For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene, and returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost.
Now that’s the way to start a book. And if there were great excitements in the Swiss Family Robinson, there were also the long boring patches which were only to be expected on a deserted island.
“Why don’t they write things like this for girls?” Rosely lamented.
“There’s girls in it. Lots of them.”
“Yeah. But the men and boys do all the interesting stuff.”
“Oh, never mind.”
What was most interesting about the book was that we got all the way through it without noticing that the island upon which they were supposed to be stranded was meant to be Australia, or perhaps some smaller neighbouring island. Johann Wyss wrote a damn fine yarn but his natural science has been described as deplorable. Even the presence of kangaroos failed to provide a clue—his description of everything was so skewed that you knew he might easily make koalas natives of Somerset.
Another curious thing is that it is a book that got both the title and the author’s name wrong. The family is not named Robinson - not a very Swiss moniker at all - but it got mistakenly translated that way. The actual title is The Adventures of a Swiss family, cast away in the manner of Robinson Crusoe. Oops. Additionally, Johann Wyss is not one man but two. Wyss Senior wrote half of the book and died, while Wyss Junior finished it. Instead of differentiating the names accordingly, the publishers allowed it to stand for both men.