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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (Oxford World's Classics)
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on March 9, 2018
This work could easily deserve five stars depending on your taste and desire, but I've given it four simply because Defoe can at times be cumbersome and pedantic.

Roxana serves as a novel that is more interesting to analyze than breeze through in my opinion. It deals with many intriguing themes and ideas, some which were certainly at least somewhat novel at the time of publication in 1724, such as: the desperation of poverty, the value and status of female virtue, the feared Master/Slave dichotomy of marriage, the all consuming nature of avarice, lust, vanity, and pride, and the whether repentance can be genuine or meaningful.

There are a fair amount of similarities between Roxana and Moll Flanders, but Roxana deals more with the escape from poverty and marriage into what may be considered an equally morally dangerous, albeit less dismal, realm of riches and desires.

A few quotes:
"...that's a hard thing too, that we should judge a Man to be wicked because he's charitable; and vicious because he's kind: O Madam, says Amy, there's abundance of Charity begins in that Vice, and he is not so unacquainted with things, as not to know, that Poverty is the strongest Incentive; a Temptation, against which no Virtue is powerful enough to stand out..."

"In things we wish, 'tis easie to deceive;
What we would have, we willingly believe."

"So possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in Wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by Conscience; and that Centinel once doz'd, sleeps fast, not to be awaken'd while the Tide of Pleasure continues to flow, or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again."

"That the very Nature of the Marriage-Contract was in short, nothing but giving up Liberty, Estate, Authority, and every-thing, to the Man, and the Woman was indeed, a meer Woman ever after, that is to say, a Slave. [...] 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 gratifie herself as to Sexes, she might entertain a Man, as a Man does a Misstress; 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 cou'd be."

"This, however, shews us with what faint Excuses, and with what Trifles we pretend to satisfie ourselves, and suppress the Attempts of Conscience in the Pursuit of agreeable Crime, and in the possessing those Pleasures which we are loth to part with."

As you can tell, the Oxford text is a facsimilie presentation of the original work down to the period-specific spelling. This does make the book harder to read at pace, but I actually enjoyed seeing the oddities and relics of written language.
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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 January 26, 2018
This book is a lot of fun. If it were written today, it would never make it out of the slush pile, but from a historical perspective, it's a great book for a rousing book club discussion. Keep in mind that it was written in 1700's England. I would love to see a TV series based on this book. Amazon?
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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 August 7, 2002
I love this book. It was as good as "Moll Flanders" and has a very happy and satisfying ending.
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on February 6, 2014
This is probably Defoe's best work. I really didn't enjoy Robinson Crusoe as much as the mysterious Roxanna, if that is her real name.
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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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on May 19, 2014
I found it very hard to read & couldn't get through it. I read books set in this era all the time but found the archaic language structure too daunting. I just don't like to re-read a sentence three times before I understand it fully.
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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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on July 11, 2006
This novel is about how the desperations brought on by poverty can lead not only to crime but to a moral vacuum within an individual. Roxana is left a penniless widow with five children at age 22. In order to survive she becomes the mistress of her landlord and eventually bears him a son. Greed replaces need, and she determines to become a "woman of Wealth." After the landlord is murdered in a robbery, she becomes the mistress of an even wealthier prince, refusing to marry him because that would mean having to share her wealth. Eventually, after guilt and repentance set in over her squandered life, she decides to marry the prince, but all does not turn out well: she moves to Holland with him where "I fell into a dreadful Course of Calamities ... and I was brought so low again." One of the most interesting characters in the book is Roxana's faithful maid Amy, who sticks by Roxana through all her tribulations, even once offering her body to the landlord when Roxana appears to be barren. But for the life of me, after reading the ending a dozen times, I can't tell for sure whether Amy actually kills Roxana's menacing daughter or merely threatens to do so. This edition retains all the original spellings and punctuations, so it's a little hard reading at first, but with a little perseverance the eye and mind adjust and the difficulty wanes. Worth the effort.
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