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Charles Fenn, a sixty-year-old writer, set off from Ceylon with a friend to sail to the Maldive Islands. But what started as a leisurely holiday turned into a nightmare when his friend was drowned during a storm and he himself marooned on a remote atoll. Fenn had little but a few tins of food he had managed to salvage, a pencil stub, and enough paper to keep a diary.
In this diary, he chronicles the day-to-day struggle to stay alive, alternating his accounts of hunger and thirst, of fishing and fire-lighting, of improvisation and experiment, with his notes for a book he was planning on the New Veda. The resulting soliloquies cover an impressive range of subjects from Chinese culture to the life of beetles, marriage, sex, and death.
And then a tidal wave, which destroys half the atoll, provides a chance of escape. A wrecked motor launch that Fenn is able to repair is washed up on shore. he names his makeshift craft Providence and sets off across the Indian Ocean.
This is one of the most unusual books to appear in a long time. The two elements, action and soliloquy, are counterpointed in a remarkable way, and the result is a book of originality and force.