[Little Dorrit] Part 1: A Review

Happy Tuesday, y’all! Hope you’re feeling motivated this beautiful spring day!

I am excited to share my first update on my progress reading Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. As you probably recall, I am part of The Classics Club and have several large novels on my list. In 2016, I read War and Peace. Last year was Les Miserables. And this year is Little Dorrit. My goals for Little Dorrit are similar to Les Mis.

  • Write a review after each quarter of the book read.
  • Write a full review of the novel when I am finished.
  • Finish by the end of 2018!


I am really excited about reading this novel because I have a bit of a history with the story line. In college, a dear friend introduced me to the BBC miniseries adaptation of Little Dorrit. Claire Foy is brilliant as Amy, and I love Matthew Macfadyen as Arthur Clennam. We watched it together nearly every night for weeks.  After that, I was hooked! I have loved reading the beginnings of this story.

Initial Thoughts:

  • I have not actually read much Dickens, just A Christmas Carol (several times) and Great Expectations in high school. I aspire to read more Dickens–I desperately want to get into A Tale of Two Cities (which I have started twice) and Little Dorrit has been top of my list for a while. Ironically, I know the plots for several Dickens novels rather well. But I just haven’t read as much of them as I think.
  • I love that my copy of the book has drawing every other chapter or so. It’s fun to see a depiction of the characters and scenes as I read.
  • I’m reading mostly on my kindle app again and still prefer it. It’s so easy to get a little reading time here and there. The kindle version of Little Dorrit is not as well equipped as my Les Mis version, but it gets the job done.


In this first part of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens we meet a colorful cast of characters including a pair of inmates in a French prison, Arthur Clennam and the Meagles family, and of course, the Dorrit family–including Amy known as Little Dorrit, born and raised in the Marshalsea Debtors Prison. Paths begin to cross as Arthur returns home to London after many years abroad running the family business in China. His relationship with his mother is estranged at best and he is surprised to find a stranger, Amy Dorrit, working for his mother. As Arthur seeks to understand the Dorrits’ situation, he begins to see the complexities of people, the secrets in his family, and the unreasonable nature of the Circumlocution Office.

Little Dorrit is classic Charles Dickens. What I know about Dickens is that he was a champion for the poor/working classes of his day. And he can take several pages to describe a single moment like a sunset, an object, or even a person. Such is the case in this novel. His descriptions of everything from a rainstorm to a poor neighborhood are extended and specific. His commentary on the living conditions of the poor is poignant and cutting. He also subtly criticizes the government’s way of solving the problems in society with the ridiculous Circumlocution Office (which made me laugh out loud with how difficult to work with they are). I feel like I could pick out Dickens’ style without knowing it was his because it is so unique.

What is even more impressive about this novel is how Dickens seamlessly weaves his criticisms and commentary into a story. This isn’t Tolstoy or even Hugo. Dickens doesn’t go on long tangents about military procedures or extended historical accounts about the Battle of Waterloo. Instead, he includes details within his story. That makes him easier for me to read. I could follow the different subplots rather easier and found it easy to ready several chapters at a time because I wanted to know what happens next. Certainly, there is a lot of complexity and we don’t yet know how all the characters will connect with each other. But it’s nice to be reading primarily a story rather than a political commentary.

So far, I’m enjoying so many of the characters. I love Amy Dorrit for her innocence, kindness, deep love for her father, and work ethic. I like Arthur Clennam for his sincerity, his loyalty and desire to help others, and his determination not to be like his mother. The Meagles make me laugh because they are so ridiculous. Affery makes me laugh and cringe. And I feel nervous every time we meet the mysterious English prisoner who can talk his way out of anything.

Themes I am enjoying/pondering:

  • What creates a home? Amy clearly loves her father and their little home in the prison while Arthur’s parents’ house is not much of a home at all.
  • How is a reputation created, maintained, and/or changed? Mr Dorrit is revered in the Marshalsea (even considered “the father of the Marshalsea”).
  • What is reality? How do we define what true reality is?

Things that are tricky and/or confusing:

  • Sometimes the geography of London is a bit complex. But overall, I have a good handle on where things are.
  • Not yet sure how the prisoners play a major role in the main plot. But I’m sure they will come into play later.

For me, this is an easier long classic so far. Enjoying the Dickensian characterization and the complexities of the plot so far. Looking forward to reading more! And probably watching that adaptation again when I’m done 🙂

5 thoughts on “[Little Dorrit] Part 1: A Review

  1. Pingback: [Little Dorrit]: A Small Review – greenish bookshelf

  2. Pingback: [Little Dorrit, Parts 3 & 4]: A Review – greenish bookshelf

  3. Pingback: April Wrap-Up and May TBR – greenish bookshelf

  4. I loved this post. Thank you! It brought back many memories of when I read Little Dorrit in college. I had no idea how long the book was when I woke up on a Sunday morning to start reading…hours later, I was still going strong. I look forward to hearing more.
    By the way, I did not know about the adaptation of this novel. I hope to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

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