Book Review: Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner

This children's classic, first published in 1898, tells the story of John Trenchard, a fifteen year old orphan, who lives with his spinster aunt in the Dorset coastal village of Moonfleet, named after the Mohunes who were the original lords of the manor.

Growing up on tales of Colonel John 'Blackbeard' Mohune, his ghost and his lost treasure, a diamond said to be cursed, John dreams of finding it and becoming wealthy.

In the Mohune family vault he discovers a locket, inside of which is a scrap of parchment with clues to the whereabouts of the missing diamond.

Inevitably, John becomes involved in the smuggling trade and one night while helping to land cargo he and Elzevir Block, the local inn-keeper and John's self-appointed guardian, are fired upon by soldiers. The local magistrate is killed, John and Elzevir are blamed and a reward is offered for their capture. Unable to return to Moonfleet, they go off in search of 'Blackbeard' Mohune's diamond.

Ever since primary school, when I had to learn Rudyard Kipling's poem, The Smuggler's Song, I've loved stories about smugglers. For some reason I'd overlooked Moonfleet, but having read it now, I understand why this book was so popular in its heyday. In the vein of Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers and other great adventure classics, it has all the elements that appeal to young (and old) readers: haunted graveyards, cliff top chases, smugglers, lost treasure, curses, shipwrecks and even a romance, to list just a few.

I find with books written over 100 years ago it takes me a few chapters to become accustomed to the writing style, but with Moonfleet I slipped into the story right from page one. Falkner's descriptions produced such wonderful images in my mind that I was easily transported back to the 18th century and the narrative, from John Trenchard's point of view, pulled me along at a rapid pace to the end. The relationship between Elzevir and John is beautifully developed, subtly changing from one of friendship to a closer father-son relationship. This makes the ending of the book all the more poignant.

Moonfleet is an exciting tale of a boy's path to adulthood and the valuable lessons he learns along the way. I loved it. My only regret is that I waited so long before adding it to my reading pile.

2 comments:

  1. I love the sound of this book! I didn't read it as a child, so I'm pleased to hear that it can still be enjoyed by adults.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you will enjoy it, Helen.

      Delete