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on 28 September 2005
Having avoided watching various TV adaptations and never reading the book before, I was hesitant to read this book. Whilst working abroad the book was a last option on the book shop shelf. I was very much wrong in my assumption regarding the book. It is a marvelous account of live at the rough end during the 17th century. The story moves between London and Virginia and steps from one drama to the next throughout. I was captivated throughout by the trials and tribulations of Moll and her many aborted marriages and criminal capers. I was torn between feeling sympathy for Moll and being incredulous at just how many scrapes one woman could get into and escape from. As stated by others this is also a great account of live during Molls time and also of traditions, morals and customs of the time. I now almost regret not making time for the TV adaptation, although I'm sure it would not have been as good.
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on 5 December 2003
This carefully edited re-issue of Daniel Defoe's little known book 'The Storm' makes available a volume which, unaccountably, has been out-of-print for almost a century. Not even the 'Great Storm' of October 1987 - often described as 'the worst since the Great Storm of 1703' - was sufficient to stir the publishing houses from their torpor. Penguin and their editor Richard Hamblyn are now to be congratulated on seizing the opportunity of the 300th anniversary of the event to publish the book in a most attractive format.
Newly-released from prison when the Great Storm struck on the night of 26/27 November, Defoe, ever on the look-out to keep his creditors at bay, hit upon the entirely new idea of appealing, via the newspapers, for eye-witness accounts of the event. The result is a remarkable collection of first-hand accounts from across southern Britain.
Defoe began his work with a study of the 'Natural Causes and Original of Winds', a fascinating introduction to what was the current state of meteorological knowledge at the beginning of the eighteenth century. He also supplies readings of atmospheric pressure which, as Hamblyn points out, have enabled modern climate historians to re-construct the event.
The most absorbing part of the book, however, is the eye-witness accounts themselves variously describing the damage inflicted upon houses, churches, windmills, woods and ships at sea. Many of these speak to us with a powerful directness enabling us to appreciate the terrors of God-fearing people and immersing us in the realities of that Storm-struck society. Not all of the stories are of tragedy. I particularly enjoyed the tale from the village in Kent where the church spire had been blown down and the local children amused themselves by jumping over the fallen masonry so that, in the future, they could claim they had once leaped over the steeple!
There are a small number of proof-reading errors - the consequence, perhaps, of needing to meet the tercentary deadline - but these are easily outweighed by the important re-emergence of this pioneering work of journalism and classic of disaster reportage.
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on 5 May 2006
Until now, Defoe's The Storm hasn't been in print as a single volume since the first edition of 1704, the reason being that since the mid 19th century the public has preferred to see Defoe as a fictionist like Dickens, which has degraded the meaning and value of his Journal of the Plague Year and consigned The Storm to oblivion. These works form a pair, both being about national disasters of historic significance. The difference in their style is that The Storm consists of Defoe's own observations and research, gathered together with eyewitness accounts from around the nation which he advertised for, while A Journal of the Plague Year has the eyewitness account and Defoe's research blended together into one common narrative. No other journalist has ever done that I think. But if you read the Plague Year as fiction it would be like trying to read The Storm as fiction.

Weather experts have always commented favourably on The Storm and it is legendary. Like the Plague Year, this book is great to read through and browse in afterwards as well - it is not a book to dispence with afterwards. Penguin has retained the dynamics of Defoe's original punctuation, but I wish that the print was bigger and blacker and more comfortable to read.
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on 1 November 2007
I found this to be most enthralling. It's full of info about Defoe and his life, and filled with eyewitness accounts of the most terrible storm to hit Britain. The storm arrived in 1703, houses were destroyed, thousands died and fires broke out all over. The eye- witness accounts make for fascinating reading. Defoe advertised for these accounts in a newspaper and people came forward to tell of their experience of the storm. Defoe used these tellings to write The Storm - his first full-length book. I found it amazing to think that one of our most revered writers was bankrupt and had served time in prison. If only he could have known how famous he was to become and how well loved his books would be.
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on 29 September 2005
This is an amazing book about an amazing event. To people in the early 18th Century, the Storm described by Defoe was the third part of a trinity of disasters: the Plague, the Great Fire, then the Storm.
The Storm itself was comparible to something like Hurricane Hugo, rather than the big wind of 1987. Meteorologists think that Defoe's Storm was a Carribean Hurricane which-unusually- swept westward, striking Northern Europe rather than the Americas.
Some historians are suspicious of Defoe's collection of first-hand testimonies. My advice is, see for yourself. This is a good read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 September 2005
This human portrait of a woman is also an excellent sketch of the living conditions and the social stratification in England in the 18th century: 'the Age is so wicked and the Sex so Debauch'd'.
It shows the immense chasm between a small class of wealthy people and the rest (Swift: a thousand to one). The latter were struggling for sheer survival and praying 'Give me not Poverty, lest I steal' ... to be hanged: 'If I swing by the String, I shall hear the Bell ring, and then there's an End of poor Jenny.'
But both classes intermingled.
As E.J. Burford quotes in his masterful book 'The Synfull Citie':
Those who were riche were hangid by the Pursse
Those who were poore were hangid by the Necke
Defoe's Moll Flanders: 'the passive Jade thinks of no Pleasure but the Money; and when he is as it were drunk in the Extasies of his wicked Pleasure, her Hands are in his Pockets.'
Defoe paints the poor's religion as fatalism. Moll Flanders is all the time reproaching herself her Course of life, 'a horrid Complication of Wickedness, Whoredom, Adultery, Incest, Lying, Theft', but in the face of death at the gallows, 'I had now neither Remorse or Repentance ... no Thought of Heaven or Hell ... I neither had a Heart to ask God's Mercy.'
Defoe's work is eminently modern, with his psychological insight 'What a Felicity is it to Mankind that they cannot see into the Hearts of one another', and 'Modest men are better Hypocrites';
or, the ravages of alcoholism: 'the Drunk are the Men whom Solomon says, they go like an Ox to the Slaughter, till a Dart strikes through their Liver';
and his feminism: 'the Disadvantage of the Women is a terrible Scandal upon Men', and 'Money only made a Woman agreeable.'
Defoe's appeal to the reader - 'every Branch of my Story may be useful to honest People' - seems to be a smokescreen to circumvent censorship, because ultimately Moll Flanders prospers. This book is a perfect illustration of Bernard
Mandeville's 'Triumph of Private Vices' in his 'Fable of the Bees'.
Although some developments in this story are rather improbable, this superbly ironic and lively text constitutes an immortal portrait of the 'horrid Complication' to be a woman, here personified in Moll Flanders.
Not to be missed.
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on 15 June 2012
I continued my current re-reading of the classics in Kindle versions with this one, first read 40 years ago, and I was pleased to have my fond memories of it refreshed. One of the earliest British novels, this masquerades as a memoir, with Defoe handling the female perspective of the eponymous heroine just as well as he did Robinson Crusoe. I call her 'heroine' though Moll's adventures as sometime prostitute and recidivist thief would seem to disqualify her from such a status but for her late redemption and reform. In any case, we never think of her as a real villain, rather one who is forced by circumstances to make her way in life the best she can. She does admit to being an easy prey to temptation, and she is her own best apologist. As Moll says herself, her 'wicked' life is a lot more interesting to read than her return to virtue and prosperity. We learn a good deal along the way about the harsh conditions of living in late 17th Century England, and of the brutal treatment wrong-doers might expect, both from the courts and, if they catch you, from the mob. Humour and romance help to alleviate the gloom which, along with Moll's winning narrative, always keep us on her side even while she commits her more outrageous sins.

Reviewer David Williams regularly blogs as Writer in the North.
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on 1 November 2013
I watched the TV adaptation about 20 years ago with Alex Kingston playing the lead. So although I couldn't remember details from that long ago, I had a gist of the storyline. I read the book with Alex's voice in my head and the book just flowed. It flowed because it is written as she is recounting her life and also there are no chapters.

The story is an engaging story and it grips you like your favourite programme would. I enjoyed this read. Having seen the TV adaptation did not spoil this read one bit. For me it helped.

Give it a go, you'll be surprised.
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on 7 September 2013
Having heard of this book years ago because of the t.v series I finally got round to reading it and glad I was , it's a wonderful read as it's goes right back the end of the 17th century and shows what life was like for the poor a classic tale of a woman born into poverty and the life of crime shes falls into
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on 28 July 2010
This is an extraordinary characterisation of a tough-minded woman making difficult and often flawed choices as she moves through a rags to riches story; unfortunately told as if it were a legal deposition making it overly detailed and dry despite the subject matter. Nonetheless, a remarkable book for its period.

The sub title of the book is "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." And that's a pretty good summary of the plot.

Moll Flanders is a composite character who couldn't possibly have had all of the adventures and experiences that she goes through in the novel. She is based on Defoe's own experiences at the lower edges of London Society, including two stretches in prison. Moll is born in gaol to a mother who has been convicted of a felony and transported to America. Moll is left behind in London to survive on charity. Learning some social skills she is taken into a middle class family where her teenage good looks bring her to the attention of first one of the sons (Lover No.1 or, in Moll's eye's, Husband No. 1) and then the other (Husband No. 2), whom she marries. So is set the tone of the book, where Moll is set a series of moral dilemmas with limited room for manoeuvre and has to square the alternatives of behaving basely against survival. She remarries when husband No 2 dies only to have No 3 run off. Faced with starvation, she hitches up to No 4 despite now being a bigamist in the eyes of the law. They move to America where she discovers that she has married and had children by her own brother and so she flees back to England where she has another affair (No. 5), and then marries No 6 - a con artist after Moll's money - but they have fooled each other since both are paupers. Despite this they fall in love but agree to separate and Moll marries (No. 7) a bank clerk who dies and leaves her penniless again. She then takes to a life of crime, becoming the most successful petty thief of her day. Eventually the law catches up with her and in prison is reunited with her con-man husband. Both are deported to America where they become rich and successful and Moll meets her son. Phew!

As you see, my count is seven husbands not five as in the introduction, but Moll herself counts her two affairs as marriage whilst Defoe apparently does not - go figure.

This is all described in minute detail and each of her dilemmas is explored and explained by Moll at great length. She is not a moral character and her reasoning is frequently about money or survival - Defoe keeps up a running commentary about how much cash Moll has at any time. She has plenty of opportunities to get back on the straight and narrow but misses them all until in prison she repents of her past deeds. Defoe isn't trying to be moral but is explaining how difficult it is for poor people to behave well if survival means they need to behave badly. There is no narrator's voice giving an opinion and the book is written as if it were a legal deposition, micro-analysing each of the scrapes and problems Moll goes through. This slows the pace and makes the work rather dry.

If you are a writer then Moll is an interesting experiment - a strong, early 18th century woman who is determined to survive at any cost. If you are a reader then the book drags somewhat so that this becomes an interesting history lesson but, despite the huge numbers of adventures, ends up a little turgid.
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