy. In fact, a lot of the time it was downright miserable. They soon suffered from heat exhaustion, tropical ulcers and malnutrition. Fresh water in the creek soon ran dangerously low. It\’s doubtful they would have survived the year except some people passing by in a boat spotted them on the beach and offered them some supplies. Not long after they were getting regular visits from Badu Islanders (in the Torres Strait). Eventually they visited Badu Island as Lucy\’s companion became known to the locals for his skill at fixing engines. His work was soon in demand, and they were able to trade the service for rice, flour and other goods- which changed the dynamics of survival mode on the island. It\’s interesting how their relationship also changed once he got treatment for the sores on his legs, recovered his energy (having been laid up much of the first part of the year), and made an occupation for himself repairing things. A lot of the book is Lucy writing vivid descriptions of the island\’s beauty and how deeply it affected her- she loved that island. It\’s also a lot about the friction in their relationship, and of course the survival skills they employed, how they simply adjusted and got used to doing without many things, and acted with ingenuity to overcome other hardships or lack. Pretty interesting the description of the local islander\’s lifestyle and personalities as well, once Lucy deigned to leave the Tuin and visit Badu- she refused for a long time, wanting to stick to her commitment to stay on the island for an entire year. I would really like to read the book her companion wrote about the same venture- The Islander by Gerald Kingsland (the whole time she only refers to him as G). Forewarning: this book has a lot of profanity, and Gerald addresses Lucy with awful words, though apparently meaning nothing ill by it (she took offense plenty of times, though).

Rating: 4/5                    288 pages, 1983

4 Responses

  1. I haven't thought of this one for years. I remember (now, you have to consider how different things still were in 1981) how risqué the whole concept sounded to me. Wow, do times and mores change.

  2. Well it raised my eyebrows! Especially when practically on page one she started wandering the island nude all the time, with this man she barely knew and didn't at all seem to like. Guess I'm kinda old-fashioned too.I kept thinking of that tv show Naked and Afraid when reading this. (Not that I ever watched that much, just saw pieces a few times but very much the same vein).

  3. How absolutely weird! People are SO DIFFERENT from me — I can't imagine agreeing to any part of this plan. All I can think about is that TV show Naked and Afraid, which I've never seen but which always sounds quite miserable. 😛

  4. Jenny- yeah, no kidding. I kind of get it- he saw using his survival skills as a real challenge, she wanted to live simply and commune with nature- but to go out there so unprepared was just ludicrous. (When I mentioned parts of this book to my husband he shook his head and said well, there's a REASON it was an uninhabited island). The nearby islanders knew it was hard to survive there.

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