This really wasn’t what I was expecting. If we’re being honest here, I was expecting a Dickensian version of Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques and, if like me, that’s what you were hoping for, I’m sorry to ruin it for you but it isn’t. Quite sadly, the eponymous shop barely shows face but don’t let that distract you because honestly? This book is quite the masterpiece.
A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with Dickens. His writing style is quite unique. He’s the definition of superfluous (but when you get paid by the word, it literally pays to be that way so he had his reasons) and that annoys a lot of people. When reading through this, it was often quite dry in places and I was reading through a rather unnecessary paragraph when bam – there’s a piece of beautiful prose. This happened frequently. There’s no denying that Dickens could write and I’m really glad I started with this book (aside from A Christmas Carol) as my venture in to Dickens this 2015.
The Old Curiosity Shop follows the story of little Nell Trent and her beloved Grandfather. Along the way we meet the adorable Kit, the evil Quilp, Punch and Judy, a waxwork woman, Mr Dick Swiveller (hehe) and Miss and Mr Brass to name but a few. Dickens is a master of characters, each of them is unique and distinguished from the rest. I actually can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a large ensemble of characters and could really remember them each as individuals. The growth in each of them, their development, it’s just something that I actually found refreshing as it’s not often found to that scale.
I found it quite slow paced, it took me much longer than I was anticipating to actually get through it. It’s one of those books that is a bit varied in it’s momentum; the first 100 pages were slow, 100-300 were quite fast paced and then it became quite slow and rather difficult to read again; this was on a repeat cycle and the final 150 pages I just whizzed through. I’m glad I persevered though because it really was worth it! Sometimes a slower read is a good thing, it was just frustrating in parts as it’s a book I found I had to devote all my energy to, I couldn’t have another book going on the side!
Ultimately, this is wonderful. Absolutely amazing and I will definitely be reading more Dickens. Primarily because of the slump in pace I give it 4/5.