Book Review: Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

mollflanders
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written by Defoe in 1722 under a pseudonym so his readers would think it an actual journal of the ribald fortunes and misfortunes of a woman in eighteenth-century London, the book remains a picaresque novel of astonishing vitality. From her birth in Newgate Prison to her ascent to a position of wealth and stature, Moll Flanders demonstrates both a mercantile spirit and an indomitable will. This vivid saga of an irresistible and notorious heroine –her high misdemeanors and delinquencies, her varied careers as a prostitute, a charming and faithful wife, a thief, and a convict– endures today as one of the liveliest, most candid records of a woman’s progress through the hypocritical labyrinth of society ever recorded.

Listened to as an Audiobook on CD. Book was written detailing the adventures of Moll Flanders, who lives by her wits and her body. Her fortune is made several times by herself, but is lost again, mostly due to her poor choice in men (drunks, womanisers, already married etc).

The narrative is bawdy, jolly etc. and it can easily be appreciated how it caused a stir when it was published (and therefore also rather saught after). 

It is both a serious (about a world where a woman can rarely survive on her own and with few rights to even her own money) and not-serious tale (she goes through husbands with almost every chapter). As a result of these dalliances, she has plenty of children, of which little is heard off once they are packed off somewhere else, to ensure that Moll isn’t hindered by a flock of children following her. I dont know if a woman would really do this, or whether this is Defoe’s “wishful thinking” of fertile women not actually having children in tow.

Overall an enjoyable lighthearted 18th century romp that is the source of many a TV adaptation, that are often considered bawdy by contemporary standards.

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