I'm about 100 pages in to The Old Curiousity Shop by Charles Dickens, and I thought I'd do a post about my first impressions for this week's post for Amanda's Charles Dickens Month celebration. Since Dickens' books usually have quite an array of characters, it will also serve as a way for me to sit down and make sure I know who all the key players are before I get confused!
Nell - So far, sweet little Nell is living up to her reputation as a lovely little girl. When I studied Dickens in one of my college classes I learned that people in America went to the docks to meet the ships coming in with the installment of this book that came right after a cliffhanger - does Nell live or die? I'm glad we can just go to midnight book release parties now instead of waiting in the shipyards for an anticipated release from across the pond!
Mr. Quilp - There's an evil dwarf as a main character??? Why did I not know this? This is giving this book a very fairy tale feel. He's an ugly, mean, arrogant old dwarf who is holding something over Nell.
Mrs. Quilp - Why oh why is a pretty young woman married to Quilp? What did he do to her? And she seems to think he's amazing even though she's terrified of him. She seems like an emotionally abused woman who for some reason won't stand up to him.
Nell's grandfather - I haven't quite figured him out. He definitely cares about Nell, who lives with him. But he's okay with her working too much and being in situations she probably shouldn't be in, plus apparently he owes money to Quilp. However, he does see through Nell's brother, which is good.
Fred - Nell's no good brother. It appears Nell will come in to some money at some point, and Fred wants it. He even comes up with a plan to have one of his no good friends marry her when she's old enough so they can split the money once it comes to her.
Dick Swiveller - Fred's friend and a swindler. He makes a habit of "buying" things he has no intention of paying for and has a list of streets he must avoid because of the shops where he owes money. He's the one Fred is trying to convinve to marry Nell.
Those are the main people so far. Something that I thought was interesting about the beginning of this book is that we start with a narrator who finds Nell on the street and helps guide her back home. There, he meets the key players and introduces us to them. Once that's done, he acknowledges the reader and says now that he's introduced us to the characters, he'll step back. I'm always interested in narration - the point of view an author chooses, if the narrator is involved in the story, if they're reliable, if it's a frame tell or flashback of some sort, etc. I can't really remember reading a set up quite like that before. I wonder if he'll come back at some point later or at the end. I'll soon find out!