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

On the Dickensian bandwagon

26 01 2012

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

When Nicholas’s father dies he, his mother and sister, Kate, are left penniless. The family seek help from his wealthy uncle Ralph, who takes an immediate dislike to his young nephew. While Kate is found work as a dressmaker, Nicholas is offered a position as a tutor at Dotheboys Hall but soon discovers that the headmaster, Wackford Squeers, is a grotesque ogre and that one boy in particular is struggling to survive his harsh regime.

In Charles Dickens’ blackly comic masterpiece Nicholas embarks on an adventure that takes him from loathsome boarding schools to the London stage and confronts issues of neglect and cruelty.

It’s 900 plus pages of comedy and melodrama covering years in the ups and downs of young Nickleby’s rather bizarre life. Hugely entertaining though although really quite dark at times and the action never really lets up. Highly recommended, as with the other more popular current BBC adaptations.

Times is Hard

10 10 2009

GradgrindapprehendshischildrenHard Times by Charles Dickens

Seems a bit churlish to be at all critical of such a classic but there is something ever so slightly unsatisfactory about the ending and the moralistic dimension of the novel. Having said that, there is much to be enjoyed, including a number of the central characters, especially Gradgrind, Bounderby and Sissy.

Slightly ashamed to recall writing an essay on Hard Times at university without ever having read the book (until now). Got a good mark for it too.

four stars

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