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Moonfleet Paperback – May 18, 2015
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|Paperback, May 18, 2015||
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From the Back Cover
Moonfleet (1898) begins as a mystery and an adventure story, a tale of smuggling set among the cliffs, caves, and downs of Dorset. What will be the outcome of the conflict between smugglers and revenue men? How can the hero, John Trenchard, discover the secret of Colonel John Mohune's treasure? As the book progresses these two interwoven themes resolve themselves into a third and richer one, with the friendship and suffering of both John Trenchard and the craggy, taciturn Elzevir Block. The novel is at once a well-paced account of dramatic action and a celebration of the unregainable freedoms of childhood, when, as Falkner's sister wrote in a memoir, 'there are no seasons, everything happens all the year round'. Falkner's feeling for history and for the landscape of his Dorset setting combine with his gift for storytelling to turn Moonfleet into a historical romance of moving intensity. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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My wife first learned of this book while we looked up information on the movie. She liked the movie and decided she wanted the book. She loves the book except for the tiny print. I have looked at it and she is right! It looks the size of the disclaimers you see flying past on televised advertisements.
I would recommend it for all teenagers who have an interest in reading, and for those whose interest needs to be stimulated.
Of course, the diamond carries a curse with it, and there follows a debate as to whether or not to pursue it, and eventually the story hops over to the Netherlands for a bit. As one might expect of a book written more than a century ago, the melodrama ratchets up significantly at the climax, and the ending is a little moralistic and pat. But that's all to be expected for a book of its time.
My kid lost interest about 80% of the way through, and I had to smooth out some of the archaic vocabulary and turns of phrase at times, but for the most part I think it still holds together as a kid's adventure book. (I also had to stop and explain in some detail why importing French alcohol without paying duties was both profitable and crime.) Despite some scenes of adventure and tension, a remarkably large part of the book carries a melancholy tone that's somewhat at odds with the image of the classic adventure tale.
The striking thing about Moonfleet is that it works so well as a thriller. Thrillers seem like a relatively modern genre, but Moonfleet certainly manages to tick most of the thriller boxes. Each challenge the hero is faced with is overcome with difficulty, and no sooner has he jumped out of the frying pan then he's into the fire. And the story is filled with a variety of thrills: a clifftop chase, disasters at sea, betrayals, and the 18th century equivalent of a big heist. The trials and tribulations of John and his companion Elzevir seem to be strongly influenced by Jean Valjean's ordeal in Les Miserables, or Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. But this isn't just a pastiche; Moonfleet has a distinct style and a great sense of place.
What's also amazing about the book is that it's only been filmed once, in 1955, and based on the plot description on IMDB the filmmakers made major changes to the story. Moonfleet is ridiculously entertaining, and the only minor mark against it is that sometimes the dialogue is excessively archaic. Falkner wrote two other novels, one of which was The Lost Stradivarius, an odd story about a man seemingly possessed by a violin, although the sub-text seems to be a veiled warning about the evils of homosexuality.
Read more of my reviews at JettisonCocoon dot com.