First published in 1898, ‘Moonfleet’ tells the story of 15-year-old John Trenchard, an orphan boy who sets on an adventure to discover the hidden treasure of the notorious Blackbeard. The book is set on the south coast of Dorset, in the small village of Moonfleet, in 18th century England. We find out from the very first page where the village takes its name from as John describes
“When I was a child I thought that this place was called Moonfleet, because on a still night, whether in summer, or in winter frosts, the moon shone very brightly on the lagoon; but learned afterwards that ‘twas but short for ‘Mohune-fleet’, from the Mohunes, a great family who were once lords of all these parts ”.
The Mohunes play a very important part in the story, especially Colonel John Mohune, better known as Blackbeard. The legend says that Blackbeard, who is buried in a crypt under Moonfleet’s church, wanders around the village at night looking for a lost treasure that he stole from King Charles I while he was still alive.
“…even after his death he could not get rest ; for men said that he had hid somewhere that treasure given him to permit the King’s escape, and that not daring to reclaim it, had let the secret die with him, and so must needs come out of his grave to try to get at it again.”
John is fascinated by this story and even though the idea of Blackbeard wandering around does scare him just as much as anyone else in the village, he starts on a quest to find this treasure after some events lead him to a clue on how to find it. The same events also lead him to another little secret of the village: smuggling! John befriends one of the smugglers, Elzevir Block, and together they will go on this treasure hunt that will change their lives forever.
‘Moonfleet’ is considered to be a children’s classic and I can see why. It is an adventure novel that has ghost stories, hidden treasures, smugglers and a not so cheesy love story.
The book is written in an outdated English which I found a bit difficult to get used to at first. In the end I did get used to it though and I actually found that it helped the story quite a lot as it somehow teleported me to that small fishing village, in 18th century England.
Even though I did roll my eyes a couple of times towards the ending of the book, I have to admit that overall I enjoyed ‘Moonfleet’. It’s a special book for me because I read it right after I came back from a small trip on the Jurassic Coast, where the story actually happens.
The author grew up in that part of England and most of his descriptions are of real places, even though he uses fictive names for them. For example, you won’t find Moonfleet on any map, but it’s most likely based on East Fleet in Dorset, right by Chesil Beach. Other sources of inspiration: Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wright and Portland Bill, referred to as the Snout in the book (I also got to see Portland Bill and Chesil Beach in real life which is so awesome).
Would I recommend this book? Yes I would, especially if you want to satisfy the thirst of adventure for the little kid in you.
Until next time,