(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Orphaned and marooned in a lonely seaside house with two fastidious maiden aunts, Polly Flint poignantly reveals her clumsy and comic growth from childhood to adulthood. Polly’s personal revelations concerning her youthful misconception of past events and misunderstanding of other characters’ lives constitute the bulk of the action in Crusoe’s Daughter.

Early in the novel, an impressionable Polly identifies with the heroic Robinson Crusoe because she believes that they share a common lot: deserted but destined for discovery on life’s isolated island. As a child, Polly is naturally inquisitive concerning the private affairs of her pious aunts, one of whom she naively labels the “ice-maiden.” Later, however, she discovers that both aunts once had ardent admirers, including one of the same gender. In another disconcerting moment of revelation, Polly finds out that the gentle and elderly Arthur Thwaite, who is introduced to her as an old friend of the family, is her very own grandfather. It again comes as a surprise when she learns that her grandmother, old “battle axe bosom,” at one time read John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748-1749) and indulged in an extramarital affair with a younger man, namely Arthur Thwaite.

Indeed, as Polly matures in the novel, layer upon layer of cosmetic discretion is stripped from almost every character until the heroine perceives the formerly hidden truths about her family and friends....

(The entire section is 403 words.)