Moonfleet Print
Tuesday, 20 January 2009 22:45
John Meade Falkner

 
  Orphan John Trenchard lives with his aunt in the village of Moonfleet until, by chance, he encounters local smugglers in the crypt of the church and becomes involved with them. He develops a close friendship with Elzevir Block who, as well as being a smuggler, is also the landlord of the “Why Not?” public house. Elzevir’s son David, who was close to John in age, was recently killed by the local magistrate, whose daughter, Grace Maskew, is the object of John’s affection.

  Whilst hidden in the crypt John finds a locket around the neck of the infamous “Blackbeard” Colonel Mohune’s skeleton, containing a clue to an extremely valuable missing diamond that is purported to bring misfortune to all who own it for their personal gain, after it was obtained by the traitorous Mohune after an unsuccessful bribe by King Charles 1.  In a doomed raid, Maskew is killed by soldiers chasing the smuggling gang, but the blame is laid on John and Elzevir, and they become outlaws.  On finding the diamond at Carisbrooke Castle, they flee to Holland, where they are tricked out of the diamond by a jeweller acting as a fence, imprisoned for 10 years and branded with a “Y” which strongly resembles the Mohunes’ family crest.

  During transportation to the colonies, the pair’s ship is wrecked on the rocks close to Moonfleet, and Elzevir dies saving John.  The proceeds of the sale of the diamond have been left to John by the jeweller whose life became a tale of misfortune after gaining the gem, and are used to the good of the Moonfleet community. Grace and John’s affection is renewed, and they lead a good life on the Maskews’ estate, naming their first-born Elzevir.
 

  Published over 100 years ago, this ripping yarn is written in the first person and the language of the time. Far from causing difficulties, this actually enhances the tale, which contains all the requirements for an exciting novel – treasure, smuggling, misfortune, bravery, adventure and a hint of romance.  I enjoyed the circular theme of the book, and its roots in the moral message of the Latin inscription on the backgammon board at the “Why Not?”: “Ita in Vita ut in lusu alae pessima jactura arte corrigenda est” – translated as “As in life, so in a game of hazard, skill will make something of the worst of throws”.  It is the sort of book that holds the attention of the reader from the beginning and is difficult to put down.  It is superior to and noticeably differs from the 1955 film starring Stuart Granger.  I would highly recommend it to confident readers of 10+ through to adult.


4.5 / 5

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 January 2009 23:00 )