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The Fortunate Mistress: Roxana
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The Fortunate Mistress: Roxana

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  1,974 ratings  ·  97 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
Published 1953 by Royal Giant (first published 1724)
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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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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 the his preface. We must remember that at times Roxana is still a God fearing woman despite her 's ...more
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!
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
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
There is only one thing I want to say: FINALLY OVER!
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
Kylie W
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
I had to write 8 pages on this, which gave me a deeper appreciation for it than I would have had at a surface reading. Once you get in to it, a very complex read with an intriguing protagonist with questionable motives. Her bond with Amy is something I didn't get to explore as much as I'd have liked, and is definitely one of the more-riviting aspects of the book.
I read this book for a graduate school class on the "narrative" as this work is considered one of the first "novels." Writen in the style of a "true memoir" (although fictional), I actually found the book gripping and enjoyed the exploits of the notorious Roxanna who basically slept her way to riches and thus the material life she sought. After visiting Istanbul in 2012, I learned about a famous sultan's favorite (and only) wife -- also called Roxana -- who notoriously persuaded the sultan to ki ...more
Thomas Brassington
It's one of those books that you have to sit down and read at the start, but that's because it's old. Like all old books, expect some archaic spelling and sentence structuring. Also, i found the "as above" thing that was constantly being repeated throughout a little annoying. That said, it was a very interesting into an insight of opinions on morality in the 18th century and it was more honest than older texts usually are, since the protagonist remains succumbed by her vice throughout, where typ ...more
Lauren Knabel
Defoe is truly a master of conveying personality and gender roles. Roxana, the main character, is (you guessed it) a woman. Defoe writes from the perspective of a woman and sneakily makes the reader forget at moments that it is he who is writing. Roxana's decisions lead her into situations where her morality is in question, let alone her role as a woman in society. She climbs the ladder of success from the very bottom rung to the quite flattering perch at the top, only to fall clear to the groun ...more
This is one of those books that capitalizes nearly every noun. And instead of quotation marks to designate speech, italics designate the speaker. Sometimes. And there are no chapters nor breaks in the text at all. And only two characters really have names. I was not particularly fond of this book.

The story is of a bit more interest. Roxana starts off with five kids and a deadbeat husband. The husband dies and she ditches the kids, then sleeps her way through several rich men, amassing a fortune
Ben Eldridge
Extremely dated morality tale which relies on little more than coincidence and one-dimensional characters. Related by a narrator, through the lens of the main character, the story reads as a rambling confessional which stops abruptly before reaching a conclusion (this edition uses the first edition text; later editions were apparently editorially altered to make the ending more conclusively morally pointed). There are chronological and logical issues within the narrative, and the self-estrangeme ...more
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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.” 5 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.” 2 likes
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