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The Fortunate Mistress: Roxana

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  2,396 ratings  ·  113 reviews
Roxana (1724), Defoe's last and darkest novel, is the autobiography of a woman who has traded her virtue, at first for survival, and then for fame and fortune. Its narrator tells the story of her own 'wicked' life as the mistress of rich and powerful men. A resourceful adventuress, she is also an unforgiving analyst of her own susceptibilities, who tells us of the price sh ...more
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Published 1953 by Royal Giant (first published 1724)
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Alex
Daniel Defoe, the popular 1700s smut peddler, is back with another sexy story about sexy sluts having sex - and this one might be his dirtiest yet! Roxana offers her maid up for sexual purposes to her lover! She dresses like a harem slave and puts on sexy little dance numbers! It's not as dirty as famed 1750 porno Fanny Hill, but it's not so far off.

Defoe likes to put his characters in desperate straits. He's most famous for the one about the castaway, but his two next-most-famous books use the
...more
Amber
Dec 31, 2013 Amber rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1001 books people, if you enjoyed the review
Recommended to Amber by: I read a passage in 18th century lit
This book has the most modern, compelling and insightful argument about why women of 1724 were better to stay unmarried, which is an absolute must read and highlights all Roxana's strengths. I promise, the rest of the novel is NOTHING like this. If you're interested in checking it out, skip to the bottom spoiler tag.



I'm not one of those people who DNF's books. And yeah, I abandoned The Oresteia but you would too if you had to read all those footnotes after you dropped the class

If I was smart (an
...more
Ellie
This book has one of the strangest and most slapdash endings I've ever read...the only way it could have been stranger is if Defoe had concluded that all of Roxana's life had been an opium induced hallucination. It was as if someone came into the room to say Defoe's tea was ready while he was finishing the novel and he had to hurriedly bash out a final paragraph.

This being said, the overall novel was quite enjoyable. Defoe's style comprises of a strangely relaxing, monotonous chant of well turn
...more
Natalie
Oh! It's so deliciously old! Sentences that stretch for paragraphs; seemingly random capitalization scattered about the pages! And yet, it is so human a story you can hardly believe the creature that called themselves humans in the 1720s could have so much in common with you, your very self. Everyone is so naughty! It makes being good seem garishly modern.
Ben Doeh
Roxanne !!! put on the red light... put on the red light...

Indeed, Roxana has exceptional success in the mistress/pussypower business, becoming an independent lady in a world where men control commerce and political power. Defoe explores the role and viability of female Authority in a man's world, by narrating from Roxana's perspective.

The book has many dull passages, but the fourth star is for the novel's dark drama, and its sometimes brilliant and morally complex passages - Roxana forcing her
...more
kingshearte
In the realm of odd comparisons to make between books, here’s one: This one and Interview With The Vampire. Not because there are any vampires or anything (obviously), but because of my feelings toward the respective protagonists. The main thing I remember about reading Interview is how much Louis annoyed me with his constant whining, and how much I wished he would just shut up and get over it. I’m pretty sure that that same feeling about Defoe’s nameless heroine (her name isn’t really Roxana) i ...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
When Roxana strips her maid and forces the girl into bed with Roxana's own lover, she can reflect after the fact that she did this because she was unwilling to let her maid be morally superior to her. "...As I thought myself a Whore," she explains, "I cannot say that it was something design'd in my Thoughts, that my Maid should be a Whore too, and should not reproach me for it." That's the kind of introspection that makes Roxana such an interesting narrative voice and something that distinguishe ...more
Thomas
I loved psychoanalyzing Roxana and her relationships with Amy, her children, and her clients. Thanks to my brilliant Brit Lit professor, I also enjoyed discussing this book's structure (or lack thereof), the theme of redemption, and Defoe and his sadistic mind games. While I do not walk away from reading this changed or particularly impressed, I appreciate it on an intellectual level and as a work with a crazy narrator.
Richard Simpson
For its time this work was revolutionary: promiscuity, atheism, bigamy, its all in here. To think that this novel is a near contemporary of Pamela, an excruciatingly moralising tale, makes the contrast all the sharper.

The true mark of a writer, Defoe is controversial, and is not intrusive enough to clearly mark out authorial approval or the reverse in regards to Roxana's exploits. Of course, Roxana is the narrator, but her bursts of remorse sound half-hearted and her inference that she is being
...more
Faustina
WHY did I like this book? I frankly have no idea! Practically nothing happens in it. The heroine is not particularly sympathetic, cool, or even sexy. In fact, for being a novel about a prostitute, there is very little sex or even sensuality in this book. I think the only reason why I survived it is because I liked the use of the language. Probably for most people Defoe's English would not be very easy to read (no quotation marks, lots of strange capitalization, and weird italics). However, I had ...more
Initially NO
I think The Police wrote a song that was analogous of the main character in this book. Worth a read. Defoe oldenises language in a similar way to Peter Carey in ‘The true history of the Kelly Gang’. But Roxana is a different era, and the focus is on women.
Laura
This is the last novel written by Daniel Defoe.

It tells the story of Roxana, former know as Mlle Beleau, who have to choose between being a burglar or a rich courtesan since she has five children on her own and her loyal servant Amy.

Once she made her choice, she embarks in a life with several protectors in different countries: England, France and Holland.

I must confess this was not an easy reading since the main character is the narrator of her own story. Moreover, it is written in old English f
...more
Ann
Roxana is what we would term today a "survivor." Yet she suffers for her constant moral lapses: she has moments of alarming clarity in which she reasons that her soul must be damned (and I think hey girl, you didn't do anything all that bad). Social mores were only more proper on paper back in 1724. In practice they just had different excuses and obfuscations from the ones we employ. Roxana did what she "had" to do. She is a prototypical feminist of sorts refusing to marry at one point because a ...more
Monty Milne
Although reading this was not a particularly enjoyable experience, since I finished the novel I keep thinking about it, and the issues it raises. The really fascinating thing is the way Roxana's voice seems to show she has some insight into how appallingly she has behaved, but that ultimately she has something missing. The way Defoe subtly indicates this self awareness, and its limitations, makes the book intriguing but also slightly horrifying.

Make no mistake, Roxana is a bitch. Yes, one can sy
...more
Sonya
I love, love, LOVE this book, but I find its conclusion so infuriating!
Erin
I read this for uni this semester and I'm pretty sure I've read this book many years ago, but I just don't remember too much about it. In any case, I re-read it and really enjoyed it. The main character holds such advanced views on the female gender and I liked that a lot about her, even if the main character herself is not particularly likeable at times. Still, a great read.

4.5 stars!
Sharon
There is a huge difference between 17th and 18th century English literature. I had a very difficult time getting through this book. First, it was written in the style of its era, and I found the capitalized nouns and italicized proper nouns extremely distracting. Add to that the narrator's disjointed story-telling, and I almost put the book down several times. I can't say I was rewarded for persevering, but I was hugely relieved when I finished!
Craig
Roxana demonstrated Defoe's great ability to write as a different gender and from a strikingly different social and political perspective than his own. Roxana does not share his (Defoe's) conservative views on marriage. Roxana is, to me, a daring novel for Defoe, mainly due to the subject and her behavior (considering the time when it was published).
Julianne Quaine
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 relati ...more
Martin
The 18th century "1,001 books..." march through whoredom continues with another whore whoring her way around the Whorenited Kingdom. Who finds this claptrap, pun intended, entertaining? Certainly I don't. Defoe is still a deft storytelling hand, but I'm done with the whores who are also part-time accountants tallying every penny that their whoredom earns them. The only thing that sets this one apart is that as she descends further and further into her self-made happily-ever-during-but-collapse-a ...more
Kin
There is only one thing I want to say: FINALLY OVER!
Arukiyomi
Now, if you’ve read Moll Flanders, you’ll be forgiven if you think you’ve read this somewhere before. You have. Kind of.

Just as Moll gets left with no other social option than to pass her body around as many men as possible to survive, so does Roxana. But there are two differences which make this a different novel, better in some ways, but not as important to the genre.

One is that Roxana falls far farther than Moll who always had one foot in the gutter. This fact endeared me to Moll. Roxana I di
...more
Tebo Steele
Well, Roxana may fit the bill for a seventeenth century 'whore' but otherwise her activities are not tremendously 'whore' like, apart from a possible period in France. She seems to me to be a person who is initially trying to survive difficult circumstances and choses the best routes to ensure her survival. Defoe was obviously being a little tricky with Roxana, I can't think otherwise, considering his preface. We must remember that at times Roxana is still a God fearing woman despite her 'sins' ...more
Russell Bittner
As with Moll Flanders, Dafoe’s point of view is the first-person singular. Once again, a man (Defoe) tells the story through the eyes and heart of a woman (Susan — if the single mention of that name on p. 233 is our cue). And the name ‘Roxana’? Shouted out in praise of Susan’s appearance — then dance, in full Turkish regalia — at a party of courtly notables (on p. 200).

The name stuck — and would haunt Defoe’s heroine for the rest of her natural life.

While not so much an object of poverty and pit
...more
Kylie W
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Russell Bittner
As with Moll Flanders, Dafoe’s point of view is the first-person singular. Once again, a man (Defoe) tells the story through the eyes and heart of a woman (Susan — if the single mention of that name on p. 233 is our cue). And the name ‘Roxana’? Shouted out in praise of Susan’s appearance — then dance, in full Turkish regalia — at a party of courtly notables (on p. 200).

The name stuck — and would haunt Defoe’s heroine for the rest of her natural life.

While not so much an object of poverty and pit
...more
Roxy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cat
Another in my list of "1001 Books to Read." The shame. I enjoyed Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" much more then I thought I would, so when I read the summary indicating that Roxana was Defoe's most complex work, I put it on the fast track to read-town.

The three star rating reflects a general frustration with the pacing of this (as well as other 18th century) early novels. If this was a movie you'd come out saying "That movie did not have to be 3+ hours- they could have got it done in 1 1/2."

I did find
...more
Paula Dembeck
A bit long winded but a classic story everyone should read.

The story of a fallen woman told in her own voice. She is married to a “fool of a husband” who suddenly leaves her penniless with 5 children. She is forced to move to prostitution to support herself, moving up and down the social scale by contracting a marriage to an ersatz jeweler, secretly courting a prince, and being offered marriage by a Dutch merchant. She is able to afford her freedom by accumulating wealth from these men. She has
...more
Tanya Faberson
After reading Moll Flanders, I thought I'd really like this novel by Defoe. It was okay, but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. For all that Roxana went through and accomplished in her rise to fortune as a courtesan, I thought that Defoe's portrayal of her feelings and sensibilities was a bit lacking. You never really find out why she kept having children and dumping them off (except in the beginning after her useless husband leaves her). While she was worried about her merchant husb ...more
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2007
Daniel Defoe (1659/1661 [?] - 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote m ...more
More about Daniel Defoe...
Robinson Crusoe Moll Flanders The Further Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe A Journal of the Plague Year Captain Singleton

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“Misfortunes seldom come alone.” 7 likes
“If you have regard to your future happiness, any view of living comfortably with a husband, any hope of preserving your fortunes or restoring them after any disaster, never, ladies, marry a fool. Any husband rather than a fool. With some other husband you may be unhappy, but with a fool you will be miserable.” 5 likes
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