The Following review was contributed by: John Walsh
The life of a wrecker and a smuggler! The southern coast of England is the historical home of goods smuggled across the English Channel from continental Europe; it is a place where the fierce seas and the fiercer King's Men combine to make the wrecker's life a short and dangerous one.
This is the background to Meade Falkner's excellent late nineteenth century drama, Moonfleet. The title is derived from the village that gives rise to our hero, John Trenchard, who has lived in some peace with his aunt before being inducted into the life of the wreckers. The excitement and the chance for adventure and immediate gain spark the young man into plans for his future – plans that centre on the quest for Blackbeard’s fabled and cursed diamond. Convincing his protector and guardian Elzevir into joining him, John launches into an adventure that leads almost inevitably to his ruin – and tragedy for his whole family. Can he achieve redemption from the evil into which his greed has plunged all who know him?
Nineteenth century fiction can be marked by a certain stodginess of style and occasional opacity – especially when, as in the case of Moonfleet, the settings are so redolent of darkness and claustrophobia – even during summer days, it seems that storms and omens cloud the skies. It is to the great credit to Meade Falkner, therefore, that he managed to create an exciting and compulsive story. It is a story that certainly benefits from its comparative brevity – it extends to fewer than 250 pages in the Penguin Popular Classics version I read. This brevity is a quality that many modern writers would do well to emulate.
With the inclusion of Blackbeard, villainous merchants, cursed jewels and wild flights across country, there are of course numerous incidences of melodrama in the story and these will not appeal to everyone. Yet the strength of the sparsely but tellingly drawn details of Dorset life, combined with unpredictable reverses of fortune that are both satisfying and satisfyingly avoid cliché, ground the tale in a believable reality.
This is an excellent adventure story that is highly recommended for all fans of action and excitement.