[Oliver Twist]: A Review

Guess what, everyone!?

THIS IS MY LAST REVIEW FOR MY 1ST CLASSICS CLUB LIST!!!

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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!

Initial Thoughts:

  • 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.

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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!

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What is your favorite Dickens novel?
What should I add to my next Classics Club list?

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This is my 50th classic finished on my list for The Classics Club!
Check out my full listย here. For more info on the club, clickย here.

17 thoughts on “[Oliver Twist]: A Review

  1. Marilyn

    My favorite Dickens book is “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”. My eight grade teacher had us read a chapter every Friday from “David Copperfield”. He even had us draw the characters. This was many years ago and I still have an understanding of the book. I would like to see a review of “Wives And Daughters” by Elizabeth Gaskill.
    Marilyn

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, Brava on your first classic book club book! Second… I am ashamed to say I’ve only read Dickens’ collection of non-fiction essays “Night Walks” which were very good, except for the very political one that I didn’t understand. Glad you found this book interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! It feels like a big accomplishment– 50 classics is substantial ๐Ÿ™‚

      There are so many Dickens works to experience. I didn’t know he had written any nonfiction. Intriguing! This is a good novel to start with. I also recommend A Christmas Carol especially because the story is often familiar to people. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jillian

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I can’t wait to see your next list! xoxo

    (I smiled when you wrote that the club helped you do something beyond wife & mother — each worthy roles in their own right, but I know what you mean & love that the club gave you that.) x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Jillian! I appreciate your comment here and throughout my classics posts. Yes, I completely agree–wife and mother are both important and fulfilling roles. But I have been also glad to have something for myself. Will definitely be continuing with a new list in future ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A Christmas Carol is my favorite Dickens story. Right now, started my latest Dickens novel: Bleak House

    I loved Oliver Twist- was grabbed only the first three pages. Technically I was exposed to Oliver earlier: 2007 was when I saw the musical version (but don’t remember), and there is a chance I watched Oliver and Company (not knowing it was based off that novel). So after reading the book- watched two versions of Oliver- the 2005 movie and the musical movie. Now—-need to watch the stage show again- after all, I don’t remember the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The musical does change some things, but still keeps the incredible nature of the book. I just don’t remember seeing the musical in person the first time- eventually read the book due to Les Mis being inspired by Oliver. That all led to watching the 2005 movie and the movie musical.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay! Congratulations! And I think Charles Dickens is a great way to celebrate because, well, Charles Dickens! One of the things I love about his work is indeed how all the characters end up being tied together! I think it’s quite masterful how he connects them all (and remembers it, haha!). That being said, Oliver Twist wasn’t my favorite of his works that I’ve read. I didn’t really connect with it in the same way I have connected with works like Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities, so thus far, I’ve only read it once. Oh well. There’s still so much more of Dickens for me to enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Krysta! I totally agree with Dickens as a master character connector. I really loved Little Dorrit when I read it a few years ago (also for The CC) because of the characters and their connections. I aspire to read Bleak House one day and loved A Tale of Two Cities when I read it earlier this year! And I agree–so much Dickens to experience. I am still at the beginning of his canon ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

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