This is the story of Moll Flanders’ life from poverty and naivety, to whoring and crime, and finally to repentant “gentlewoman”. Defoe, often referred to as the “Father” of romp and bawdiness, delivers this brilliantly!
First written in 1722 this edition has a somewhat “modern” take. But beware of the suggestion that this is contemporary: the olde-world language, historical punctuation and capitalisation have been toned down so it is an easier read, however the book contains no chapters or paragraph breaks, and has long laborious sentences making it difficult to pause at a convenient spot. However you may not want to pause as this is certainly one good, rollicking fast paced read!
Despite Moll’s life of whoring, crime and passion you will cheer for this resourceful, irrepressible character. For me, this sympathy even extended when she was stealing a necklace from a young child: Moll’s rationalisations are difficult to argue. What I did find difficult to accept though was her ease at abandoning her many children without further thought.
She charms her way into the hearts of her lovers (and the reader). She cons her men (as they sometimes con her) but Defoe is at pains to show that she often had little choice. Life was indeed precarious for women in the 17th and 18th century. Men or money got them through, and if they did not have these then cunning and shrewdness was the only way to ensure self-preservation. Indeed it seems that Defoe was ahead of his time in his sympathies for women’s emancipation.
Defoe labels this a story of redemption. It is, but does Moll truly repent? It seems as if her old ways are never totally lost as she is still scheming towards the end: failing to acknowledge her current husband to secure her mother’s bequest. Strong-spirited and wild, we love her to the end!
And whilst Moll Flanders will transport you back to 17th century England with all its associated vice, this vice and depravity is not explicitly depicted (Shades of Grey this is not!)
I would highly recommend this book, particularly to those who love history and literature. Be charmed by the bad girl come good!