Note: This is a W.A.R. post to commemorate Charles Dickens birthday. W.A.R. what is it good for? (Worth A Reblog )
Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors of all time – I just love his characterisations and observations concerning the quirkiness of human behaviour. I have read nearly all his books, but there are one or two that have passed me by and some, though popular with others, leave me cold.
My favourite book changes from time to time. It is actually ‘Great Expectations’, but having recently re watched the latest Bleak House remake, I’m beginning to dither… But no, I will go by the book. So it’s ‘Great Expectation’
What I love about it: The marshes, the cruel stepmother, the impervious Estella and Miss Havisham. I love the idea of the old bride still in her tattered bridal gown – I love the cake which mice have made their home in and the clock that’s stopped. I love the way simple Pip becomes a snob then changes back when he finds out his real benefactor.
Thrills: Magwitch in the graveyard, Pip being saved by the convicts escape, the fire at Miss Havisham’s. Magwitch’s daring visit to Pip and the way he drowns. Last and not least the renting of those dirty curtains from the windows and the scales dropping from Estella’s eyes as she realises that Pip is her own true love!
What I love about it: the poor woman in the workhouse, the beadle who names the child, Sowerby the undertaker – who in their right mind would like to sleep with coffins, the hideous Claypole who gets his come uppence, the thieves den, Dodger, Nancy and Fagin. I love the tangled web that is woven, the intricate relationships and the honour among thieves. The Brownlow connection, trust and betrayal and how everything comes out right in the end.
Thrills: Plenty to be had, the Murderous Sykes and the ghost of Nancy on the roof, the workhouse regime, the actual murder of poor Nancy, the match made in hell in the form of Bumbles wife (actually, that’s more comical) and the triumph of Bullseye as he escapes a drowning. The man who stop Oliver with a punch when he runs off after they think he is a pickpocket – well he deserves a punch himself. I love the way that all the threads come together in this story. It is so well thought out and told and what an array of characters!
What I like about it: the perils of a cruel stepfather and what happens when his mother dies. The novel is very like Dickens’ own early life – including the factory. Betsy Trotwood his aunt who proves a good sort. Mr Dick is an enigma – I can’t quite make him out. I love the idea of Peggotty’s relatives living in an upturned boat. The sweet Emily. Dora who is David’s fluffy but useless wife. Big daft Ham who loves Emily, whose head is soon turned when she sets eyes on Steerforth.
Thrills: Not many apart from Ham drowning to save Steerforth and poor Emily’s father searching all over London for his fallen daughter. The creepy slimy character of Uriah Heep who is slowly plotting his takeover of Wicklow’s firm, swindling all who gets in his way. Ham and Dora’s death is more sad than thrilling though.
What I love about it: Mr Murstone who kicks things off for Nicholas. ‘Dotheboys’ Hall’, Wackford Squeers and his wife and especially the ridiculous Fanny Squeers who takes a liking to Nickleby. The horrible uncle Ralph Nickleby, the pitiful Smike, the loyal Noggs. I like the bleakness of ‘Dotheboys’ Hall and the humour and general niceness of the Cheeryble brothers. I am not keen on the theatrical bits of the novel, although the ‘Infant Phenomenon’ is quite an amusing character.
Thrills: Ralph Nickby who would compromise poor Kate, the cruelty of Squeers to those poor boys, especially to Smike who could have had a nice home and family. Pathos comes from the gentle Smike, secretly in love with Kate and his eventual death – very moving.
What I like about it: Reputation was all. I like the mysterious Nemo, the bored Lady Dedlock and Miss Flyte and her birds. I’m not keen on Jarrdyce versus Jarndyce, which gets a bit monotonous, but I like Esther Summerson and the simple way that she accepts everything, she has no pity for herself at all I also like the way that the court case makes people act in ways they wouldn’t normally act – putting their life on hold for an outcome that is by no means a forgone conclusion. Skimpole the ‘child’ who is anything but, kind Mr Jarndyce who has seen this Will fever ruin many a poor man. I like the way that secrets which get into the wrong hands can be lethal – there must have been a lot of blackmail around in Victorian times.
Thrills: Absolutely lots! the opium dens, Krook the rag and bottle merchant who finally combusts literally – only a pair of smoking legs are left. the murder of blackmailer Tulkinghorn by Hortense. This is a wonderful book with a great plot and a very dark and mysterious aura about it.
A Christmas Carol
What I like about it: Who doesn’t like this Christmasy tale! This story has got everything really. It’s sentiments unfortunately are rarely thought about apart from at Christmas time. Charity and the turning over of a new leaf cheers the reader on and the thought occurs that it’s never too late to trun over a new leaf.
Thrills; It has to be the ghosts of course: the rattling chains, the ghostly light, the pointing finger, the glimpses into what the future could hold….
What I like about it: The exciting glimpse into the Marshalsea prison where debtors carry on like they were at home and are encouraged to do so. I love poor little Amy Dorrit and despair at her selfish father. The story is full of lots of little sub stories that make it more complicated than most. However, Little Dorrit is a lovely character, full of kindness, patience and self-sacrifice – which are rewarded in the end
Thrills include the mystery of the paper in the back of the watch case. The very strange luring away of Tattycoram (what a name!). The murderous Rigaud and the strangely weird Mrs Clennham and Miss Wade.
The Old Curiosity shop
What I like about it: The cast of characters. The hideous hunchbacked Quilp who lends money to Nell’s Grandfather putting him in debt. Nell and grandfather become homeless and wander as beggars as Quilp takes their shop. Kit, Nell’s friend, Dick Swivvler and Nell’s brother all join in the search for Nell and grandfather , aided by the nasty Quilp.
Thrills: Not a lot, this is a very sad book, as Little Nell dies in the end of fatigue. Critics said that this particular novel was over sentimental – and so it is in places, the death scene in particular is a real tear jerker. I still like this book though more than some of the others.
What I like about it: It’s alright – that’s about it really. I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the other books and I think this is down to Chuzzlewit’s adventures in America (reflecting Dickens’ opinion). I am amazed that Dickens thought this his best novel. It is the least popular with most people.
What I like about it: Very different to other Dickens books. I have only read it once and found it quite sobering. it is political, set in fictitious Coketown and about Class, education and trouble at t’ mills. I can’t remember much about it to be honest, but it is something I wouldn’t read again, but I would choose it over Martin Chuzzlewit.
Tale of Two cities
What I like about this book: not a favourite, but great if you are interested in the French Revolution. Basically its about one man sacrificing himself for another because he loves the others wife.
Thrills; Lots of intrigue and underground Revolutionists. Sydney Carton who starts out a dissipated man ends up a martyred hero. It’s not a book I would read again, but it has been translated quite well into very watchable films.
Why I like it? I just don’t. I have read this book twice and I cannot for the life of me see what others see in it. To me it tries to be too clever. Sam Weller really gets on my nerves. I know it’s not his fault poor chap, but Dickens gives him an impediment that makes his character hard to read. I don’t care much for their ‘hilarious’ adventures either. But, having said this, I shall at some time try again to read this book – I might actually ‘get’ it eventually