Curiouser and curiouser

24 11 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

Dickens’s Little Nell became one of his best-known heroines when The Old Curiosity Shop was first published in 1841. Virtuous and stoic, Nell takes care of her grandfather in his gloomy shop until his gambling debts force the pair of them to flee London. They are hunted by the grotesque and villainous moneylender Quilp and Nell’s own worthless brother, Fred, who wrongly believes that their grandfather has a hidden fortune. Through a kaleidoscopic round of people and events, Nell and her grandfather eventually reach a safe refuge, although neither of them is destined to enjoy it for long.

One of those books I had inexplicably never read. Of course it is superbly written and well-paced and features the outstanding character, Little Nell. It is also very powerful in terms of its social comment and the contrast between the impoverished and downtrodden and the harsh and the privileged. But the sentimental treatment of Little Nell is rather over the top in the end and, while it doesn’t wholly undermine what has gone before, I really struggled to take the final episodes completely seriously. Still, great overall.

four stars

Snap, crackle and a bit of pop

17 11 2018

Snap by Belinda Bauer


On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

The Val McDermid endorsement together with all of the other quotes full of praise drew me to wanting to give this a go. It’s a really good premise with a couple of great characters at the heart of it and the plot fairly rattles along. I must admit to feeling a wee bit let down with the ending but perhaps that’s a little harsh. Still an entertaining read.


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