Member Review


Pub Date:

Review by

Mackey S, Reviewer

Last updated on 14 Nov 2017

I Recommend This Book


In 1722, Daniel Dafoe created the woman known as Moll Flanders who, over the years, evolved in literature into a bawdy, thieving, prototype feminist. However, in the book Moll: The Life and Time of Moll Flanders, Sian Rees restores Moll to her appropriate setting, the 1600s also known as the Puritan Era, and we see her and women like Moll in a different light.

In writing a biography of this fictional character, Rees bases his research on three women that might have influenced Dafoe's writing of Moll Flanders:  Mary Frith, who was called Moll Cut Purse, Mary Carleton and Moll King, a woman who lived on the streets. Through the amalgamation of these three women's lives into the character of Moll Flanders, we are able to learn about the streets of what is now London during the 1600s, life in the "New World," and what it meant to be an unmarried, untitled woman or an orphan during this time. Many of these women were labeled women of the streets, which today means prostitutes, but then meant beggars. If caught they were jailed, sometimes hung, other times sent to work in homes as maids. During this time, too often women and children were sent to "his majesty's plantations," also known as America. Most would die of starvation but Moll's "mother" and later Moll would survive. 

In looking at this book, I see less of a biography of a fictional character and more of Rees using that character as a method to paint for his readers a very vivid landscape of life for women in the 1600s. As an historian, I was shocked at the amount of knowledge I gained through this very readable and often entertaining book. In addition, it had me heading back to the original novel to refresh my memory about Dafoe's Moll which always is good. 

I highly recommend Moll for those who enjoy classic literature and especially for historians. It's an eclectic look at some old facts.

Buy this Book on