Sunday, February 27, 2011

Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner

I love those little paperback Puffin Classics as they were being printed a few years ago, with the colourful spines and that reassuring “Complete and Unabridged” printed on the cover. I have come across so many good books—Heidi, and Rupert of Hentzau, and others—as Puffin Classics that when I come across one I have never heard of before, I will buy and read it with confidence.
Such was Moonfleet. I had never heard of it before. I had never seen it before. I had no idea what it was about. But as I found, it is another excellent adventure story from a hundred-odd years ago, well-written and exciting.
It tells the story of orphaned John Trenchard, who at fifteen year old finds himself tumbling into a mystery. He lives in the little seaside village of Moonfleet, which trades in fish and the finest French brandy—the latter to the deep chagrin of His Majesty's Excise-men. When a midnight jaunt in search of the local ghost's famous ill-gotten treasure keeps him out all night, John's aunt refuses to receive him back and he is taken in by Elzevir Block, whose own son was killed in a brandy-and-redcoats-related accident.
John soon joins Elzevir in the family brandy import business, but when one cargo runs into trouble leaving John and Elzevir with the blood of a local attorney on their hands, the pair have to flee.
Moonfleet could best be described as a cross between Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. It's a fast-paced first-person narrative with smugglers, danger, shipwreck, young love, hidden treasure, ghosts, regret, and the getting of wisdom. It also has two specific advantages in being a vintage novel: first, it is written by a Christian man with due reverence for the clergy, for Providence, and for virtue. Second, it is well-written, in the matchless Victorian prose that has degenerated irretrievably since the time of Austen, Stevenson, Buchan, Lewis, Chesterton, Haggard, and Tolkien. I am thrilled to have found it, and although I am a little old to really enjoy it as it deserves, one day it will be brought out for the enjoyment of my own youngsters, and they'll like it even more than I do.


The Yuletide Kid said...

I read MOONFLEET as a teenager and was captivated by it. My grandmother gave a first edition copy to my other brother for Christmas, but he never read it. Luckily I picked it up one day and was immediately transported into a bygone era of Dorset, England.

Besides having all the virtues that you enumerated in your review, MOONFLEET always struck me as the ultimate tale of friendship and sacrifice. It explains in the starkest of terms Christ's often misunderstood dictum: "Greater love hath no man than he lays his life down for a friend."

As ever,
The Yuletide Kid

Suzannah said...

Now what do you know? I had a brother like that too.

I agree--this is such a good read.

The Yuletide Kid said...

Good grief, Susannah, this has to stop. We actually agree on a book. What will this do to a budding friendship?

As ever,
The Yuletide Kid

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