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The Old Curiosity Shop Paperback – July 22, 2020
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- ASIN : B08DC3ZCQJ
- Publisher : Independently published (July 22, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 350 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8668343430
- Item Weight : 1.32 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.88 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #427,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I actually looked up all the stories Anton Lesser narrates, thankfully, there are quite a few so I'll be happy listening to them for a long time.
Based on the five books I've read so far, it appears that Dickens' stories are all pretty much the same. There's always orphans, much benighted, but stout hearted, moral and persistent. There's usually some kind of deformed villain, a ne'er-do-well sponger, a kindly old gentleman or two, an eccentric spinster, and likely a few other character types. Oh yeah, many, but not all, lawyers are conniving and grasping.
Anyway, The Old Curiosity Shop has all this in spades. It's the story of Little Nell and her grandfather, more-or-less. Also the story of Kit. There's lots of pathos, but, what's rather fun, lots of Dickens' wry humorous portrayal of the frailties of humanity. Dickens blathers incessantly, but it's such entertaining blather that one can never tire of it. I wonder why it took me so many decades to discover Dickens?
Top reviews from other countries
It's about the journey of a group of individuals centred around little Nell and her Grandfather, who are victims of circumstance. It's about inequality, poverty and the desperation it causes. It has a range of highly interesting characters and settings. To date this is the only Dickens book I have read in entirety but one's impression is that throughout many of his works the author wanted to shine a light on the under-dogs of class inequality inherent in British society.
Some people who haven't read these works will try to claim that they are outdated but they're wrong; this book is as relevant as ever because unfortunately injustice, poverty and inequality still exist in the world today.
I'm glad I read the book instead of watching a film version as I can't imagine that it would ever be as good. The quality of writing is magical.
If you have a taste for good literature and a good attention span then you should read this book but you might want to take your time and savour the writing instead of reading just for the sake of it.
This is the only one of Dickens’ novels that I hadn’t read before, so it was a real pleasure to get to know the cast of characters and follow Nell on her journeys. Unfortunately what happens to Little Nell is so well known (in case you don’t know, I won’t say) and a book I read a few years ago had also told me what happens to Quilp, so I didn’t get the joy of suspense over the main plotline. But, as usual with Dickens, there are so many sub-plots and digressions, the characters are so beautifully quirky, the settings are described so wonderfully and the language is a delight, so I didn’t feel I missed out on much.
Nell starts out rather better than a lot of Dickens’ drooping heroines. She’s a girl of spirit who loves to laugh, and who affectionately teases her only friend, young Kit, her grandfather’s assistant. She does eventually turn into the usual saccharin perfect saint, though, losing much of her initial appeal as she does. But all the worry of looking after her grandfather and herself falls on her, and Dickens allows her to have enough strength and ingenuity to carry them both through some dangerous and heart-breaking moments. She’s not quite as strong as Kickass Kate Nickleby, but she’s certainly no Drippy Dora Copperfield either! I could fully understand why people got so caught up in her story when the book was originally published in serial form although, sadly, apparently the story about people storming the docks in New York when the ship carrying the last instalment arrived is apocryphal. Grandfather is a surprisingly unattractive character who really doesn’t deserve Nell’s devotion, but in him Dickens gives a great portrayal of how addiction can destroy a man’s character and life.
The bulk of the story, however, is really about Kit, Quilp and the characters around them in London. Quilp is a sadist who delights in bullying his wife and anyone else who comes in his way. For no particular reason – Quilp doesn’t need reasons – he has taken against Kit and sets out to destroy him. But Kit is an honest, upright young boy who has the knack of winning friends who will stand by him when he needs them. When Nell leaves London with her grandfather, Kit hopes to find her one day, so he can make sure she is alright. Quilp also wants to find Nell, but for very different reasons – mostly just to be mean to her and to a young man called Dick Swiveller, who has been persuaded by Nell’s brother (oh, I forgot to mention – Nell has a ne’er-do-well brother, Fred) that he, Dick, should marry Nell, for complicated reasons. Gosh, summarising Dickens’ plots is exceptionally hard! Trust me, it all makes sense in the book! Dick is a lot of fun, constantly quoting from romantic songs of the day, and having a heart of gold under his drunken wastrel exterior.
Quilp is a great villain, without a single redeeming feature. Because he’s described as an ugly, misshapen dwarf when we first meet him, I tried to have some sympathy – to consider whether his treatment as a child may have warped his character – but honestly, he’s so vile that after a bit I couldn’t feel anything for him other than hatred and a desire to see him get his comeuppance! Sally Brass is another wonderful character. Sister to Sampson Brass, Quilp’s lawyer, she works alongside her brother and is the real force in the business. She’s mannish in her mannerisms, obnoxious, a tyrant to her little servant, and joins happily in all Quilp’s evil schemes. Sampson also goes along with Quilp, but he’s weaker than Sally and acts mostly out of fear of Quilp’s wrath.
I felt there were more signs of this one’s origins as a serial than in most of his novels. It starts off with a first-person narrator, but this is dropped after a few chapters and from there on it becomes a third-person narrative. Kit starts out as a kind of simpleton comedy character, but then turns into a fine upstanding young man with plenty of intelligence as the story develops, and Dick has a similar change of character, though less marked. And there are, unusually for Dickens, one or two loose ends, particularly one around the birth of the one of the characters. There’s a great introduction by Elizabeth M. Brennan in my Oxford World’s Classics edition, which explains how these discrepancies arose from the rushed method of writing for weekly publication and the fact that Dickens hadn’t planned out the whole story when he began to write it. Brennan also tells us that Dickens cut some passages before the serialisation was published in novel form, including the birth mystery to which I referred. It doesn’t however, explain, why Dickens chose to cut that particular scene, leaving the reader to guess from a couple of hints along the way. The cut sections are given in the appendices.
However, none of these minor flaws are enough of a problem to take away from the sheer enjoyability of watching Dickens masterfully juggle humour and pathos, horror and joy, with all of his usual skill. And, oh dear, as always there’s so much I haven’t even touched on – the travelling entertainers Nell meets with on her journey, the waxworks, the Punch and Judy men, the hellish scenes of industrialised towns, Quilp’s poor mother-in-law, Kit’s family, the delightfully obstinate pony Whisker, the prison scenes, and so much more!
I’ll have to let it settle and perhaps read it at least once more to decide where it will finally sit in my league table of Dickens’ novels. Currently, it’s in the middle – not quite up there with Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby and so on, but not down at the bottom with poor Oliver Twist either. However, a middle-rank Dickens is still vastly better than most other books written by people unfortunate enough to not be Dickens, so that means it’s great – highly recommended!
Right, old granddad and sweet granddaughter, forced out of said emporium due to debt, to do nothing but walk the streets, and as the story goes on, counties of England, hoping to work their way as they go on their way; sometimes this works, often it does not, and much anguish, hunger and cold, and eventually illness, become the norm. Dickens, eh? You can't have one of the great man's tales without at least one waifen stray, here we get her grandfather to boot.
Other characters, plenty, but here is where the story falls down. Despite there being reasons and links between those left behind in the Smoke, and said family pair, their tales become somewhat separated and all in all, never the twain shall meet, for the lion's share of the yarn at least. Put simply, ignoring the tenuosity, you get two different tales, neither of which see the inside of a going concern in the way of shabby objet dart. But is either part of the overall book any good?
I say a provisional yes to this. The characters, both ordinary and elevated, honest and bent (and as ever in respective order in a Dickens tale) are not particularly engaging, but in its way the story still manages to work as a reasonable to good read. The useless debt ridden young gentlemen are there of course, and one, Richard Swiveller, is a hoot.
Now to digress for a short spell. I am sure many who have read one 'Her Benny', first published in 1879, will have smelled Dickens all over it. I always thought it was just generally the case; rich and poor, big house and slum etc, but there really is a strong likeness between characters and situations and aspects of this book, and that of the aforementioned best seller by Silas K Hocking. At certain points, it seems as if the goodly Rev. lifted parts of the plot of this book, straight off. But back to this book and only this.
The parts do not tie up well, not really, but - they do tie up eventually. But I am sure if you accept that not every Dickens' work is brilliant, and can accept an offering somewhat less in literary quality, you will still enjoy this.