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Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (Oxford World's Classics)
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 15, 2006
ROXANA is a fascinating book. Too often the title character is measured against Moll Flanders and is found inferior. Yes, she shares several of Moll's traits, including beauty, ambition and a lack of hesitation to use sex to exploit a situation to her advantage. But Roxana is a far more complex character. Whereas Moll started poor, Roxana suffers a calamity from which she must recover. It is through this experience that she develops into the con-artist that she becomes. But what truly sets her apart from all of Defoe's other characters is that she is capable of guilt. She is more psychologically developed in other ways, too. Notice all the complex emotions when she engineers a menage-a-trois with a gentleman and her maid, Amy. Defoe was "pushing the envelope" with ROXANA. Wherein MOLL FLANDERS is a comedy, ROXANA is a primitive thriller. It's a pity Alfred Hitchcock never adapted ROXANA for the screen because there are several very unsettling and suspenseful scenes in the novel as ROXANA's true identity is in danger of being revealed. And the ending is truly unsettling. I don't know why Hollywood hasn't discovered this one (although considering all the terrible film versions of MOLL FLANDERS, perhaps it's just as well).

The form of the novel was new when ROXANA was written. There were no rules. There were no precedents. Defoe came up with something truly extraordinary. There's nothing else quite like it. For me, ROXANA is unforgettable. I first read this book twenty years ago and there are scenes that still haunt me. If you've read ROBINSON CRUSOE and MOLL FLANDERS, by all means read ROXANA, too. You'll be amazed at how avant-garde ROXANA seems in comparison. Of the six of Defoe's major works that I have read, this is one of my favorites. It's not as tidy as CRUSOE and MOLL, but it has more of a plot and covers a broader range of emotions.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2002
I read "Robinson Crusoe" as a young boy, and never forgot it (55 years later); then, as a mature adult I read "A Journal of the Plague Year" and "Moll Flanders", both of which were execellent reads; and a few days ago I finished "Roxana", so let me share a few thoughts about the book.
First off, when you read Defoe, it is essential to realize that you are dipping into the very beginnings of English literature. Anything that is three centuries removed from the present has to be put into its historical context in order to make sense of it, and contemporary values must be held in abeyance. If you are capable of doing that, you are in for a heck of a good story, as are all of the books mentioned above.
"Roxana" concerns the rise and fall (mostly rise) of a woman left destitute, along with her five children, by her fool of a husband. Circumstances eventually lead her to prostitution as a means of survival, and as luck would have it, her "gentlemen protectors" are uniformly wealthy, and by means of careful marshalling of her earnings Roxana becomes independently wealthy. But what she lacks is social status, which leads her to her final alliance with a Dutch merchant who knows nothing of her past.
Along the way, Roxana begets and abandons about nine offspring here and there(this being the days before birth control), and one of them, Susan, figures in the downfall of Roxana. This novel pays great attention to the psychological aspects of living a life that is generally condemned by society. Defoe shapes Roxana's psychological health around his own ethical views, and, as such, makes Roxana suffer for her choices in the long run. Thus, the novel does not end happily for its central character, an interesting fact, in that this is the only novel of Defoe's that does not end happily for the protagonist.
All told, "Roxana" is a great read. Defoe certainly reflects his ethical biases, but at the same time does a good job of objectively fleshing out charaters who forcefully express points of view that differ from his own.
For me, everything worked beautifully in the novel until the last paragraph, but that happens a lot in literature.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1998
This novel follows the progress of a woman who is left by her husband with only her servant. She vows never to be poor again, and climbs her way back up the social ladder by using men and her body. The novel, while possibly intended as a conduct book to show women what happens to those who sin, reads today as a portrait of a woman trapped between society's views and her own upward movement. A very interesting, and at times disturbing, read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2003
I read this having recently enjoyed Moll Flanders. They are very different, Moll's story is something of a bawdy, satirical comedy, whereas Roxana's is a tragic tale. I think that other reviewers have perhaps missed the irony that is inherent in Defoe's work. While presenting these tales of 'fallen' women as confessions of repentence, I think that was something of a cover, without which his novels would have been unacceptable to his contemporary audience. He creates strong, autonomous women, driven by economics. He does not judge them and because of that neither do we. Was he in fact an early feminist? He believed strongly in the education of women and advocated equality in marriage in 'Conjugal Lewdness.' I think Roxana is an extention of those ideas.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 1997
I liked this book because of the type of grammar
used. Defoe went beyond societies taboos of that
time making this a controversial book. Once you get
started you like to see what's going to happen next.
This book, if written today, would definitely be a
romance, murder, mystery kind of book. The way Defoe
writes, it makes you feel like you are in that age.
After reading it I wanted to go out and do research'
on the age that the book was written in. I would
recommend this book to anyone who is open to a
challenging book that allows the reader to escape to
another world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2007
The itinerary of Daniel Defoe's heroine is absolutely not a common example of life in Paris and London in the 18th century. At that time, only 10 % of the population was older than 30 years and only one in one thousand was rich.
For Roxana, `Poverty was my Snare', `the dreadful Argument of wanting Bread'. And, `Poverty is the strongest Incentive; a Temptation against which no Virtue is powerful enough to stand out.'
What saves Roxana from a certain early death is her beauty, her sex-appeal: `In une Deshabile you charm me a thousand times more.'
With her beauty she amasses a fortune. After being a slave (`comply and live, deny and starve'), she is free (`the sweetest of Miss is Liberty'): `that while a Woman was single, that she had then the full Command of what she had, and the full Direction of what she did.'
She abhors the institution of matrimony and prefers to be a Mistress: `A Wife is treated with Indifference, a Mistress with a strong Passion; a Wife is looked upon as but an Upper-Servant, a Mistress is a Sovereign.'
But what ultimately brings Roxana down is religion and its correlative, remorse: `the Sence of Religion, and Duty to God, all Regard to Virtue and Honour given up ... (I was) no more than a [...].'
Remorse makes her look after her abandoned children, but this quest turns into a tragedy.

Like `Moll Flanders', this more moralist text constitutes a formidable portrait of the `horrid Complication' to be a woman.

Not to be missed.
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on September 1, 2014
*This product was purchased on another account with Prime, but I write all the reviews on this account.*

THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE ACTUAL PRODUCT ONLY, NOT THE STORY/LITERATURE
But, after reading a few chapters, this story needs to be evaluated for its own merit and not as a constant parallel to Moll Flanders as so many readers seem eager to do.

I purchased a hardback copy of Roxana from pen-and-ink-books for a total price of $10.57. I am one of those few people who enjoy the feel of an actual book in my hands and an extensive library in my living room (unless it's time to move; then, I hate them all.) When I order from Amazon, I usually get what I expect, which is ideal. On another review, I wrote that it was the second time I had been pleasantly surprised by a product I had purchased. This was the first.

The actual book is positively lovely. The cover is the sort of red linen found on older books, but the spine is burgundy leather with gold embossing. The top of the pages are gold gilt, and they are crisp and clean with no tears, folds, or markings. Outside of a teensy bit of wear on the corners of the cover (not the spine,) the book is in pristine condition. I daresay it has never been read, but it still has that wonderful older book/library scent.

This copy was published in 1946 by the Fine Editions Press specifically for the Fine Editions Club. I know this because tucked inside the book I found the small pamphlet the book came with titled "Member News" Vol. 51, No. 7. This little two-page pamphlet contains a short summary of the book and biography of Daniel Defoe. I would have liked to have been a member of such a club and receive lovely editions of classic books ever so often. Finding this little bit of history in the book was just, well, neat.

Unfortunately, this vendor has no other copies of this book listed and other hardbacks begin at $25. I wished to submit this review to recommend other products from this vendor. I was so very pleased with my copy of Roxana, and I would happily purchase from pen-and-ink-books again.
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on April 11, 2014
Roxana is the young and beautiful wife of a foolish man who, after losing his business and money that he inherited from his father, abandons her with five children. For a woman in this situation in the early 18th century there are not many choices, but Roxana falls into one of the least desirable, that of a mistress. While she is quite successful, in terms of gaining a succession of wealthy benefactors, her own personal wealth and securing her financial future, it is at the expense of her relationship with her children, and their happiness as in order to embark on her career she has to first palm them off to relatives with limited resources.
Defoe describes well the limited choices, and the consequences, faced by women who are abandoned and expected to make a living to survive with no employment opportunities, or help from family, the government or charity. When she manages to amass a tidy fortune and has an honourable offer of marriage, which she can accept as she understands her husband is dead, she baulks at the thought of having to give over her funds to her husband and risk being placed in the same penniless situation again and so rejects the offer.
She is unable to reunite with her children and shows little interest in doing so. Through her relationships she has three or four more children and they are suitably cared for, but do not know their parents. She does not seem to regret this and while this may seem strange to our modern view it possibly reflects the high child mortality rate of the time and the author being a man rather than a mother.
The book gives an insight into the difficulties faced by women and their marriages. Defoe's views on marriage come through in the narrative as well as his views on poverty and its effects on moral choices. Roxana is a strong and likeable character who makes the best she can out of her circumstances but is not sensible enough, due to vanity and greed, to change her course when given the opportunity to do so. Ultimately she regrets her choices and ends her life in misery. Roxana is an early example of a literary tragedy.
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on October 27, 2013
I read this novel some months ago. I can recommend it to you if you like to read about aristocrats lives. Roxana wanted to be an aristicrat no matter what. She was abandoned, so, in order to survive she had to prostitute herself, but as time went by she did not realize she became a whore because of the high status-quo she was used to live.
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on October 22, 2012
I'm not much of a reader so I wasn't really looking forward to receiving this book but I needed it for class lol. Service was excellent and it came in sooner than I expected!
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