Moll Cutpurse, by Ellen Galford.
When I was a kid my mother kept me in books via the Multi Cultural Children’s Fiction Catalogue. When I entered my teen years, she switched to the wonderful Women’s Press Book Club. Every month, we selected four titles.
I don’t know why the plain woodcut of a woman smoking a pipe appealed so much to me. Something about Mary Frith’s stare? The way she looked out on the world daring you to challenge her right to be her.
I read the book in one sitting, charmed by Moll, who was such a mixture of daring and shy; brave and terrified, and this book became one of my touchstone for historical fiction. This is how you create a world within a world, make space for women and gay people, and portray women as real people: for Moll may be the protagonist but Ellen never allows her to be the only admirable woman in the story.
Time moves on and we have far more evidence about women’s lives in the Restoration, and there is more room to write about LGBTQ authors, but when I re-read this book, I was every bit as much in love with Ellen’s creation as I was when I was 16. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and do.