The full title summarizes the novel: "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums".
Moll Flanders tells her story. She was born in the major London prison, then her mother was Transported, leaving the baby girl behind. She is raised in a sort of orphanage. Instead of going into service she becomes a seamstress until her guardian died. From there she becomes a companion in a family with young ladies. Her beauty attracts the girls' older brothers. From there the expected happens. Young men are attracted to beautiful women no difference which century they live in.
Moll's story twists all over the place. She marries five times, being widowed twice. Twice her husbands disappear from her life, telling her she is free from them and can remarry if the opportunity arises. Fortunately she didn't have children with either of those husbands. She is a genteel lady at times in her life and a very successful thief at others. She has many children but loses them either to death or by no contact with them as her life changes. As she tells this tale in her sixties she has repented the wickedness of her life, now living in penitence.
Daniel Defoe wrote this book around 1720, dating it in the 1600's. It is a commentary of life in the times. Although 300 years old, many of the themes in this novel resonate today. Moll deals with poverty, lust, love, happiness, motherhood, fortune hunters, jail, loneliness, and friends. Many times I knew what she was saying as I'd seen it in my own life.
Defoe doesn't do well writing this from a woman's point of view. At times Moll talks about her tender feelings as a mother, yet she lets her children go easily without the reader hearing about them again. All too often the story is narrated as if she were an observer rather than a participant. Also, most of the tale is glossed over. Occasionally she stops and gives more, but usually the book is an overview of the social conditions of Moll's life.
The themes from Moll Flanders are still present today. That keeps it readable 300 years later. It is a good study in the changes of the English language as well. It's understandable, but language has definitely shifted. One good example is when she talks about multiple people - "We was..." The writing is all right, but not great. Moll doesn't come to life but appears to be a spectator instead.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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