Book #73

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, & 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, & died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

Oh, Moll. The number of utter mishaps you encountered in your life is inconceivable. Whilst reading I was bowled over by the amount of times I thought she was getting back on her feet, only to be knocked down again by cruel and ridiculous twists of fate. Finding out your husband was your brother was a particular favourite.

I love a classic novel for its social commentary, and here we team up with Moll to achieve what all eighteenth century women were out to achieve - ensnaring a suitable husband. For it’s only with a suitable husband that you can live as you want to - you need his money, his status, and his protective arm around your shoulder. Moll works her way through husbands like I work my way through packets of crisps; when one disappears (whether by death or disaster), she crusades to the next.

Then we look into all of the obstacles a woman would face back then, obstacles which would often lead to criminal convictions, social segregation, or just the plain humiliation of being the object of gossip. This old world is truly fascinating with its barbaric ways, ridiculous expectations, and incomprehensible norms.

There’s an odd style here, which sometimes feels emotionless. Defoe documents Moll’s life as though it’s a formal report, and going by his career history, perhaps it was.

Moll is great. She’s scheming, raw, resilient. She’s not the eighteenth century simpering doormat many of us are used to, and her sheer refusal to stop reaching puts her up there with the best.