2012 was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, so Abby (formerly of Newly Impassioned Soul) asked us to participate in a Charles Dickens reading challenge. I posted about this sometime last summer, but I am only know getting around to telling you exactly which Dickens tales I read, and what I thought of them. Though, I fear my reviews shall be in no way sensible nor logical... nor overly long.
I should warn you that if you haven't read these stories, you may want to know that I tend to release spoilers. Just so you know.
My first Dickens. And what a tale to start out with! David is just the sort of character for whom you want to like immediately, you want to see happy and successful. And yet, there were those times when I wanted to shake him, particularly with his attachment to Dora. Didn't you see that Agnes loved you the whole time? Ugh... Idiot. Anyway... I especially enjoyed the bits about David's aunt. ("Janet! Donkeys!") and although she was a character that you really weren't supposed to like, I liked her. David's stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, was the one character that I detested. Such a man! And what a sister! Dickens can really pen people in a way that makes them utterly unlikeable. Uriah Heep, the 'umble, 'umble man. Ooh, I hated him with relish. I'm not what I made of Steerforth, seeing as he was David's only friend at school, but it was through his friendship with David that he met and later ran away with Little Em'ly. I was appalled at his actions, but there was a small part of me that wished he could have had the chance to seek forgiveness.
As this was the first time I got into Dickens, I was unaccustomed to his way of writing, so I read DC slowly. Oftentimes, I found myself backtracking to reread passages to understand what was happening. For those not used to it, Dickens is difficult to comprehend, but I quickly got used to his writing style as I read more or it. Sure, there are a lot of words, but that will never deter me. But the most important part: Did I enjoy DC? Yup. Lots. And you should read it, too.
This has probably been my favorite Dickens tale to this point. I have yet to read/finish Bleak House and Little Dorrit and a great many other Dickens, so I won't say NN is my absolute favorite, but I did very much enjoy this one. Nicholas was a likeable character and the experiences he went through only made you like him the more. Mr. Squeer is another of Dickens' most hated villains (on my list), and I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair every time his daughter Fanny stepped onto the pages. Mr. Newman Noggs, however, was a favorite. He was poor, ill-dressed, not really all there, but he had a good heart, and it gladdened me to see the way he stuck by Nicholas. I laughed heartily at the scene when he tried to trace down Nicholas's love and ended up at the door of the wrong lady! Uncle Ralph is another story altogether, his twisted black heart never capable of love or any feeling, IMHO. He cared only for money and personal gain, even at the expense of his family. Poor Smike! And to think him Ralph's own son! John Browdie was an epic fellow, indeed, a good man, and he deserved the caring wife he found in Tilda. Nicholas's sister, Kate, I liked and pitied for the situations she found herself in (mostly by her uncle's hand), but she, too, got her happy ending. I enjoyed the playing troupe under Mr. Crummles and was glad that Nicholas fell among them for a time. Sir Mulberry Hawk and Mr. Mantalini... ugh. Horrid. Let's not go there.
Also a favorite (I'm sensing a favorite pattern with most of the Dickens I read). This is probably one of Dickens' more gritty and bloody novels, at least of the ones that I've read. The orphan Oliver Twist, neglected in the beginning of the novel, moved on to only be mistreated at the Sowerberrys' funeral home. From there, he ran away to London to meet The Artful Dodger and be caught up in the schemes of the old Jew Fagin. Bill Sikes was despicable. I don't know what Nancy ever saw in him, but she would have been much better off without him. I liked Miss Rose and Mrs. Maylie, and Oliver deserved to spend that happy time with them, even though if it had not been for Bill, he would have been happily at Mr. Brownlow's house. I think for the most part, I felt sympathy for Oliver through most of the novel. He was always accidentally getting somewhere he never wanted to be. He was used for the gain of others, and usually against his own wishes. All he wanted was a home and a family. Somewhere safe. Somewhere where he could be loved.
A Tale of Two Cities
I received this book as a gift from a very dear friend for my last birthday, and couldn't wait to get into it. I'd heard much of this one, and I recall many people say how much they liked the character of Sydney Carton. Can I say that I really didn't like him? Sure, he was supposed to be not such a great character, he was Dickens' unlikely hero. Charles Darnay was unjustly condemned to Madame Guillotine, and Carton, bearing a remarkable resemblance to him, took his place. The tale was so intricately woven together, but it wasn't hard to guess from the start that Carton would be Dickens' classic unlikely hero, the one who unselfishly gave up something unexpectedly so that someone good could benefit. However, the character of Carton in the beginning, lazy, drunk... I could not see him as a hero. I'm sorry I don't like him more now, even after what he did for Darnay. My favorite characters were actually Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Pross. The way Miss Pross stood up to Madame Defarge at the end to protect Lucie was... well, rather brave and loyal. The plot wouldn't let me go, and this book was one of this list that I read quickly, caught in the tale, and familiar with Dickens' style. I'm not extremely fond of the era around the French Revolution, but I'd have to make this book an exception alongside The Scarlet Pimpernel. Ah! If only Sir Percy knew Darnay!
I enjoyed reading that one more than I thought I would, although I can't say it's my favorite Dickens. I loved poor, little Sissy; hated the very mention of that odious Mr. Bounderby; read Mr. Thleary'th thpeecheth twithe to underthand them; laughed heartily at Mrs. Sparsit's misfortunes; wasn't sure what to make of Mr. James Harthouse; shook my head at Mr. Grangrind's schooling; alternately felt compassion and frustration for Louisa; and restrained myself from slapping the whelp Tom upside the head. When I first got into this book, I knew very little of it, hearing almost no mention of it when people listed their favorite Dickens tales. Really, I don't
know why it's one of the lesser known Dickens. I would encourage any reader looking into Dickens to read this one. It's classic Dickens.
And so, my dear friends, after completing this list of tales, I made myself a new list to read this year. I don't know if I'l be doing another five Dickens, but we'll see.
I got this book for Christmas last year, and after several failed attempts to start it, I am finally getting well into it and very much enjoying it. Love Esther Summerson. I've seen the popular miniseries from BBC, but I almost have to say I like Esther better in the book. I will say, though, that they got Mr. Jarndyce perfectly down to a T!
After seeing so many people post about the new Great Expectations (the one with Lady Dedlock as Miss Havisham), my sisters and I finally got it out of the library. I couldn't say it was my favorite tale ever, but it was intriguing, and I knew I had to read the book. So, thanks to Swagbucks, I earned a couple of Amazon gift cards and purchased this and the following two books for myself. Can't wait for them to come in the mail!
Our Mutual Friend
How many of you have seen the 1998 adaption of this novel? My family just watched it, and we really enjoyed it! We have a parent guardian, thankfully, for the language. I found myself liking the character of Bella Wilfer, so flawed, yet with so much potential. I was glad to note how her character underwent a drastic change throughout the story. I knew this was a must to read. I added it to the list.
Little DorritI. Love. Little. Dorrit. This is probably and easily my favorite Dickens tale ever, even though I've never read the book, only seen the series with Claire Foy. Amy Dorrit is high on my favorite literary heroines list! I've been looking for this book for a long time, and I cannot wait to read it!
What about you? Comment and tell me which Dickens you've read, which ones are your favorites, which ones you're planning on reading soon. I'd love to hear from you!