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Moll: The Life and Times of Moll Flanders [Hardcover]

Siān Rees
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £18.99
Price: £17.63 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 July 2011

Daniel Defoe's fictional heroine Moll Flanders is famous for her criminal and sexual adventures, racily portrayed on big and small screens. But who was she? And what world did she really inhabit?

To answer these questions Moll takes its readers on a journey of literary and historical detection, across continents, cultures and centuries. Following Moll's tumultuous life, the story moves from Jacobean England to Jamestown, Virginia; from the English Civil War to the struggles of the Powhatan Indians; from the English Restoration to Maryland's slave-worked tobacco farms; and from the metropolis of London to the hamlet of Annapolis in the early eighteenth century.

Siân Rees introduces us to real-life versions of Moll's mother, her amoral 'governess', her many husbands and lovers - and Moll herself. These include Moll Cutpurse: thief, receiver, procuress and gangmaster; Mary Moders, known as the 'Kentish Moll' or the 'German Princess', who played a distressed noblewoman to hook rich men; and Moll King, a London thief reprieved from death to be transported as a convict to the Virginian plantations. Combining meticulously researched tales of London's underworld with the little-known story of penal transportation to America, Moll is as fast-moving and rich in incident as Defoe's great novel.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701185074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701185077
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 796,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Brisk, lucid and packed with colour...If you haven't read the original, this book will surely prove the necessary spur; to Rees's credit, it's also highly enjoyable in its own right" (The Lady)

"Sian Rees brings alive this fictional woman and makes her live and breathe in the teeming London of her birth...Rees has written history at its most accessible: learned, informative and highly entertaining." (Sunday Express)

"Rees has a magpie's eye for the details that make history sparkle...The result is a wonderfully entertaining, enlightening book, which in its own way is just as much fun as the original" (Jemima Lewis Mail on Sunday)

"Rees' skill as a masterful researcher and a story teller truly shines...Moll Flanders is merely the peg on which she hangs a thoroughly engrossing study of 17th-century life." (BBC History Magazine)

"Rees is adept at describing such real-life individuals whose exploits may have contributed something to the adventures of Defoe's fictional engaging enough companion." (The Sunday Times)

Book Description

A journey of literary and historical detection, across continents, cultures and centuries, to uncover the fictional personality of Defoe's Moll Flanders

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the ride 17 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rees' writing is fluid, witty and concise. She packs this book with fascinating detail while never becoming dry. I learned about a surprisingly unfamiliar period in British history, and (entirely new to me)about transportation to - and colonisation of - Virginia and Maryland. The London parts are especially gripping, at least to an English reader. Any modern fraudster would be impressed by the stolen goods exchange: your silver candlestick might be filched (often to order) by a lowly employee of the 'exchange' but you could always get it back in return for a fat fee paid to the helpful and astonishingly well informed exchange owner!
Rees conjectures about the possible historical models for Defoe's Moll Flanders and her family, friends and enemies. She paints a vivid picture of Defoe, deeply interested in recent history and making imaginative use of it as rich source material. As far as I (the layman)can tell, her ideas about these models come from thorough research, and her conclusions seem more than likely. A few reviewers have questioned the book's structure. It weaves around the fiction of Moll Flanders (in the present tense) the documented background and real-life characters (in the past tense). It did take me a chapter to adjust to the device, but once on track I simply loved the ride! My store of knowledge (not least the domestic and political titbits that are a Rees speciality) is now large. And if Daniel Defoe didn't sit with the accounts of those real desperate women, petty criminals and other 17th figures beside his ink well, then it doesn't really bother me.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All life is here 18 July 2011
This book was, quite simply, a huge pleasure to read. It's clear from the start that you are in the hands of someone who not only knows their history (you'd expect that) but who has a real relish for the quirks, inconsistencies, and oddities of life. The book will, I'm sure, be of great interest to anyone who ever fell in love with Defoe's Moll Flanders or who has any interest in the early colonisation of America. I loved the book because Rees uses Moll's story as a way of exploring everyday life in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Well, this being Moll's life, it's not entirely everyday: seduction, honour and savagery among thieves, highwaymen, births (legal and illegal), marriages (for respectability, for companionship, for sheer fun, and for love) transport to and life in the colonies, slavery, the profits of tobacco and the value of different human bodies, puritanism and license, the shifting sands of class, and a spot of unknowing incest and very knowing prostitution. All sorts of historical figures walk through the scenes but Rees is always most interested in the lives of ordinary folk, and the more gifted, upbeat and criminal, the more the narrative warms.

This is what they call a "rollicking read", but that doesn't really do it justice; it's also witty and wise, its heart always beating on the side of those who sail closest to the wind, the adventurers and adventuresses who try to (and, in literature at least, really do) get away with it.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confusion 23 July 2011
Sian Rees is a gifted social historian and her book is an entertaining historical and cultural account of early modern women criminals. If her tale had been limited to this every reader would applaud her. However, she has traded on a fictional heroine of Defoe's, Moll Flanders, without really understanding her biographical meaning or adding to it in any way. This is akin to a plug for hamburgers by stealing a McDonalds brand. All Defoe's fiction is heavily autobiographical. Moll Flanders is a heady mix of his own incredible life and that of his sister Mary(Moll) King. Thus it mixes biography with fiction. Sian Rees is uncertain about the genre she is writing into: is her book social or cultural history or is it biography? These distinctions are important because although biography and fiction are works of the imagination all biography is to some ectent absolute: all men get born, make their way in the world and die. The suspicion here is that Sian Rees is sexing up social history by mis-reading fiction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic 27 Sep 2013
By L I Fix - Published on
Eye opening look at colonial American history! I always thought Moll Flanders was all about the sex - turns out it's nothing like! Anyone interested in Americana has to get this - amazing read, full of things you thought you knew something about and then you find out you don't.
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