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Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens

When Little Dorrit was first published it was criticised for a confused story and containing too many characters. With time it has become regarded as one of Dickens best novels. In my humble opinion I sit in the former of the two camps.

Amy Dorrit is a child born in, and who lives in the debtors prison of Marshalsea in Southwark (No longer there but this is the same prison in which Dickens own father was imprisoned). Her story in the book is told from when she is aged approx twenty years old. The other key character is Arthur Clennam. A man who has been working overseas for many years and has at the age of forty returned to London to take stock of his life and get his family and business affairs in order. There is a link between the two characters that sets the main story throughout the book.

Little Dorrit lets Dickens loose on his familiar passions of social injustice, the pitfalls that can occur from material wealth, and the red tape buffoonery of officialdom, most notably in his creation the national 'Circumlocution Office' which was based around the treasury and other governmental departments whose ethos is 'How NOT to do things':

'If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament unless there had been half score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office'

The story begins in a prison cell in Marseille and takes in London, Switzerland, Italy, and France. The aforementioned passions and themes of Dickens are evident throughout the book but the plot is awkward and clunky. There were far too many characters for me personally and as this is one of Dickens longest books the last couple of hundred pages were, for me, more of a task than a pleasure to read and speaking as an admirer of Dickens talent and work I was relieved to have finished the bugger and put it to one side.

Of course it isn't all bad (in 900 plus pages there has to be some gems right?). The book is awash with brilliant writing, both descriptive and poetical in the way it deals with the human condition but this wasn't one of my personal favourites. The characters (apart from the brilliant Pancks of Pentonville who in an ideal world should have tens of chapters given over to his story) aren't built on and fleshed out in the way Dickens was a master of. Maybe it was because there were so many of them. I would say half of them were inconsequential to the actual story. As an advocate of how Dickens stuff is still relevant today, I will finish this review with a quote from Arthur Clemman who when talking about the government with Henry Gowan answers the latter characters defensive comment of all things parliamentary "It's a school for gentlemen" with:

"Its a very dangerous, unsatisfactory, and expensive school to the people who pay to keep the pupils there, I am afraid"

Well said sir!

PS One great scene setting passage from the book:

'They walked on with him until they came to a dirty shop in a dirty street, which was made almost opaque by the steam of hot meats, vegetables, and puddings. But glimpses were to be caught of a roast leg of pork bursting into tears of sage and onion in a metal reservoir full of gravy, of an unctuous piece of roast beef and blisterous Yorkshire pudding, bubbling hot in a similar receptacle, of a stuffed fillet of veal in rapid cut, of a ham in a perspiration with the pace it was going at, of a shallow tank of baked potatoes glued together by their own richness, of a truss or two of boiled greens and other delicacies. Within, were a few wooden partitions, behind which such customers as found it more convenient to take away their dinners in stomachs than in their hands, packed their purchases in solitude'

If the above isnt proof that Toby Carvery's have been around for years I don't know what it is.
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

superb review and a good modern gag to finish it off 10-10 sir!

Sir Bulldog Craggwood wrote:
superb review and a good modern gag to finish it off 10-10 sir!

You sir are a gentleman beyond the measure of most. I suggest we take our leave and spare no haste or rapidity in retiring to the welcoming hostelry across the way. The ale is both welcoming and moreish as is the serving lass. Though on the last point I speak not from experience, just strongly galvanised rumour. What say you? Forum Index -> Fishy Tales
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