Moonfleet is a smuggling, treasure seeking novel set in Georgian Dorset. I first read this book as a school set book aged 13. The English teacher, Mrs Ward, set this as the first book in my new school in what would now be called year 9. It was a popular read but I haven't reread it until now when I decided to reread for two reasons
- would it be a suitable read aloud for my 7 and 9 year olds for next year?
- as part of the Back to the Classics challenge I needed to reread a book which I had read in school.
Moonfleet is narrated, in the first person, by John Trenchard an orphan who at the start of the book is fifteen. John manages to find the possible clue to a lost, ill-gained diamond and to fall in with the local smuggling gang. John is thrown out by his rather unsympathetic aunt and taken in by the local inn keeper and leader of the smugglers, Elzevir Block. Just to complicate matters, John loves the daughter of the local magistrate.
John and Elzevir end up having a price on their heads and having to flee the country. Adventures in search of treasure ensue and eventually, lead to ten wasted years. The book comes to a dramatic and unexpected climax back near Moonfleet village.
My thoughts on Moonfleet:
- Moonfleet hasn't become less exciting over the years and on rereading, I think that whilst it is probably very suitable for 13 year olds, it isn't a book that I could read to my two youngest quite yet. There are one or two rather scary moments.
- Smuggling in literature is often viewed with rather a rosy glow. Certainly, in this book, smuggling is viewed in a favourable light. The hero of the book, Elzevir, is leader of a smuggling gang and even, at the end of the book, when John has become "respectable" there is a delicate ignoring of possible illicit bringing in of goods. I didn't struggle so much with this as a child but having had an ancestor who was converted from a family with associations with one of the most notorious south eastern smuggling gangs, I now feel uncomfortable about this aspect.
- Spoiler alert: The hunt for the ill-gained treasure is treated in a much more moral way and finding this prize leads to trouble. The book has a background theme of repentance and restitution as well as sacrificing life for a friend.
Overall, I would recommend this book but for older rather than younger children. It has dramatic moments; three deaths-one of which is a shooting. It certainly isn't a dull book and would appeal to those who like adventure with plenty of action!