By Margot Mifflin
Updated September 12, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

An English-born housekeeper working in postwar South Africa, Agnes La Grange becomes a self-made woman after a series of shrewd real estate investments. In The Mirror by Lynn Freed, she uses men and finally falls for one, catching ”the stupid sickness” that makes a woman ”helpless and hopeless like any fool in a book.” But she recovers and triumphs — ambivalently — as a single mother. Agnes is Moll Flanders without excuses — an enchanting and infuriating heroine, both admirable and wrongheaded in her commitment to honesty and her pursuit of adventure. A