Saturday 8 January 2022

Book Review: Roxana by Daniel Defoe (Classics)

Title: Roxana
Author: Daniel Defoe
Publisher: Oxford World Classics
Publication Date: 2008 (1724)
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics
Source: Xmas Gift

Roxana (1724), Defoe's last novel, is the autobiography of a woman who has traded her body, at first for survival, and then for fame and fortune.

Many consider Roxana as a proto-feminist character who criticizes an eighteenth century patriarchal society, claiming, for instance, that "the Marriage Contract is [...] nothing but giving up Liberty, Estate, Authority, and every-thing, to the Man".

This edition uses the rare first edition text, with a new Introduction, detailed Notes, textual history and a map of contemporary London.


Roxana was a mostly enjoyable read. She makes a compelling (if unreliable) narrator and I remained interested in what would happen to her throughout the novel. For a novel of this period, the prose is not too dense, so it was fairly easy reading, and there were notes at the back for anything that might catch out a modern reader. As noted in the blurb, you could read Roxana as a feminist character, with her desire to maintain her own fortune and not be bound to a man, and the book does certainly explore the role of women in early 18th century society.

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