Bleak House ★★★★★

bleak house (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Bleak House
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1047
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Shamelessly Stolen from Wikipedia

Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Honoria live on his estate at Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, before she married, Lady Dedlock had a lover, Captain Hawdon, and had a daughter by him. Lady Dedlock believes her daughter is dead.

The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive and being raised by Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock’s sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther’s guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer “Conversation” Kenge to take charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther moves in with him at Bleak House.

Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare (who are both his and one another’s distant cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr Jarndyce does not oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, and Esther meets Allan Woodcourt, a physician, at the house of Richard’s tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls “the family curse”.

Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock is also a beneficiary under one of the wills. Early in the book, while listening to the reading of an affidavit by the family solicitor, Mr Tulkinghorn, she recognises the handwriting on the copy. The sight affects her so much she almost faints, which Tulkinghorn notices and investigates. He traces the copyist, a pauper known only as “Nemo”, in London. Nemo has recently died, and the only person to identify him is a street-sweeper, a poor homeless boy named Jo, who lives in a particularly grim and poverty-stricken part of the city known as Tom-All-Alone’s (“Nemo” is Latin for “nobody”).

Lady Dedlock is also investigating, disguised as her maid, Mademoiselle Hortense. Lady Dedlock pays Jo to take her to Nemo’s grave. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is concerned Lady Dedlock’s secret could threaten the interests of Sir Leicester and watches her constantly, even enlisting her maid to spy on her. He also enlists Inspector Bucket to run Jo out of town, to eliminate any loose ends that might connect Nemo to the Dedlocks.

Esther sees Lady Dedlock at church and talks with her later at Chesney Wold – though neither woman recognises their connection. Later, Lady Dedlock does discover that Esther is her child. However, Esther has become sick (possibly with smallpox, since it severely disfigures her) after nursing the homeless boy Jo. Lady Dedlock waits until Esther has recovered before telling her the truth. Though Esther and Lady Dedlock are happy to be reunited, Lady Dedlock tells Esther they must never acknowledge their connection again.

Upon her recovery, Esther finds that Richard, having failed at several professions, has disobeyed his guardian and is trying to push Jarndyce and Jarndyce to conclusion in his and Ada’s favour. In the process, Richard loses all his money and declines in health. He and Ada have secretly married, and Ada is pregnant. Esther has her own romance when Mr Woodcourt returns to England, having survived a shipwreck, and continues to seek her company despite her disfigurement. Unfortunately, Esther has already agreed to marry her guardian, John Jarndyce.

Hortense and Tulkinghorn discover the truth about Lady Dedlock’s past. After a confrontation with Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock flees her home, leaving a note apologising for her conduct. Tulkinghorn dismisses Hortense, who is no longer of any use to him. Feeling abandoned and betrayed, Hortense kills Tulkinghorn and seeks to frame Lady Dedlock for his murder. Sir Leicester, discovering his lawyer’s death and his wife’s flight, suffers a catastrophic stroke, but he manages to communicate that he forgives his wife and wants her to return.

Inspector Bucket, who has previously investigated several matters related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, accepts Sir Leicester’s commission to find Lady Dedlock. At first he suspects Lady Dedlock of the murder but is able to clear her of suspicion after discovering Hortense’s guilt, and he requests Esther’s help to find her. Lady Dedlock has no way to know of her husband’s forgiveness or that she has been cleared of suspicion, and she wanders the country in cold weather before dying at the cemetery of her former lover, Captain Hawdon (Nemo). Esther and Bucket find her there.

Progress in Jarndyce and Jarndyce seems to take a turn for the better when a later will is found, which revokes all previous wills and leaves the bulk of the estate to Richard and Ada. Meanwhile, John Jarndyce cancels his engagement to Esther, who becomes engaged to Mr Woodcourt. They go to Chancery to find Richard. On their arrival, they learn that the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is finally over, but the costs of litigation have entirely consumed the estate. Richard collapses, and Mr Woodcourt diagnoses him as being in the last stages of tuberculosis. Richard apologises to John Jarndyce and dies. John Jarndyce takes in Ada and her child, a boy whom she names Richard. Esther and Woodcourt marry and live in a Yorkshire house which Jarndyce gives to them. The couple later raise two daughters.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, I started out trying to synopsize this myself and gave up after 3 paragraphs. As you can see by the wiki synopsis, there is a ton of stuff going on and I simply didn’t feel like re-inventing the wheel. I have this feeling I’ll be doing more of that kind of thing for big, complicated books from now on. Besides, beyond me, who really reads those synopses anyway? And even I don’t read them except when I want to refresh my memory of what a book is about. I feel ashamed though, deep inside. Like I’m a school boy cheating on his test or something, hahahahahahaha! Yeah, ok, not really.

This was my 3rd time reading this and I have to say, it does nothing but get better with each reading. There are a wide range of characters, both in age and temperament that I suspect I’ll be able to enjoy at the various seasons of my life. From Richard and Ada as young lovers, to Esther who is guided by duty and rewarded with Love, to George the military man who just wants to do the right thing, to Lady Deadlock who appears cold and haughty even while her heart is breaking, to John Jarndyce, the Guardian and supporter of so many. And that is just to name a few. Dickens brings these people alive and makes them wonderful to read about. And the villains of the story range from the cruel and grasping to the inept and almost bumbling. I LIKED reading about them all.

This was a long book. Previously I’ve read it divided into 2 volumes (as that is what I own) but the ebook I read was one single volume. While it took me most of the month to work my way through this, I didn’t feel like I wished I was reading something else or that I was wasting my time. Reading Dickens is never a waste of my time. I realize that everyone isn’t going to share my particular love of Dickens but I sure wish everyone did. I tend to look at reading Dickens as an investment in myself. I enjoy the story, I enjoy the characters, I enjoy the themes (for the most part except when he gets a bit preachy about some social issue which has no relevance today) and I enjoy the writing style. Honestly, what more can I ask for from an author?

I don’t have any deep insights to offer and I’m not going to write a bunch of bull to sound like some Literati, but if you’ve never tried Dickens, for your own sake, please do. If he’s not for you, he’s not for you, but if he is, my goodness, you’re in for a world of wonder!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Barnaby Rudge ★★★★☆

barnabyrudge (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Barnaby Rudge
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 864
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Barnaby Rudge is a young man who is an idiot. He never grew up past 6 and can’t remember one day from the next. He lives with his widowed mother on a stipend from Mr Haredale, the estate owner that Barnaby’s father worked for before he vanished all those years ago on the night that a murder was committed.

Mr Haredale, a staunch Catholic, has a niece named Emma. Her father was the man murdered all those years ago and now Mr Haredale is her guardian. She is in love with a young man named Edward Chester, the son of Mr Chester. Mr Chester and Mr Haredale are at odds with one another and neither guardian nor father want the match to happen. Emma also has a companion named Dolly Varden.

Dolly Varden lives in London with her father and mother. Her father is a jolly blacksmith while her mother is one of those creatures that only Dickens can bring to the page. Gabriel Varden has an apprentice, one Simon Tappertitt, who is in love with Dolly, hates Gabriel for some reason and thinks he is the most beautiful specimen of manhood to ever exist. Dolly is in love with Joe Willet.

Joe Willet is a young man whose father runs the Maypole, an inn that belongs to Mr Haredale. Joe Willet Sr is constantly treating Joe Jr like a boy and eventually Joe runs away and joins the army.

The main story is about how all of these characters interact through the 5 years leading up to the riots in 1780 in London, where a mob ran riot for several days in protest against Catholics and Catholicism. Barnaby is dragged into it, not knowing any better. Joe has returned from America (where he fought against American Independence, boo hiss!) and Edward Chester has returned from the Continent after having learned to make his living. Simon Tappertitt kidnaps Dolly and Emma during the riots, gets his just desserts and becomes a legless beggar by the end of the story. Mr Haredale and Mr Chester have a duel in which Chester dies. Mr Haredale gives his blessing and fortune to Emma and Edward. Joe Jr returns with an arm missing and his father starts treating him like an adult. Joe Jr and Dolly get married and run the Maypole together. Barnaby goes to jail for participating in the riots and is about to be hung when he gets a pardon because Joe Jr and Edward Chester work like the dickens (ha!) to get him free.

 

My Thoughts:

This was not plot oriented at all. Given, most of Dickens’ books center around his characters, but this one more so. The Riot of ’80 was the event that tied this all together.

I enjoyed this but it took me over 2 weeks to work my way through. I’d read a chapter and then put the book down for the rest of the day. Given, Mrs B was away for a family visit and I was dealing with job interviews and thinking about the future, so I was obviously distracted but still, I had to concentrate to pick this up.

I really don’t know what else to say. If you enjoy Dickens, you’ll enjoy this. This is probably not the book to start a Dickens Journey of Discovery though. This wasn’t quite as organic as some of Dickens other books and it shows. That is why I kept this at 4stars like last time.

I can say that one needs uninterrupted time, without stress or pressure, to fully appreciate Dickens. If one is harried, distracted and busy, it takes away from the experience.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Our Mutual Friend ★★★★½

Ourmutualfriend (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Our Mutual Friend
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1021
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A rich dust collector dies and in his will he leaves his inheritance to his son (who he drove away years ago) and to his two faithful servants. A stipulation of the will reads that the son, John Harmon, must marry a young woman by the name of Bella Wilfer, or the entire inheritance will fall to the two servants, Mr and Mrs Boffin.

A body is fished from the harbor by a man who does such things and the while disfigured and sea eaten, the clothes and papers match the description of John Harmon. This leaves the entire fortune to the Boffins. This fisherman, a Mr Hexan, is accused by an associate of doing the deed and while no charges are brought, it brings a stain on Mr Hexan’s two children, Lizze and Charlie.

A young man by the name of John Rokesmith approaches Mr Boffin and offers to be his secretary. Having no need of a secretary, Mr Boffin kindly rebuffs his offer but invites him over for lunch. Mr Boffin then gets rich, becomes overwhelmed by everything, is amazed when Rokesmith deals with every in a matter of minutes and hires him on the spot. The Boffins have also taken on Bella Wilfer since they feel bad that she didn’t get any of the money and that her potential husband died. They bring her out to Society with them, where Bella claims she’ll be mercenary and only marry for money.

Members of Society have their own things going on that while not directly affecting the Boffins, do impact them through Bella. Mr Boffin starts to turn miserly and upon learning that John Rokesmith made an offer of marriage to Bella, turns him out of the house. Bella is ashamed at Mr Boffin’s behavior and begins to realize what a loyal man Rokesmith was to the Boffins and to her. She gives up all claim their money and goes back to her family. Rokesmith makes her an offer of marriage again and this time she accepts.

It turns out in the end that John Rokesmith is actually John Harmon and he and Bella inherit everything and are fabulously wealthy. The miserly Mr Boffin reveals it was all an act on his part to prove to Bella that money really isn’t everything. The man who tried to murder Rokesmith/Harmon is found out but gets his just desserts through another agency.

There are approximately 3 other side storylines going on through it all and they tangentially touch on Rokesmith/Harmon. Maybe I’ll go over them in another decade or so. Or perhaps not.

 

My Thoughts:

I had not realized that I hadn’t read this since 2001. I was sure I had read it just before 2010 but nope, didn’t happen. Second, while all the editions on Librarything show this as around the 500-600 page mark, my kindle showed it as just over 1000 pages and when I checked my hardcover copy, it was divided into 2 volumes. So this was a big book.

And that is probably my only complaint and the reason I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5. There was at least twice that I just said out loud “Come on Dickens, get to the point!”. Anyone who complains about bloat in this book is fully justified and I certainly won’t argue with them. This was a 19 part serial and it shows.

Other than that issue, I enjoyed this tremendously. I have come to realize that I simply like Dickens’ work. I enjoy his plots, I enjoy his characters, I even enjoy (in a limited sense) his meandering and descriptions. It all adds atmosphere and when I’m reading it I can’t accidentally think I’m reading something by somebody elese. Dickens is Dickens. His books are shaped in such a way that they slot right into the space I have.

A lot of this book is about Deception, both justified and not. Dickens preaches at the society of his time unabashedly, especially about the Poor Laws and rips away the mask of what some levels of Society are telling themselves. It’s a good reminder for me to not sit too smugly in my own little chair and cast stones indiscriminately.

There was a side story about a Jew and I was surprised at how graciously Dickens treated him as a character. He was kind and loving and not a Shylock. I think part of it is that Dickens had enough scorn to heap upon his own fellows without searching about for others to castigate.

To end, I really enjoyed this and wish I could write more about it but me and longer reviews just don’t mix.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Hard Times ★★★★½

hardtimes (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Hard Times
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 368
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Louisa and her younger brother Tom have been raised by their father to think only of “facts”. If it can’t be quantified and tabulated on a report, then in the School of Mr Gradgrind, it simply doesn’t exist. A circus girl, Cecilia, comes to their school and her father abandons her. Cecilia is taken on by Mr and Mrs Gradgrind, first as a student and then a servingmaid.

Louisa has turned all of her stunted feelings towards helping her brother, who has been employed by a friend of his father, a Josiah Bounderby. Bounderby is a self-made man who dragged himself up from the gutters after his mother abandoned him and has become one of the most successful businessmen in the town. He also is the kind of man who is always telling everyone how he dragged himself up by his bootstraps. He has watched Louisa grow up and likes the idea of a wife who is only concerned with facts. He proposes marriage and her father asks her. She realizes it will help her brother and so says “why not”.

We also meet a working man by the name of Stephen Blackpool. He married unwisely years ago and his wife has destroyed their life with her drinking. She now wanders the countryside prostituting herself out for money for more drink. Stephen asks Bounderby, who owns the company that he works for, if there is any way he could get a divorce, since he has heard of such things happening for rich folk. Bounderby replies in his usual bombastic tone and tells the man to get out of his sight. The men of the company are trying to unionize and Blackpool doesn’t agree with it. As such, he is kicked out of the social sphere and ostracized. Between that and the antipathy of his employer, he is forced to leave the town and seek work elsewhere. Right before he leaves though, he is accosted by Tom Gradgrind who asks him to hang around the bank where Tom works each evening, just in case Tom wants to send some messages. No messages are sent and Blackpool leaves the town.

Tom has been living beyond his means and gambling away what he has earned, as once he was released from his father’s school of thought he went in the exact opposite direction. He comes into contact with James Harthouse, a rich younger son who is “trying out” being a businessman. James meets Louisa and begins trying to seduce her, just for a lark and because he hates Bounderby. He also leads on Tom in his extravagant lifestyle. This leads Tom to robbing the bank he works for and that Bounderby runs. He implicates Stephen Blackpool who isn’t around to clear his name.

Eventually Harthouse asks Louisa to have an affair with him and meet him. She agrees but only to get rid of him, as her husband Bounderby pretty much leaves her to her own devices, and runs off to her father for protection. Mr Gradgrind is stunned by the news and by Louisa’s revelation that she wants love as much as “facts”.

On top of this news Stephen Blackpool is found dying in a pit and he reveals that Tom Gradgrind asked him to visit the bank before Stephen left town. Tom hoofs it with Cecilia’s help and takes cover at the circus she used to work for. Mr Gradgrind and Louisa meet Cecilia there and plan to smuggle Tom to the Continent (Africa) or South America so he can escape justice. He is found out but the circus people help out the Gradgrinds because they took Cecilia in.

Tom escapes, Louisa lives with her father and mother until her death, Bounderby is revealed as a fraud when his mother comes forth and shows she is the sweetest and most loving woman alive and only Cecilia lives happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

This was one of Dickens’ shorter books and as such his characters and situations weren’t quite as fleshed out as I’m used to but I still found this eminently enjoyable. The only downside was Stephen Blackpool when he talked. Dickens used some sort of “working man slang” that made it almost impossible to figure out what he was actually saying. That is the only bad thing I can say about this book.

It is very obvious that Dickens is writing a “message” book here, what with the over the top “Just the fact’s, ma’am” school by Mr Gradgrind and how it ruins Louisa’s life. In many ways it reminded me of those Uncle Arthur Bedtime Stories, which are Christian morality stories at their most stark. By the by, Arthur Maxwell was a 7th Day Adventist. Fun fact for the day. Anyway. Thankfully, Dickens makes it clear where he falls on the “Just the Facts” debates but it never felt like he was preaching to me like a pigheaded Social Justice Warrior. That is because Dickens had class, talent, skill and he was willing to create something, not just tear something else down.

This is my 3rd time reading this and I really debated about giving it 5 stars. In many ways it deserves 5stars, as not only have I now read it 3 times but I already plan on re-reading it again in the future when I read all of Dicken’s stuff again. Not only has it stood the test of time, it has stood the test of Bookstooge. Dickens can rest easy, as there will be no grave desecration and “Unholy” water in his future. However, the dialect of Blackpool was a real stumbling block to me and I skipped almost all of his dying speech. So that is why I really like this book but can’t give it 5stars.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Oliver Twist ★★★★☆

olivertwist (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Oliver Twist
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 508
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Oliver Twist is born in a work house to a single mother who immediately expires. He grows up with other workhouse orphans and when he reaches the age of 8 or 9, is apprenticed out. The authority’s at the workhouse try to pawn him off onto a chimney cleaner, who has gone through several apprentices. Oliver is scared of the man and begs the civil magistrate to not make him go with him. This puts the workhouse Authorities in a bad light and they hold a grudge against Oliver for the rest of the book.

Eventually he is apprenticed to a coffin maker and funeral director. He is liked by the man and treated well, but the other apprentice and the wife both turn against Oliver and make his life miserable. The older apprentice makes some disparaging remarks about Oliver’s mother and Oliver attacks him. He is locked in a room and the workhouse Authorities sent for. The wife and apprentice spin a tale about Oliver trying to kill them and the coffin maker has no choice but to believe their story. Oliver is locked up for a week. This decides him on running away to London.

On his way to London he meets up with a boy named Jack Dawkins, or the Artful Dodger. Artful hooks Oliver up with food and shelter and introduces to him to Fagin, a jew of apparent ill-repute. It becomes apparent to Oliver that he has fallen in with thieves and during one caper is mistaken for a thief himself. This puts him in the way of Mr. Brownlow.

Mr Brownlow takes pity on Oliver and takes him into his house. He begins to educate him and bring him back to full health. Fagin, however, knows something about Oliver and won’t let him go. He sends his minions all over London searching for him and eventually a bullish brute named Sikes and his woman Nancy find Oliver. They kidnap him off the streets by pretending he is a runaway. Fagin begins working on corrupting Oliver so as to make him a common thief like his other kids.

Oliver is sent on a job with Bill Sikes and another man to rob a house filled with silver plate. Oliver intends to give the alarm once he is in the house but is shot by the butler instead. Sikes grabs him and all 3 make their getaway. Oliver is left to fend for himself in a ditch and returns to the house next morning seeking aid. He is presumed dead by Sikes.

Oliver tells his tale and Mrs Maylie and her adopted niece take pity on him. He has a long recovery time and once better they contact Mr Brownlow. Unfortunately, he has left for India and no one knows when he will be back.

During all of this Fagin has been in communication with a fellow named Monks and rages against Sikes losing Oliver. Lots of drama ensues and Sikes ends up killing his lover Nancy and goes on the run. Fagin and Monks are confronted by Mr Brownlow and it turns out that Monks is Oliver’s older half-brother and that Oliver is supposed to inherit everything. Oliver and Monks split the inheritance, Monks heads off to the new world and Fagin and his crew are all chased down. Sikes ends up hanging himself while attempting escape and Fagin is hung in Newgate, the Old Bailey, where ever it is that criminals are hung.

Mrs Maylie’s adopted niece turns out to be Oliver’s aunt and she marries Mrs Maylie’s only son. All the good people live happily ever after, the bad are killed and the in-between either reform or become very bad people and meet a just end.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a good Dickens book but by no means could I rank it as a favorite. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a starting place.

For whatever reason, the “serial”ness of this story really hit me. In the books I’ve read so far I’ve not noticed that even though they too were all written serially. I can’t point to anything that caused that notice but the more I read the more irritated (not really the right word, but that’s the best approximation I can think of right now) I became. But really, that’s about the only complaint I have about the book.

Well, I have to admit I didn’t understand why Bill Sikes was so freaked out, and everybody else, by his murdering Nancy. Didn’t murder go on all the time? So why would the populace be in such an uproar about it, especially for a whore? It would be nice to know murder statistics for London at that time as say opposed to now. I don’t care enough to go do “research” though. * shivers *

Whenever Dickens uses a child as a main character, they tend to be rather passive in the story. Everybody else around them is doing everything and makes the story. Oliver was no Little Nell (from The Old Curiosity Shop) but he was not kicking ass and taking names. Pretty much he just recovered from being starved, shot, kidnapped, being sick, etc. He was the center spoke about which the whole wheel of the story revolved.

In his introduction Dickens states that he set out to show that the criminal element were not the jolly swags portrayed in some stories. He was afraid of evil being shown as wonderful and nifty and enticing the young people into a life of sordid squalor and death. Huh, evil being portrayed as good, sounds familiar doesn’t it? Some things really don’t change. Dickens does a fantastic job of showing just how vile the life of crime is. Between the cringing of Fagin to the bombastically violent Sikes, you see that crime isn’t being Robin Hood and His Merry Band, not even close.

I also simply love Dickens’ writing. You can tell he is being paid by the word, as some of his sentences, when boiled down, say something like “And the sun was shining” but he’ll end up using several comma separated thoughts with an semi-colon to string things along. Normally that kind of padding bothers me and in other books I’ll excoriate the writer to within an inch of their life, but when it comes to Dickens I’m not just ok with it, but I LIKE it. Weird, isn’t it?

Man, this review has gone on way longer than I thought. So, I really enjoyed this book with a few caveats. Start somewhere else with Dickens and work your way towards this.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Old Curiosity Shop ★★★★☆

oldcuriosityshop (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Old Curiosity Shop
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 632
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Little Nell’s Grandfather runs a Curiosity Shop and everyone, including her older brother and a money lending dwarf, think he is rich as Croessus. Unfortunately, he’s also a secret gambler and ends up spending every penny they have on gaming, trying to win big so Nell can live in luxury for the rest of her life.

The help, a young man by the name of Kit, is dismissed, the brother plots to marry Nell to his friend because he is still convinced the Grandfather is rich (just miserly) and the dwarf causes trouble because of his evil nature.

Nell and Grandfather take to the road and meet various characters, some good, some bad and are saved from privation and death by working at a little church in some tiny town. The Grandfather’s younger brother returns from faraway parts, very well off and begins searching for his brother and Grand-niece.

The dwarf plots rot and ruin for everyone and Kit finds a kindly couple to work for and settles down pretty well. Everyone caroms off of each other and does the thing called life and at the end Nell dies, Kit marries happily, Nell’s brother is killed in France by bad company and the dwarf drowns and his poor wife finally marries happily.

 

My Thoughts:

This felt like Dickens used Nell as the white ball in a game of billiards. It is the focus of each player but what it does is defined by how it interacts with all the other billiards. Nobody cares about the white ball very much. In the same way Nell ‘s importance to this story was more how she drove interactions with the other characters.

I liked all the various stories. They were great Dickens’ stories but the ties that bound everything together felt a bit weak. I almost wished that there had been more of the Marchioness (another young girl who ends up marrying and helping reform another side character) and not so much Nell. Nell was not a strong person and as such didn’t have the personality to drive this story forward.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still a good, fun, interesting story. But it didn’t have quite that “pop” that I found in some of my other reads by Dickens. Could also be that coming after the Pickwick Papers didn’t do this any favors for me either.

Overall, I enjoyed this but didn’t find much to say about it and nothing made me sit up and go “Awesomesauce”. Definitely on the lower end of the Dickens Ladder.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Pickwick Papers ★★★★★★

pickwickpapers (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Pickwick Papers
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 6 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 943
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Samuel Pickwick, gentleman bachelor and amateur scientist, has formed a small group of like minded men and they all decide to go exploring the Countryside of England to expand their knowledge of their Great Country.

As such, the 4 Gentlemen, Mr Pickwick, Mr Snodgrass, Mr Tuddle and Mr Tuppman, set out to see what they can see. Along the way Mr Pickwick picks up a servant by the name of Sam Weller, the company meets an honorable countryman by the name of Mr Wardle, the 2 younger gentlemen of the group fall in love and marry the niece and daughter of Mr Wardle, Mr Tuppman is disappointed in love with Mr Wardle’s spinster sister Miss Rachel. Mr Pickwick becomes embroiled in breach of promise suit with his landlady due to the machinations of the dastardly duo Dodson & Fogg, attorneys at law and ends up spending 3 months in debtors’ prison for refusing to pay the fine, as it would all go to the lawyers instead of the landlady. Pickwick and Weller have multiple runins with their lowclass counterparts, Jingle and Trotter and are made fools of several times over. Sam Weller’s father comes into the story with his own adventures of his second wife, a widow who owns a tavern and is a strict adherent to the sect of Preacher Stiggleton, who preaches teetotally while cooling drinking pineapple rum punch by the hogshead.

These are but a part of the adventures the Pickwick Club has over the course of 2 years and at the end of the book everything turns out for the best. Marriages and children abound, bad characters reform, love and generosity overcome all hardships and obstacles and Mr Pickwick retires to a city house with Sam and his wife Mary to keep him in order.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, yes, I did give this 6 stars. I know circumstances played a part, ie, several dnf’s had my reading expectations abysmally low. But even without that, this was just a fantastic book.

It started a little rough and in a rather formal vein but that was for the first chapter only. Then it turned into Dickens’ more relatable style. I’m a Dickens’ fan through and through.

This was an interesting little plot-less book. I say little because even though the “official” page count is over 900 pages, when I used Calibre’s page count plugin, this was barely over 600 pages. I suspect the pictures and chapters each had their own breaks which artificially inflated the page count.

I think humor was the most prevalent of the emotions that Dickens was trying to call forth and my goodness, he did a grand job. Sam Weller, Pickwick’s man servant was a font of pugnacious, pugalistic one liners and retorts that had me in stitches. He was also a bit more knowledgeable about the world at large than his master and thus was able to guide him safely through some troubled waters.

Romance, pathos, politics, social justice’ing of the day (Dickens was dead set against the whole idea of Debtors Prison. But to be fair, he actually had solid reasons, not just vapid, idiotic, baseless, pointless and generally useless ideas like the sjw’s of today), hijinks and lots and lots of drinking.

Through it all, Pickwick navigates the adventures as best he can and we can cheer him on, groan with him, laugh with him (and Sam Weller) and generally love every second spent reading this book. I’m also giving this the Best Book of the Year tag.

★★★★★★

 

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