There's not many books that could make a woman-about-town like myself blush, but there is always a first time for everything. The book that did the trick was Yorkshire Molly by Peter Mottley, inspired by William Hogarth's series, A Harlot's Progress. For those familiar with the series you know that it speaks for itself. Yet it has still inspired many to retell its heroine, Moll Hackabout's, story; be it in the form of a movie, or, in this case, a book. But don't begin to think my maidenly flush is due to a raunchy, Fabio-clad romance novel. Yorkshire Molly is true to its setting which is the mean, gritty streets of 18th century London. Those streets are even more graphic and horrible than Hogarth was willing to portray. Those with a weak stomach may want to skip this one, but they'd be missing out!
For the basic plot line, I am tempted to merely refer you to Hogarth's prints, for that is what Mottley used as the skeleton to his novel. His skill at describing the setting is apparent from the start, no doubt achieved from his playwright skills. I found myself amused as I was reading when I began to recognize that Mottley is describing actual details from the prints in the narrative. It is like reading about a city you have visited. I would recommend you peek at the prints before reading; and I promise, that it won't even ruin the story for you! Mottley adds so many extra details, weaving together different characters, that Moll's story is both reinvented and expanded upon in the most creative of ways. Like the prints, Moll arrives from York and is tricked into prostitution, becomes a kept mistress, and falls from grace. It is how Mottley connects these stages and fills in the gaps that is truly hooking.
I found that Mottley's gift lay in his knowledge of the time, his vivid and realistic details, and his story-telling ability. I loved Yorkshire Molly, once I began reading I couldn't stop. I felt like I was literally transformed to 18th century London, or at least watching a fantastic production of it on the silver screen. I enjoyed the main character's journey and how it changed her from a naive maid, to an impertinent mistress, to a resourceful street-walker. I appreciated the no-holds-barred narrative, which didn't skimp on the details, even in the more uncomfortable scenes. Overall, this is a novel not to be missed, especially by 18th century fans.
Yorkshire Molly is now available in the UK and I will let you know as soon as it hits US shelves. For a further preview check out the book's trailer here.