Island of the Blue Dolphins
Scott O'Dell, 1960
Hardcore. That's what Scott O'Dell's classic book is. I remembered that it was about a girl living alone on an island, and a lot of the book is Robinson Crusoe stuff. I had forgotten that stuff included building walls to keep out vicious dogs, designing, building and testing weapons to hunt food and defend herself, and struggling alone with illness.
The story is based loosely on a real woman who lived alone on the island of San Nicholas off the California coast for 18 years. Sadly, we know very little for sure about her, because by the time she was taken off the island, no one else remained who spoke her language, she died soon after arriving in California, (probably from diseases she had no immunity to,) and her artifacts were lost in the San Fransisco earthquake. So O'Dell is imagining what her life may have been like. It is perhaps not surprising that the lone male author in the group of girls books I've read here wrote the most violent book, but her life is presented in such a matter of fact way, that it never felt exploitative to me.
Karana is a strong, highly self-sufficient girl. She tames several different types of animals in an effort to hold off loneliness, and providing for herself and her small wild family takes up most of her time. We follow her as she becomes more proficient in her hunting, improves her weapons, and uses extra time to expand her wardrobe.
This is all after the initial chapters, which detail her life before the tragedies with Aleut hunters that decimate the tribe and lead to her being left on the island, after she swears to kill the pack of wild dogs in revenge for the death of her brother.
O'Dell does romanticize her plight somewhat by the end. It is implied that she regrets leaving the simple life on the island when she is finally taken off, but that it is worth it to be among other people again.
3 Stars - A Good Book