Guess what, everyone!?
THIS IS MY LAST REVIEW FOR MY 1ST CLASSICS CLUB LIST!!!
This is a true cause for celebration! I feel so accomplished having completed my first list for the Classics Club. When I made my list, so much was different in my life. Our family has grown and we’ve moved across the country and back again in the 5 years I’ve been working on these classics. This club has been the perfect connection for me–something I do outside my roles as wife and mother. Something that connects me to my literary side that I embraced as a college student. It’s great to feel that again through this club. And yes, I have already started working on my next Classics Club list 😉
Thank you, Classics Club for inspiring me to complete some fantastic classic works and allowing me to rush shoulders with fellow classic enthusiasts!
Today I am reviewing Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This was a great way to end my classics club adventure!
- This is a book I know the title of but not much more. My experience with the story is limited to the Disney animated musical adaptation–Oliver and Company–and the iconic scene at the start of the novel “Please, sir, I want some more” Otherwise, I didn’t know what to expect.
- This was a quicker read than I anticipated. I read it on my Kindle app, and it was easy to read several chapters in one sitting.
According to Goodreads, “A gripping portrayal of London’s dark criminal underbelly, . . . . The story of Oliver Twist – orphaned, and set upon by evil and adversity from his first breath – shocked readers when it was published. After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.”
This book is a lot darker than I anticipated. Fagin and his gang of juvenile pick pockets live a dangerous, sneaky life. They literally steal to survive. Seeing their activity from Oliver’s innocent perspective was intriguing because he doesn’t understand what they really do (and how dishonest it is) for a while. I liked how innocently he watches them practice pick pocketing in Fagin’s den and how he doesn’t understand where the handkerchiefs and other items come from. Another dark plot of this story is everything connected with the burglar Bill Sikes. He is a scary, evil man. From his role in the attempted robbery that gets Oliver shot to his treatment of Nancy and eventual demise, he is a character that you automatically dislike and fear. Because so much of the story revolves around these characters and their lives, the whole story felt dark and mysterious.
This novel is classic Dickens. I have read several Dickens novels for my Classics Club list (Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities) and love A Christmas Carol. I’m getting pretty good at identifying his most common tropes. This novel definitely fits into the Dickens canon. Here are a few reasons why:
- Many characters that all seem disconnected (or only connected through their relationships with Oliver over time) but in the end, they all come together.
- There is a mystery of Oliver’s parentage that is unsolved until the end of the story and then we see that it was central to the entire plot.
- Focus on a dark side of London life including poverty, crime, and even murder.
Perhaps most telling that this is a Dickens novel are the many iconic Dickensian characters that we meet throughout the story. They just fit into his world so well.
- Oliver Twist, the kindhearted orphan who you route for from the first page, hoping he will find someone who will truly take care of him.
- The Artful Dodger–master pick pocket and the link that brings Oliver to Fagin.
- Fagin–the old jew who is the mastermind behind the pick pocket gang and who seems unstoppable for a time
- Nancy–a poor, abused girl member of the gang who has a change of heart
- Rose Maylie and Mr Brownlow–the two people who save Oliver from a terrible fate and who unravel the mysteries of several pasts
- Mr Sikes–a twisted robber whose evil intentions know no bounds
- Mr Bumble–in charge of the workhouse where Oliver lives and the server who is on the receiving end of the iconic “please sir” line
- And Monks–who is connected to more characters that we expect.
The characters are all developed and interact with each other in surprising ways. More connections exist between them than we expect. And even now, I find it difficult to explain exactly how they are all connected. That’s a classic Dickens novel.
Overall, this was an engaging, quick read for me. The writing is more plot driven than description driven which kept me more engaged than other Dickens novels. Sometimes, Dickens gets lengthy in his descriptions of scenery and the deluge of London’s underbelly. But this novel stayed focused on plot throughout. In fact, I think this is a great Dickens novel to read if you are a Dickens novice because of that plot based writing and the shorter length. That being said, the dark tone and plot were also difficult to read at times. I felt sad that so many young children lived in poverty and stole to survive. Oliver is an orphan as a newborn and it was sad to think how alone in the world he was already. Dickens has a way of bringing difficult circumstances like that to light. And while I didn’t always enjoy the subject, I appreciate the importance of understanding the complexities of London society.
Glad to have read this and so thrilled to have finished my 50 classics club texts!
What is your favorite Dickens novel?
What should I add to my next Classics Club list?