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

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