The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the famous Moll Flanders, etc. who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Three-score 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
...which sums up the story line of the novel, leaving out the best parts.
I first read this book when I was 16, in the throes of Jaded Virgin Syndrome (inexperienced but very curious, with an annoying sense of superiority) and thought it would be "dirty" like Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.....I was wrong about the "dirty" part, and this is the better book.
With the passing years I have come to realize that financial security is of the utmost importance to women, either in relationships or not. Life can take any number of nasty turns that can leave a woman penniless and alone, so a nest egg, personal bank account, stash-in-a-stocking is a necessity. Our Moll realized that in seventeenth century England and always kept he eye on the bottom line...of a ledger book, no matter how lusty or criminal her behavior. The gal knew how to have a good time but she knew good times had a price tag, either for services rendered, or in the form of Presents, for her jolly nature and a good tumble. Moll was never hard-hearted, she just kept her heart in its place and not on her sleeve.
For this reason her character might seem a bit thin and one-dimensional, to which I'll agree, up to a point. Given that her world view, and her view of "love" and "relationships" is one of trade & commodities, it would be absurd and unseemly to have her going all emotional when life threw her a curve, which it did many times over. Moll is nothing if not resilient, and I appreciated this type of realism and its necessity to move the story along....Very little whinging.
As for Moll's ultimate state of grace and penitence, I believe she regretted her past transgressions. Not sure if she really rued them, except on her deathbed...a scene to which we readers are not privy.
I liked this book, the second time around, for its honesty, humor, and controlled pathos. I love Moll, whatever her "real name" and consider her one of my favorite literary characters. Go forth and seek out this book...and the DVDs with Alex Kingston, which are glorious for her presence