Review: Little Dorrit – Charles Dickens

021 - Little Dorrit

021 - Little Dorrit

Rating – 4*

After Britain being covered in snow last week, and not being able to go to work because I had 2 foot of the stuff outside, it seemed only appropriate to dig a Dickens’ novel off of my shelf. Cold snaps like that, I thought, are very Dickensian, which is why I picked this up. When it’s cold out I always feel more inclined to read a classic, something about them is cozy and comforting, no matter what the subject and I felt like a big book after reading so many shorter ones last month, so I chose Little Dorrit.

Little Dorrit follows the intertwining stories of Amy ‘Little’ Dorrit and Arthur Clennam. Amy was born in Marshalsea Prison – a notorious Debtors Prison. Amy is the youngest of three children – and as with all books by Dickens we get a real insight to the entire family and all their faults (of which there are many!) As with a lot of Dickens’ female protagonists she is pure of heart, but while she is quite ‘innocent’ and childlike I do think she is actually one of his more rounded female characters because she isn’t absolutely flawless. Arthur returns to London, after living abroad with his father who has recently died, to live with his disabled mother – as with the Dorrit family, you get a real insight in to all of the characters from his mother to the maids and each of them, while a little cartoonish, have their own personality.

I really enjoyed this. I found the development of Amy believable, I found the relationships between the characters believable (to a degree) but I also found the ‘moral’ of the story a good one. Money doesn’t always buy happiness, and I really liked this take on it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a character like Amy in, and I think that’s why I’m slowly growing to love Dickens – his characters are the other side of historical society and the voices that rarely got heard. I think I understand why his books are considered classics, and why they were just as loved when they were published as they are now.

The reason I gave this book 4 stars is that while I liked it, it didn’t grab me quite as much as Bleak House did. I feel it unfair to compare every Dickens novel to Bleak House but I find it really hard not to! It’s up there, it is, it was a blooming good read and I’m glad I finally got around to it. It just didn’t quite meet the 5 star mark for me!

Review: Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

047 - Our Mutual Friend

Rating – 4*

Our Mutual Friend has been one of those books that I had a very on/off relationship with. The first 25% I absolutely stormed through, the middle 50% I struggled with, then it picked up again towards the end. Unlike my favourite of Dickens’ books, Bleak House, I didn’t find this as compelling or engaging meaning it took me the best part of 2 months to actually read it.

The novel kicks off with a body being found in the Thames. The body is identified to be that of John Harmon, a young man who has recently come home to London in order to claim his inheritance. However, upon his death the inheritance  instead passes to the Boffins, a working class family, and the effect of this spreads into London society.


As always with a book by Dickens, this has an expansive character list – all of which have interesting traits and characteristics. Some of them do feel more like caricatures, but for me that’s part of the charm with a Dickens novel. Lizzie is annoyingly angelic and probably annoyed me the most out of all the characters, because she felt even more flawless and contrived than Esther in Bleak House. Her innocence and naivety felt forced, and for me that was frustrating. Bella is flawed even after her character goes through a complete transformation. She is sweet, and silly, and full of compassion and her scenes with John (who is equally fantastic) were so great to read. John, is Our Mutual Friend, as without him there wouldn’t be a book to read. Everyone in this story is brought together, in some way or another, by John and I think that in and of itself was a really interesting concept for a book.

This was Dickens’ last complete novel (The Mystery of Edwin Drood was incomplete at the time of his death) and I think it is definitely one of his strongest for character and plot, I just found the actual writing – and therefore the reading of it – a bit clunky. It didn’t capture me like Bleak House did, but then I feel I have to stop comparing all Dickens’ novels to Bleak House in order to give them a fair chance!

I can’t wait to read more Dickens. I feel I may be finishing at least one more before the year is out – so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested!

Review: Dombey and Son – Charles Dickens


Rating – 3*

After Bleak House I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for another Dickens and this is the one which caught my eye. Dombey and Son was one of the first Penguin English Library editions I bought because look at it, it’s gorgeous and I’m a glutton for a pretty book. Sadly, after Bleak House, this fell a little flat for me.

It is over 1000 pages. This isn’t an issue normally, but the problem is that for me personally it could have been done in half that number. Initially I loved it, I got through the first couple of hundred pages in a few days and I was really enjoying it but then it just became more of a chore than anything. I kept going, because Dickens is like that and I was hoping so hard it would get better, but for me it didn’t. While the final chapter was somewhat redeeming, it wasn’t so mindblowing that it made this book better for me.

My main issue is that I didn’t feel much connection to the characters, which did make the story a little harder to invest myself in. Compared to Bleak House this just didn’t meet the mark on the plot or character front. Florence, while a wonderful protagonist, was too insipid and sickly sweet for my liking; Mr Dombey I just couldn’t get a handle on and struggled to understand. The background characters didn’t come to life quite like they have in a number of Dickens’ other books that I have read – even London wasn’t as vibrant in this book.

On the whole this was okay. Not the best Dickens book I have read, but by no means is it the worst (for it’ll be hard for any of Dickens’ books to be as ghastly as A Tale of Two Cities, and should one of his books surpass that feat it’ll be pretty awful indeed). I would say of his long books, this is my least favourite so far – Bleak House is by far a better place to go, or even The Old Curiosity Shop if you’re interested in picking up a monster of a book!

This time, however, I am not going to be put off from reading more. A Tale of Two Cities put me off Dickens for about 18 months and I’m not going to let this one get me down! If you have any recommendations of where to go next – I’m thinking Little Dorrit or David Copperfield maybe – let me know. I’d love to have input from people who have read more Dickens than me!

Review: Bleak House – Charles Dickens


Rating – 5*

I don’t even know where to start with this book. It was a beast but my goodness it was an incredible one. I had been putting it off for so long, especially after my last Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) really disappointed me, and a reading slump left me very intimidated as this book is over 1000 pages. But I don’t know what I was scared of. I read this in under a week, and also managed to watch the entirety of the 15 part BBC adaptation as I went along – which was also amazing!

Bleak House is alternatively narrated by the orphan Esther Summerson, and an unknown third person. Personally I preferred the tone of Esther’s narrative and found it much easier to read than those parts which focused more on the court case which is ultimately the crux of this book and the thread which tied all the characters together. However, for me it was Esther’s development through the book, and her personal growth, was actually the most interesting part of the story and I felt she tied the story together more than the court case ever did.

The plot is so complex and intricate, there are stories within stories which are all wrapped up beautifully by the end. The court case itself is pretty insane, and has been going on so long that at least one generation of the Jarndyce family has expired while waiting for a judgement, and not even the lawyers have any grasp on its intricacies. As for characters, not one felt surplus to requirements for me. Yes, there were a lot of characters but they all had their moments of importance and all had their imperfections and flaws which made them stand out – some more than others it has to be said! What I liked was the two different views you get of some of the characters from both streams of the narration, it’s quite a simple thing really but I found it really added to the depth of character for me.

To sum it up, I adored this book. And I when reading it I knew I had to watch the TV series. BBC adaptations never fail to take my breath away and this one was no exception. The cast is incredible, the way the story is put together on screen just made me appreciate the book all the more. Not only that, it was visually beautiful! I would seriously recommend reading and watching the series simultaneously as I for one feel it made my reading the book less daunting! Also, it’s very good to break up a burst of reading with a bit of period drama.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself rereading this book before the year is out. It’s amazing, it blew my mind quite frankly and I cannot wait to read more Dickens! Definitely don’t be put off by the size of this book, please, because it’s a masterpiece. Naturally, this is a 5* book. No doubts.

Review: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

38 - Great Expectations

Rating – 3*

I decided it was about time I finally picked up Great Expectations, I had wanted to read some more Dickens for a while and this one was just staring at me. After A Tale of Two Cities being a huge disappointment, I had a little block in place when it came to which Dickens to read next. I’m glad it was this one.

Most people know the bare bones of Great Expectations, a young orphaned boy – Pip – dreams of stepping up in the world and becoming a gentleman. On the way to him discovering his “great expectations” he meets some very interesting characters, and one of the most iconic Dickensian characters of them all, Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, having been left at the altar as a young woman now spends her days in her wedding dress with all the clocks in her house stopped at 8:40. I found myself drawn to her, and I do wish this book was about her not Pip because damn, Pip is boring.

The biggest issue I have with this book is Pip. He is self absorbed and, as the story is told from his perspective, it’s very hard to enjoy. It is told in three sections, and while the first story about his younger years is quite interesting – mainly due to the presence of Joe and Miss Havisham – the second part following his journey to his expectations in London was so dull! However, come part three, after finding out who his benefactor was and the fallout from there it does become more interesting and the pace picks up considerably. There was some intensity to some chapters which really made up for the drab chapters which came before it. I also like that Dickens does wrap everything up, it’s quite satisfying (if a little contrived)! On the whole, I liked the way this book went, even if I did find Pip insufferable.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed The Old Curiosity Shop, but it was still enjoyable. I will be giving it some time before picking up my next Dickens! I will, however, be watching both the TV Miniseries and the 2012 movie adaptation of Great Expectations as reading it, I could see how well it would translate on to the screen and I’m pretty excited about that!

Review: A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

taleoftwocitiesThis is my third foray in to Dickens and I’m quite glad it wasn’t my first. I may be about to be quite controversial here but… I didn’t really like this.

Now, don’t get me wrong this book was good in many ways. It met the expectations of what I have read of Dickens so far in terms of the writing, if anything this book was easier to follow the flow of in some ways. But I just didn’t like this book whatsoever on the plot front. I ended up getting it as an audiobook as I was finding it hard to engross myself in, which helped a little and got me through it.

The opening paragraph is possibly one of the best known in literature and I really thought I was settling down to something incredible and, in some ways, it was but it just didn’t capture me like his previous works have. I found this such a slog and, for me, there were very few shining moments. Honestly, if it wasn’t for part three this would probably have been a 1* for me. The last book of this novel made the slog of the first two parts almost worthwhile, almost. The characters on the whole were detestable, Lucie especially was infuriating; simpering fool of a girl, why everyone found her so wonderful I don’t know.

I hate to give a book a low rating but this one I have to. So it’s a 2* read. I’d only suggest this book if you’ve read Dickens in the past, in my opinion it’s not one to pick up as your first foray!

Review: The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens

OldCuriosityShopThis 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.

Review: A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

christmascarolI’m so glad I finally read A Christmas Carol properly this year! I’ve skim-read it in the past but never actually settled down with it and read it properly as I did this Christmas. It’s a story I think everyone and their Aunt are familiar with; I grew up with the varying movies – Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart and of course The Muppets! It’s my mum’s favourite movie, it’s one that isn’t exclusive to Christmas either now. But I don’t understand why I’d never read the book when the story is such an integral part of my childhood.

Anyway, I curled up with this (and a bottle of rum) at about half past 10 Christmas Eve and finished just before midnight. Quite appropriate if I do say so myself. And I loved it. It’s definitely one that should be read in one sitting; and as close to Christmas as possible for me. Also, I think that it will be a little tradition that I start that I read it Christmas Eve as it doesn’t take a particularly long time to read.

Most of the movies do this justice, even the Muppets stick to the main story! But in reading it there is such depth to the writing that you can feel snow underfoot and the crispness of the air and I think there is a power to the written word that you just don’t quite get even with the magic of movies. I just loved it. There wasn’t really any surprises as between the varying adaptations you get the full story in one way, shape or form. But still the book was just amazing and has that little something that just makes it superior to the movies.

I have to say, in reading it properly (opposed to just skimming it as I did a few years ago) I so want to read more of Dickens work next year. I’m going to try for at least 3 of his works – so yes, there’s a Reading Resolution for 2015! I just love his writing and I’m determined to love it even more.

Definitely a must for Christmas in my eyes! I’m sad I wasn’t introduced to it properly sooner, that I wasn’t encouraged to read it sooner, but I think it just makes it all the more amazing to read now!