Moll Flanders is, according to Virginia Woolf, one of the "few English novels which we can call indisputably great." Written by Defoe in 1722 under a pseudonym so his readers would think it an actual journal of the ribald fortunes and misfortunes of a woman in eighteenth-century London, the book remains a picaresque novel of astonishing vitality.
From her birth in Newgate Prison to her ascent to a position of wealth and stature, Moll Flanders demonstrates both a mercantile spirit and an indomitable will. This vivid saga of an irresistible and notorious heroine - her high misdemeanors and delinquencies, her varied careers as a prostitute, a charming and faithful wife, a thief, and a convict - endures today as one of the liveliest, most candid records of a woman's progress through the hypocritical labyrinth of society ever recorded. "Defoe seems to have taken his characters so deeply into his mind that he lived them without exactly knowing how," wrote Virginia Woolf. "Like all unconscious artists, he leaves more gold in his work than his own generation was able to bring to the surface."