Read Roxana by Daniel Defoe John Mullan Online


Roxana (1724), Defoe's last and darkest novel, is the autobiography of a woman who has traded her virtue, at first for survival, and then for fame and fortune. Its narrator tells the story of her own 'wicked' life as the mistress of rich and powerful men. A resourceful adventuress, she is also an unforgiving analyst of her own susceptibilities, who tells us of the price shRoxana (1724), Defoe's last and darkest novel, is the autobiography of a woman who has traded her virtue, at first for survival, and then for fame and fortune. Its narrator tells the story of her own 'wicked' life as the mistress of rich and powerful men. A resourceful adventuress, she is also an unforgiving analyst of her own susceptibilities, who tells us of the price she pays for her successes. Endowed with many seductive skills, she is herself seduced: by money, by dreams of rank, and by the illusion that she can escape her own past. Unlike Defoe's other penitent anti-heroes, however, she fails to triumph over these weaknesses. Roxana's fame lies not only in the heroine's 'vast variety of fortunes', but in her attempts to understand the sometimes bitter lessons of her life as a 'Fortunate Mistress'. Defoe's achievement was to invent, in 'Roxana', a gripping story-teller as well as a gripping story....

Title : Roxana
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780192834591
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 356 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Roxana Reviews

  • Alex
    2019-05-07 15:57

    Daniel Defoe, the popular 1700s smut peddler, is back with another sexy story about sexy sluts having sex - and this one might be his dirtiest yet! Roxana offers her maid up for sexual purposes to her lover! She dresses like a harem slave and puts on sexy little dance numbers! It's not as dirty as famed 1750 porno Fanny Hill, but it's not so far off.Defoe likes to put his characters in desperate straits. He's most famous for the one about the castaway, but his two next-most-famous books - this and Moll Flanders - use the word "whore" a lot, and that's enough for a pattern for me: these books were meant to titillate, and it's fair to think of Defoe as a guy who wrote dirty books. He gets away with the racy stuff by creating those desperate straits, forcing his characters to make difficult decisions, and then clucking his tongue over it a lot, a tradition that extends all the way down to the Friday the 13th movies and their beloved habit of showing teenagers having premarital sex and then getting chopped up.More Having One's Cake And Fucking It Too- Dangerous Liaisons- Delta of Venus- Lolita- Fatal Attraction- Fifty Shades of GreyHe's also a pedant. If his books are distinguished by the exigencies they put their protagonists into, they're also consistent in their meticulous records. Crusoe made lists of all the supplies on his island. Roxana goes through her finances with you, in to-the-dollar detail, over and over. This too is a tradition, extending through Balzac and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. It sounds boring, but if you want to understand how money worked in the 1700s, here's your big chance. You don't, of course, so it's mostly boring.Virginia Woolf says that Defoe "seems to have taken his characters so deeply into his mind that he lived them without knowing exactly how, and, like all unconscious artists, he leaves more gold in his work than his own generation was able to bring to the surface." It feels to me like his characters escape him: they're more than who he thinks they are. (Or, at least, there's enough life in them to become more with time.) Robinson Crusoe is a lunatic. Moll Flanders is almost a feminist. And Roxana...well, Roxana is complicated. "Seeing liberty seemed to be the man's property, I would be a man-woman, for, as I was born free, I would die so," she says, and that's pretty awesome, right? She insists on independence. Her refusal to marry her series of companions seems triumphant to a modern reader. She reminds me of the mighty Becky Sharp, who similarly escapes her author and is punished by him for it, or despite it.But punished she is, and Roxana doesn't translate as well for we modern readers as Moll Flanders does. She's a sort of accidental unreliable narrator. She sounds convincingly kind, but she's terribly cruel to her children. I like her; I find it hard to reconcile the woman who seems constantly aware of and concerned about the feelings of others to the woman who drops a trail of abandoned children behind her like a harp seal. This is probably Defoe's fault; he tries harder to get into Roxana's head, to describe her motivation and personality, than he ever did with Moll or Robinson, and he mucks it up a bit. She just fails to come across as a consistent, believable human. This is the most psychological of Defoe's novels, and it exposes his weakness. On the plus side, though, there are some sexy parts.

  • Amber
    2019-05-13 17:04

    This book has the most modern, compelling and insightful argument about why women of 1724 were better to stay unmarried, which is an absolute must read and highlights all Roxana's strengths. I promise, the rest of the novel is NOTHING like this. If you're interested in checking it out, skip to the bottom spoiler tag.I'm not one of those people who DNF's books. And yeah, I abandoned The Oresteia but you would too if you had to read all those footnotes after you dropped the classIf I was smart (and if you are), I never would have finished this book. But it's weird and I'm glad I did.The story starts off, for lack of a better word, boring. I once read somewhere that a good story starts in media res (in the middle of things), but we get a sense of who our narrator is from where she chooses to start the story.I was born, as my friends told me, at the city of Poitiers, in the province or county of Poitou in France, from whence I was brought to England by my parents, who fled from their religionn about the year 1683, when the Protestants were banished from France by the cruelty of their persecutors.Sound interstesting? Unfortunately, the story has nothing to do with any of this. Roxana is merely relating the facts, and while she is clear and concise here, she only devolves as the story gets going and things start to get a little more... intimate (and I'm not just talking about her choices). The summary on Goodreads paints Roxana as a woman who "traded her virtue" and as the autobiography gets going, she attempts to paint herself as this. But because this is an autobiography, and she is the narrator-turned-author, you not only get a whole lot of "But to go on with my own story" when she digresses for even a SECOND about someone else, even her most intimate acquaintance and most beloved friend, Amy. You also get a lot of this:I may call well call it languishing, for if Providence had not relieved me, I should have died in little time. But of that hereafter.As a modern reader, you can make the argument, well maybe they wrote differently back then. I can assure you, having read a decent amount 18th century literature, that this wasn't common. You got 1st person mainly through letters, but it was more popular to write to the moment, or in chronological sequence, rather than dropping these annoyings hints of what's coming. Me, I can't stand it. It's annoying! I don't want your spoilers halfway through, I want the compelling evidence of not knowing what is coming. Because for most of the story, I was convinced Roxana is a terrible, terrible narrator.Even if you're not like me, you still get scenes like this, where she is so self-centered and removed from telling her story - which by the by, you never find out from what period she started narrating - that you have to struggle to keep going, because even the most excitingly awful things are glossed over:I had but small encouragement to give her, and indeed could say but very little, but I got her to compose herself a little and not let any of the people of the ship understand what she meant or what she said. But even in her greatest composure she continued to express herself with the utmost dread and terror on account of the wicked life she had lived, and crying out she should be damned and the like, which was very terrible to me who knew what condition I was in myself.Yes, that is only two sentences.I can see from some of these lines that this book could seem very compelling with its selfish narrator, who being so selfish and self-absorbed, can at times get very unreliable, especially with her limited perspective. But yet, I stand by my beliefs, which is that this book is not about deep, meaningful, poetic language. I haven't read any other Defoe, so I can't tell you if that's just his style, or if he was intending for something 'different' with this one.However, every now and then you get a line like this:This, however, shows us with what faint excuses and with what trifles we pretend to satisfy ourselves and suppress the attempts of conscience in the pursuit of agreeable crime, and in the possessing those pleasures which we are loath to part with.Which is absolutely beautiful. Roxana's true gift is in making us understand her thought process and why she did things. She continually repeats herself, yes, but that repetition is there to compel you, not only into believing her often how-is-this-possible story as fact, but also as a defense. Roxana wants you to accept the chain of life and say, "Well, if you acted like this and felt this way then, well, that makes sense..."The problem with this story is really the time period. Roxana's adventures would be perfectly acceptable (and perhaps not as profitable) in modern day. And of course I'm all for a wicked heroine. But my beef with this story is that the original, well... There's no catharsis. Roxana really is the FORTUNATE mistress. And that's a big problem.You see, this is the end of the story(view spoiler)[Here, after some few years of flourishing and outwardly happy circumstances, I feel into a dreadful course of calamities, and Amy also; the very reverse of our former good days. The blast of Heaven seemed to follow the injury done the poor girl by us both, and I was brought so low again that my repentance seemed to be only the consequence of my misery, as my misery was out of crime. (hide spoiler)]Naturally, I found fault with this ending, because everyone knows which side is supposed to win and lose, and how it's got to be a really good loss, especially after a really great gain. Well, that's a really pathetic ending. Some people took fault with this, and so a much speculated person wrote a different ending.The problem with that ending is that it doesn't agree at all with the process of the story in many aspects. It takes Roxana, who is in Holland in the final paragraph, back to England, and starts her there. While it explains some things (view spoiler)[like what happened to Susanna if she wasn't really dead (hide spoiler)], it still breaks continuity in a bad bad way. It also doesn't agree with the final paragraph in that (view spoiler)[there were happy years in Holland before the calamities came - Roxana has none of that, Susanna comes right away and spoils all (hide spoiler)].Now, as to why I enjoyed reading this, when it was so dull and awful and placid in the middle, was the end. Once you've read the various glories of Roxana, you're wondering, well, why is this worth telling. Because the last couple of pages bring, as described by another reader, a slow moving car crash. For me, that was the most compelling, page turning moment of the whole book. If Roxana had thought to include or not gloss over more moments of almost being burned, or having her cover blown, or just framing the instances that did happen properly, this book would be more compelling. As it stands, I had to give it 3 stars, simply because of the beginning. I really could have given this book up! The end was really closer to 3.5 or 4.Now would I recommend this? Maybe, if you are compelled by what you see here, enjoy classic literature, have previously enjoyed Defoe, and most importantly, know what you are getting into! I can't stress this enough, this is not the book I was promised. Here is the REAL summary of Roxana.Roxana (1724), Defoe's last novel, is the autobiography of a woman brought to the brink of survival. In order to survive, she must sacrifice her virtue and honour for bread in the arms of another man. Many years later, when tragedy strikes the pair, she is offered the chance to do it all again, but this time as an undisguised mistress. Throughout, Roxana portrays herself as aloof, distant, and exotic - earning her the name she wins in England for her possession in equal parts of beauty, poise, and mystery. Often more composed than she should be, Roxana is a forgiving analyst of her own susceptibilities, begging the audience to understand how she was led down this path. Endowed with a selfishness so deep that she is unmoved by anything around her, she is able to carry on her life of renown for many years and exult in the gain. Unlike Defoe's other penitent anti-heroes, Roxana never feels guilt, sorrow, or shame unless she believes it will save her from consequence. Defoe's achievement was to invent, in 'Roxana', a gripping story-teller, but what he succeeded in was an unreliable narratess whose single-mindedness makes the storytelling less predictable than modern readers are typically used to.Infamous passage of Roxana's views on marriage(view spoiler)[He was extremely disappointed in this article, and knew not how to manage for a great while; and as I dare say, if he had not expected to have made it an earnest for marrying me, he would not have attempted me the other way, so, I believed, if it had not been for the money which he knew I had, he would never have desired to marry me after he had lain with me. For where is the man that cares to marry a whore, though of his own making? And as I knew him to be no fool, so I did him no wrong when I supposed that, but for the money, he would not have had any thoughts of me that way, especially after my yielding as I had done; in which it is to be remembered that I made no capitulation for marrying him when I yielded to him, but let him do just what he pleased, without any previous bargain.Well, hitherto we went upon guesses at one another's designs; but as he continued to importune me to marry, though he had lain with me, and still did lie with me as often as he pleased, and I continued to refuse to marry him, though I let him lie with me whenever he desired it; I say, as these two circumstances made up our conversation, it could not continue long thus, but we must come to an explanation.One morning, in the middle of our unlawful freedoms—that is to say, when we were in bed together—he sighed, and told me he desired my leave to ask me one question, and that I would give him an answer to it with the same ingenious freedom and honesty that I had used to treat him with. I told him I would. Why, then, his question was, why I would not marry him, seeing I allowed him all the freedom of a husband. "Or," says he, "my dear, since you have been so kind as to take me to your bed, why will you not make me your own, and take me for good and all, that we may enjoy ourselves without any reproach to one another?"I told him, that as I confessed it was the only thing I could not comply with him in, so it was the only thing in all my actions that I could not give him a reason for; that it was true I had let him come to bed to me, which was supposed to be the greatest favour a woman could grant; but it was evident, and he might see it, that, as I was sensible of the obligation I was under to him for saving me from the worst circumstance it was possible for me to be brought to, I could deny him nothing; and if I had had any greater favour to yield him, I should have done it, that of matrimony only excepted, and he could not but see that I loved him to an extraordinary degree, in every part of my behaviour to him; but that as to marrying, which was giving up my liberty, it was what once he knew I had done, and he had seen how it had hurried me up and down in the world, and what it had exposed me to; that I had an aversion to it, and desired he would not insist upon it. He might easily see I had no aversion to him; and that, if I was with child by him, he should see a testimony of my kindness to the father, for that I would settle all I had in the world upon the child.He was mute a good while. At last says he, "Come, my dear, you are the first woman in the world that ever lay with a man and then refused to marry him, and therefore there must be some other reason for your refusal; and I have therefore one other request, and that is, if I guess at the true reason, and remove the objection, will you then yield to me?" I told him if he removed the objection I must needs comply, for I should certainly do everything that I had no objection against."Why then, my dear, it must be that either you are already engaged or married to some other man, or you are not willing to dispose of your money to me, and expect to advance yourself higher with your fortune. Now, if it be the first of these, my mouth will be stopped, and I have no more to say; but if it be the last, I am prepared effectually to remove the objection, and answer all you can say on that subject."I took him up short at the first of these, telling him he must have base thoughts of me indeed, to think that I could yield to him in such a manner as I had done, and continue it with so much freedom as he found I did, if I had a husband or were engaged to any other man; and that he might depend upon it that was not my case, nor any part of my case."Why then," said he, "as to the other, I have an offer to make to you that shall take off all the objection, viz., that I will not touch one pistole of your estate more than shall be with your own voluntary consent, neither now or at any other time, but you shall settle it as you please for your life, and upon who you please after your death;" that I should see he was able to maintain me without it, and that it was not for that that he followed me from Paris.I was indeed surprised at that part of his offer, and he might easily perceive it; it was not only what I did not expect, but it was what I knew not what answer to make to. He had, indeed, removed my principal objection—nay, all my objections, and it was not possible for me to give any answer; for, if upon so generous an offer I should agree with him, I then did as good as confess that it was upon the account of my money that I refused him; and that though I could give up my virtue and expose myself, yet I would not give up my money, which, though it was true, yet was really too gross for me to acknowledge, and I could not pretend to marry him upon that principle neither. Then as to having him, and make over all my estate out of his hands, so as not to give him the management of what I had, I thought it would be not only a little Gothic and inhuman, but would be always a foundation of unkindness between us, and render us suspected one to another; so that, upon the whole, I was obliged to give a new turn to it, and talk upon a kind of an elevated strain, which really was not in my thoughts, at first, at all; for I own, as above, the divesting myself of my estate and putting my money out of my hand was the sum of the matter that made me refuse to marry; but, I say, I gave it a new turn upon this occasion, as follows:—I told him I had, perhaps, different notions of matrimony from what the received custom had given us of it; that I thought a woman was a free agent as well as a man, and was born free, and, could she manage herself suitably, might enjoy that liberty to as much purpose as the men do; that the laws of matrimony were indeed otherwise, and mankind at this time acted quite upon other principles, and those such that a woman gave herself entirely away from herself, in marriage, and capitulated, only to be, at best, but an upper servant, and from the time she took the man she was no better or worse than the servant among the Israelites, who had his ears bored—that is, nailed to the door-post—who by that act gave himself up to be a servant during life; that the very nature of the marriage contract was, in short, nothing but giving up liberty, estate, authority, and everything to the man, and the woman was indeed a mere woman ever after—that is to say, a slave.He replied, that though in some respects it was as I had said, yet I ought to consider that, as an equivalent to this, the man had all the care of things devolved upon him; that the weight of business lay upon his shoulders, and as he had the trust, so he had the toil of life upon him; his was the labour, his the anxiety of living; that the woman had nothing to do but to eat the fat and drink the sweet; to sit still and look around her, be waited on and made much of, be served and loved and made easy, especially if the husband acted as became him; and that, in general, the labour of the man was appointed to make the woman live quiet and unconcerned in the world; that they had the name of subjection without the thing; and if in inferior families they had the drudgery of the house and care of the provisions upon them, yet they had indeed much the easier part; for, in general, the women had only the care of managing—that is, spending what their husbands get; and that a woman had the name of subjection, indeed, but that they generally commanded, not the men only, but all they had; managed all for themselves; and where the man did his duty, the woman's life was all ease and tranquillity, and that she had nothing to do but to be easy, and to make all that were about her both easy and merry.I returned, that while a woman was single, she was a masculine in her politic capacity; that she had then the full command of what she had, and the full direction of what she did; that she was a man in her separate capacity, to all intents and purposes that a man could be so to himself; that she was controlled by none, because accountable to none, and was in subjection to none. So I sung these two lines of Mr. ——'s:—"Oh! 'tis pleasant to be free,The sweetest Miss is Liberty."I added, that whoever the woman was that had an estate, and would give it up to be the slave of a great man, that woman was a fool, and must be fit for nothing but a beggar; that it was my opinion a woman was as fit to govern and enjoy her own estate without a man as a man was without a woman; and that, if she had a mind to gratify herself as to sexes, she might entertain a man as a man does a mistress; that while she was thus single she was her own, and if she gave away that power she merited to be as miserable as it was possible that any creature could be.All he could say could not answer the force of this as to argument; only this, that the other way was the ordinary method that the world was guided by; that he had reason to expect I should be content with that which all the world was contented with; that he was of the opinion that a sincere affection between a man and his wife answered all the objections that I had made about the being a slave, a servant, and the like; and where there was a mutual love there could be no bondage, but that there was but one interest, one aim, one design, and all conspired to make both very happy."Ay," said I, "that is the thing I complain of. The pretence of affection takes from a woman everything that can be called herself; she is to have no interest, no aim, no view; but all is the interest, aim, and view of the husband; she is to be the passive creature you spoke of," said I. "She is to lead a life of perfect indolence, and living by faith, not in God, but in her husband, she sinks or swims, as he is either fool or wise man, unhappy or prosperous; and in the middle of what she thinks is her happiness and prosperity, she is engulfed in misery and beggary, which she had not the least notice, knowledge, or suspicion of. How often have I seen a woman living in all the splendour that a plentiful fortune ought to allow her, with her coaches and equipages, her family and rich furniture, her attendants and friends, her visitors and good company (hide spoiler)]The above is continued in the comments!

  • Natalie
    2019-05-20 09:37

    Oh! It's so deliciously old! Sentences that stretch for paragraphs; seemingly random capitalization scattered about the pages! And yet, it is so human a story you can hardly believe the creature that called themselves humans in the 1720s could have so much in common with you, your very self. Everyone is so naughty! It makes being good seem garishly modern.

  • kingshearte
    2019-05-04 14:43

    In the realm of odd comparisons to make between books, here’s one: This one and Interview With The Vampire. Not because there are any vampires or anything (obviously), but because of my feelings toward the respective protagonists. The main thing I remember about reading Interview is how much Louis annoyed me with his constant whining, and how much I wished he would just shut up and get over it. I’m pretty sure that that same feeling about Defoe’s nameless heroine (her name isn’t really Roxana) is what’s going to stick with me about this book.Because, oh my god, she frets a lot. And always about the same thing. I feel like every single page features at least one paragraph where she moans about her chosen profession and what it means for her immortal soul or whatever, and it drove me crazy. Maybe if I’d been raised in the same environment she was, with its horror of all things sex (especially as it relates to women, of course), I wouldn’t have minded so much, but seriously. Once you’ve amassed enough wealth to live on, if you think what you’re doing is so awful, stop doing it. If the wealth is important enough to you that you want to keep at it so you can get more, then do so and get over it. But either way, for the love of whatever, SHUT. UP.Don’t get me wrong. I’m sympathetic to a point. It’s not her fault she believes that her soul is in peril because of the way she lives her life. The society in which she was brought up made that very clear to her. The only thing worse than giving up your favours outside of marriage is profiting by it. No, sorry, there’s one thing that’s even worse than that: enjoying it. Worst thing a woman could possibly do.Because here’s the thing. At the beginning, when she was trying to decide whether she should become someone’s mistress in the first place, one of the ways she justifies it is to say that, if it’s a matter of life or death, then surely it can be forgiven. And for her, as she was pretty much on the verge of starvation, it was a matter of life or death, so her “fall” was forgivable. But really, sex pretty much was a matter of life or death for all women in that era. Women, as a general rule, were not allowed to make money in any “acceptable” way (even if they were born into wealth that just provided an income without having to work for it, women didn’t generally get to inherit any of that), which means they basically had to rely on a man to provide for them. Whether you marry the dude or not, it basically still boils down to trading sexual favours and your reproductive system for food and shelter. Marriage simply makes it a more binding contract. So by that logic, every woman of that era should get a pass on this particular way of living.But then, of course, she finds herself having to admit that she enjoys it. She likes the attention and the admiration, and I want to say it was implied in at least one spot that she actually enjoys the act itself (gasp!). And that’s when the real hand-wringing starts, and when I started to check out.The rest of the book carries on in a similar vein. She becomes mistress to a handful of men (four, by my count, not counting her first husband, and she did eventually marry one of the four – not an unreasonable number), makes a pile of money, and frets about it all the whole way through. So tedious. And I suppose I should address the final section. It is believed that it was actually written by someone other than Defoe, as there are some inconsistencies. One mentioned by the introduction writer was that while Defoe tended to use “frighted,” the author of the last section used “frightened.” I also observed that Defoe had his heroine refer to her husband most often as her “spouse,” while in the last section, she used the word “husband” more frequently. Furthermore, while, as mentioned above, I found much of the narrative tedious, the first part of the final section was painfully so. The details of their trip from London to Dover were related with such minute precision that it was maddening.That said, assuming that Defoe did indeed not write that last section, I’m left with one question for him: WTF? His ending is essentially “Then they moved to Holland and terrible things happened. The end.” What?! And then I found my own reaction to this kind of fascinating. Why is it that “and they lived happily ever after” is so much more acceptable as an ending than “and they lived miserably ever after”? It’s no less abrupt. I guess it just comes down to narrative conventions. Good storytelling generally relies on conflict. If they lived happily ever after, that implies that there’s no more conflict, so there’s no more story. If they lived miserably ever after, it’s presumably because there was still some conflict, which we as readers want to hear about and find out how it got resolved. All the more so because it’s not like Defoe’s narrative ended with the resolution of all outstanding conflicts, so there were just future ones to deal with. No, he leaves us still right in the middle of the most recent one he’s introduced. It’s all just very strange, and I’m not particularly surprised that someone felt the need to write an actual conclusion to the story.At any rate, at this point, I think I can state fairly confidently that I’m done with Defoe. I’ve read three of his books and haven’t particularly liked any of them. Someone would have to come up with a very compelling argument for me to read any more.

  • kler
    2019-05-15 13:05

    I loved this book SO MUCH!!!! I have to say that the end is a bit weird... I didn't expect it to end this way but I didn't hate it anyway. It is very well written, so pleasurable to read. Roxana is one of the best character I have ever known, she's SO feminist and I loved her badass side. She hates men as much as I do. Loved her.

  • Samantha wickedshizuku Tolleson
    2019-05-09 13:42

    Okay so, I would have never read this if it hadn’t been on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list. I’m glad that it’s on the list! I was amused by Lady Roxana’s antics, and feel that this was mere child’s play compared to modern morality. It gives you a perspective of how strict and stressful life of women in the 1670s and beyond were. This would be a useful reference for anyone pursuing a History major, or Literature minor.

  • Matthew Gatheringwater
    2019-05-19 13:36

    When Roxana strips her maid and forces the girl into bed with Roxana's own lover, she can reflect after the fact that she did this because she was unwilling to let her maid be morally superior to her. "...As I thought myself a Whore," she explains, "I cannot say that it was something design'd in my Thoughts, that my Maid should be a Whore too, and should not reproach me for it." That's the kind of introspection that makes Roxana such an interesting narrative voice and something that distinguishes her from her sister anti-heroine, Moll Flanders.Roxana's self-knowledge, however, is inconsistent. At other times in her narration, she simply recounts her actions without having anything to say about their moral character. She is glib when she describes forcing her son to marry a woman of her own choosing, then punishing him for his reluctance by withholding promised investment capital. This is interesting in a different way: Does she not comment because Defoe is purposefully depicting the blind spots in her character, or is this just another of the many inconsistencies in the novel? (Her age and number of children are muddled, which is not the sort of thing I'd expect an author to get wrong on purpose.) Or am I encountering values so unfamiliar to my own moral experience and observation that what is unworthy of mention in Defoe's community seems a sort of crime in mine? I don't know, and I enjoy not knowing. That is one of the reasons I like to read old novels. The morality of most contemporary novels is so blatant as to become tiresome.Roxana's "bad" behavior is blatant, but her moral arguments are subtle. She represents herself as wicked even when she is describing acts of kindness or extraordinary fair play and generosity. By hastening to assure the reader that she agrees with the conventional opinion of her dissolute life, she (and the author) cleverly forestall the reader's condemnation, although perhaps not to the extent that prevented publishers from feeling they needed to add alternate endings to subsequent editions of the book. In these alternate endings, Roxana is punished for her wrongdoing, penitent, reformed, and usually dead. Defoe gave her a sad and abrupt end, too, but the relish with which her sins are recounted and the complexity of her moral character make me wonder how wicked she was meant to be. Wicked enough, I suppose, to make for good reading--still.For my reference:Roxana's taxonomy of fools begins with the passage: "If you have any regard to your future happiness, any view of living comfortably with a husband, any hope of preserving your fortunes or restoring them after any disaster, never, ladies, marry a fool."Roxana's false "new turn" on the subject of marriage, in which whe explains why she will sleep with, but not marry, her lover begins with: "I told him I had perhaps differing notions of matrimony from what the received custom had given us of it..."

  • Camille
    2019-04-28 10:43

    Books for university are not always the best read. This book do have a fascinating, interesting and perfect woman villain though, just like in Moll Flanders. She was both incredibly frustrating and funny in how manipulative, devious, selfish and self-centered she was.

  • Ben Doeh
    2019-05-11 14:54

    Roxanne !!! put on the red light... put on the red light...Indeed, Roxana has exceptional success in the mistress/pussypower business, becoming an independent lady in a world where men control commerce and political power. Defoe explores the role and viability of female Authority in a man's world, by narrating from Roxana's perspective.The book has many dull passages, but the fourth star is for the novel's dark drama, and its sometimes brilliant and morally complex passages - Roxana forcing her maid into sex; her scathing account of marriage to fools; her reflections on "storm-repentance" at sea; her bedside debate with the Dutch merchant about marriage and blackly amusing comparison of being wife v mistress; and several more. The ending of the novel sustains a tone of dread, and peculiar perplexity about women's supposedly 'maternal' instincts. I can't decide whether it feels forced, or oddly convincing for this operator in the world of men. In any case, it lingers in the mind, and makes me wonder who writes like this today. For even though women have far more options these days, many of the issues still arise.

  • Kin
    2019-04-26 13:47

    There is only one thing I want to say: FINALLY OVER!

  • Rosemary
    2019-04-30 08:47

    I can't believe the print edition of this is only 200+ pages. I had the ebook and it felt like at least 500 pages. Of course, there were no creative writing classes in the 1720s. The first half is fine, and there's a lot of interesting stuff about the position of women in society at the time, as well as a surprising amount of travel and commerce between England, France and the Netherlands. But the second half dragged and became a chore.

  • Thomas
    2019-05-11 10:38

    I loved psychoanalyzing Roxana and her relationships with Amy, her children, and her clients. Thanks to my brilliant Brit Lit professor, I also enjoyed discussing this book's structure (or lack thereof), the theme of redemption, and Defoe and his sadistic mind games. While I do not walk away from reading this changed or particularly impressed, I appreciate it on an intellectual level and as a work with a crazy narrator.

  • Sharon
    2019-04-24 12:55

    There is a huge difference between 17th and 18th century English literature. I had a very difficult time getting through this book. First, it was written in the style of its era, and I found the capitalized nouns and italicized proper nouns extremely distracting. Add to that the narrator's disjointed story-telling, and I almost put the book down several times. I can't say I was rewarded for persevering, but I was hugely relieved when I finished!

  • Emma Wallace
    2019-04-30 10:48

    This novel has left me conflicted to say the least. Roxana is undoubtedly a mesmeric, beguiling character but I simply cannot disconnect my reception of her to proto-feminist notions of female empowerment and emancipation; although her character pontificates over the position of women with some choice feminist rhetoric, I am unable to quell my doubts about how much this notion of unreliable narration undercuts and in many ways is meant to invalidate what she says as mere signs of unwholesome vanity and self-interest. I think all my concerns primarily rest on Defoe's claim to absolute truth telling, a statement that leaves itself open to narrative subjectivity and in this instance a psychological uncertainty about the true nature of the main character. A rip roaring romp of theatrical proportions whose sojourns around 18th century continental Europe I certainly enjoyed as well as its fluctuation among the various strata of social standing, the main part that made this almost intolerably boring for me was its lack of an essential plot- it was simply structureless. And this lack left the story open to repetition, sporadic changes of intention and mostly just inane wondering. The very fact that this was without chapters was almost mind-numbing and the style was undoubtedly a raw, unrefined attempt at capturing character interiority; although I thought characterisation aside, Roxana was an entertaining, engaging and unique perspective whose arguments from a superficial angle you could interpret as a statement defending sex work and female sexuality. I think what niggles me about this novel was that I didn't get what its purpose was and I could only feel immense dissatisfaction, confusion and doubt when completing it- like many I do not trust Roxana as a narrator and therefore I scrutinise the sincerity of these arguments about liberty Defoe places in her mouth and feel agonistic about whether I can ever claim her to be an early feminist heroine. Although perhaps anachronistic to some, the hidden darkness that belies this story disturbs for me the power of Roxana's forward thinking narrative and, while I will simply accept this ambiguity as a product of Defoe's experimentalism with the novel format, I cannot simply give my rating of this the same benefit of the doubt.

  • Mercedes Zavala
    2019-05-15 15:02

    I didn't expect I would enjoy this book as much as I did. Just because its an older book doesn't mean that it isn't a good one. I did wish it had ended in a different way but I am aware that there are alternate endings created by editors so that might be worth taking a look at.

  • Richard
    2019-05-13 09:35

    Defoe's last novel is a remarkable curiosity. It addresses issues of female sexual freedom and financial independence head-on, and must have seemed daringly radical when it was first published in 1724. It gives full narrative control to its eponymous heroine, who chooses what parts of her own story to tell, and what to omit, and who is the sole judge of her own actions and motivations. It sets up (but does not fully follow through on) a fascinating three-way conflict between pragmatic necessity, social conventions (honour) and absolute morality (honesty). In these respects, it seems remarkably modern - but it is virtually inconceivable that Roxana could have been written as it was today, or indeed as the English novel matured later in the eighteenth, and into the nineteenth century. Much of the narrative is less of a plot than a series of events that putter along at varying levels of reader-interest, until they burst into a paroxysm of almost hysterical, melodramatic intensity - which then just stops. The ending of the novel may be a bang, or it may be a whimper, but whichever it is, it happens off-stage. There are swathes of financial and other practical detail (not always as gripping as they might be) that suggest that Defoe is aiming at quasi-documentary realism. At the same time, the novel also has much of the flavour of a medieval morality play: the characters work as individuals and as types; Amy, the Dutch merchant, the Quaker, and Roxana's daughter Susan work as well as people in the heroine's life, as aspects of Roxana herself, or external manifestations and personifications of her desires and actions. A strange book, certainly, but an exhilarating example of a form still finding its feet: the novel skipping, stumbling, leaping.

  • Joanna
    2019-05-18 16:35

    I suspect this book was fairly risque for its time. Even today, it reads as fairly sexy. But the story seems very dated and quaint to a modern reader. While Roxana worries constantly about how her past will ruin her future if it becomes known, I found it hard to believe even though its probably true for its time. Also, what's up with just ditching all her children? This part of the character made no sense to me even when viewing the story through a historical lens. Did people really just have kids then leave them behind, perhaps with some money for care, or perhaps not? This seemed wildly implausible. She didn't seem all that pained by it. Did Defoe have any children? Maybe he just didn't believe parents have any real connection to their offspring.The narrator for the audible version of this is fabulous. She reads this with real energy and manages the seemingly endless discussion of finances without letting it drag down the story. Dear reader, do yourself a favor and quickly look up currency just enough to understand the wacky French livres, pistoles, and ecus (though not many ecus are mentioned here).I'm happy to have listened to this, but one could easily skip this without missing an important classic. My (pretty comprehensive) library didn't even have a copy.

  • Richard Simpson
    2019-05-21 17:01

    For its time this work was revolutionary: promiscuity, atheism, bigamy, its all in here. To think that this novel is a near contemporary of Pamela, an excruciatingly moralising tale, makes the contrast all the sharper.The true mark of a writer, Defoe is controversial, and is not intrusive enough to clearly mark out authorial approval or the reverse in regards to Roxana's exploits. Of course, Roxana is the narrator, but her bursts of remorse sound half-hearted and her inference that she is being punished by God for her sins only comes about once her luck is curtailed. The unrepentant, successful, independent hedonist is the more captivating and disturbing picture; despite her dubious morality one can't help admiring Roxana. Because the story is controversial and morally ambiguous it earns my top marks. On the other hand this writing is a few centuries old, so I would be lying if I said this does not matter to me, it does, and 17-18th century prose I find repetitive, clumsy and downright boring at times, whether or not the story is a brilliant one.

  • Faustina
    2019-04-29 13:45

    WHY did I like this book? I frankly have no idea! Practically nothing happens in it. The heroine is not particularly sympathetic, cool, or even sexy. In fact, for being a novel about a prostitute, there is very little sex or even sensuality in this book. I think the only reason why I survived it is because I liked the use of the language. Probably for most people Defoe's English would not be very easy to read (no quotation marks, lots of strange capitalization, and weird italics). However, I had already survived Richardson's "Clarissa", so I already had a grasp of the way words were used back then - quite a grasp actually, "Clarissa" is a huge book! Would I recommend this book to anyone else? Well, no! Will I ever read it again? Probably not. But for some reason I don't regret the time I took to read it through once.Was this review helpful? Probably not! Sorry, but I honestly don't know what else to say about this book! :)

  • Pilar Erika
    2019-05-11 14:42

    There are parts throughout the book that I really liked: how Daniel Defoe makes to be known the difficult situations women had to endure for being women in the 18th century patriarchal society. And particularly good is, in my opinion, the discourse on the multiple disadvantages marriage has for women. But, on the whole, I think Moll Flanders is a much better narrative than Roxana."Hay partes a lo largo de todo el libro que realmente me gustaron: cómo Daniel Defoe muestra la difícil situación que la mujer tiene que soportar por ser mujer en la sociedad patriarcal del siglo XVIII. Y especialmente bueno es, según mi opinión, el discurso sobre las múltiples desventajas del matrimonio para las mujeres. Pero, en general, creo que Moll Flanders es una obra narrativa mucho mejor que Roxana."

  • Martin
    2019-05-07 15:47

    The 18th century "1,001 books..." march through whoredom continues with another whore whoring her way around the Whorenited Kingdom. Who finds this claptrap, pun intended, entertaining? Certainly I don't. Defoe is still a deft storytelling hand, but I'm done with the whores who are also part-time accountants tallying every penny that their whoredom earns them. The only thing that sets this one apart is that as she descends further and further into her self-made happily-ever-during-but-collapse-at-the-end life is that throughout, she is constantly contemplative of her actions. Big deal. She's still a decrepit moral morass, and Mr. Boxall, I can't read any more like this. How is this a contribution to literature?

  • Maan Kawas
    2019-04-30 16:00

    A beautiful and interesting novel by Daniel Defoe, which addresses a number of themes and ideas, such as the nature marriage, marriage contract, motherhood, personal freedom (especially female freedom), actions and consequences, aims and ends, parental duties and responsibilities, and the power of reason in finding solutions to threats and challenges. I particularly liked proto-feminist Roxana’s discussion about gender differences in marital life in a patriarchal society/culture, and the different roles and positions men and women play and hold. I also liked her description of the differences between a married woman, a mistress, and a whore; and I liked her dignity and resolution. Although I enjoyed the novel very much, I did not expect such an interrupted end!

  • Laura
    2019-05-20 10:45

    This is the last novel written by Daniel Defoe.It tells the story of Roxana, former know as Mlle Beleau, who have to choose between being a burglar or a rich courtesan since she has five children on her own and her loyal servant Amy.Once she made her choice, she embarks in a life with several protectors in different countries: England, France and Holland.I must confess this was not an easy reading since the main character is the narrator of her own story. Moreover, it is written in old English fashion with too many words capitalized. However, one has to take into account that this book was written in 1724.

  • Andrea Zuvich
    2019-05-22 09:00

    I really enjoyed this book and "Roxana" is a fascinating character although she was rather vain at times!I would, however, recommend potential readers seek the full 1745 edition – as this gives a fuller ending (a common cause for complaint, especially here on Goodreads, is the abruptness of the ending in the original and in the abridged versions).Read my full review at:

  • Erin
    2019-04-28 14:03

    I read this for uni this semester and I'm pretty sure I've read this book many years ago, but I just don't remember too much about it. In any case, I re-read it and really enjoyed it. The main character holds such advanced views on the female gender and I liked that a lot about her, even if the main character herself is not particularly likeable at times. Still, a great read.4.5 stars!

  • Morgan Blanch
    2019-05-08 11:43

    After a rocky start, I finally finished this book yesssssss.This was certainly different from some of the other classics I've read in that 1) it doesn't have any chapters whatsoever and 2) the main character was certainly . . . interesting.It was definitely enjoyable and different, but I am so glad that's over.

  • Craig
    2019-04-25 10:03

    Roxana demonstrated Defoe's great ability to write as a different gender and from a strikingly different social and political perspective than his own. Roxana does not share his (Defoe's) conservative views on marriage. Roxana is, to me, a daring novel for Defoe, mainly due to the subject and her behavior (considering the time when it was published).

  • Initially NO
    2019-05-17 14:03

    I think The Police wrote a song that was analogous of the main character in this book. Worth a read. Defoe oldenises language in a similar way to Peter Carey in ‘The true history of the Kelly Gang’. But Roxana is a different era, and the focus is on women.

  • Ellen
    2019-05-13 14:44

    quite dull but i surprisingly began to enjoy it

  • Ereck
    2019-05-13 12:51

    Read August 2000Re-Read Dec 2012Re-Read Sept 2016