Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oliver Twist

Woohoo! I finally read Oliver Twist! I think it's odd that I've read so much of Dickens, but never this one. I started it at the beginning of last summer and absolutely could not get in to it, so I quit reading it. I was disappointed, because up until then I'd loved every Dickens' novel I'd read. But it was just so preachy and depressing. I think it was just the wrong time of year or I was in the wrong frame of mind. Stefanie at So Many Books recently posted about if there's a right place to read and the discussion veered toward if there's a right mindset or timeframe to read too. I think Oliver Twist is a winter book, and I simply picked it up at the wrong time.

This time around, I loved it! Yes, it was still a bit preachy, this is Dickens after all, but it didn't bother me. And the characters! Characters are why I love Dickens so much. The first time around, Oliver was just too perfect and honestly a little annoying, but this time I liked him more. The villains are all beautifully written, as is Nancy. I'm glad to finally know who Sikes and Fagin and the Artful Dodger are. You hear their names so often, so it's nice to finally "meet" them.

I felt like this story was more tightly written than other Dickens' works, except for maybe Great Expectations. There seemed to be more of a direction from the beginning, without the sideways rambles that tend to happen in the longer works. That made for a much faster read. Also, Dickens used the phrase "stupid-head" at one point, which was hilarious and awesome.
Spoiler Alert!
Seriously, I wanted to strangle Nancy. I loved the way Dickens wrote her, and it was probably more realistic to give her the ending she got, but I hated that she didn't leave when she had the chance! I have never been able to understand women who stay in abusive relationships. I don't think I ever will. I don't blame the victim, but at the same time, she walked in to her own death. She knew it was dangerous to go back and talked about her death so much she had to suspect it was coming, so she is partially responsible for what happens to her. The other thing that really bugged me was the death of the dog. So unnecessary! Dickens spares him from Sikes, then has him jump to his own death!!! Why??? We got the same point from Nancy's death, we didn't need the poor dog to die so horribly!

End Spoilers!

While Bleak House remains my favorite Dickens' novel so far, I definitely recommend Oliver Twist! This is my second post in celebration of Charles Dickens Month hosted by Amanda at Fig and Thistle. You can read my first post on the Charles Dickens Museum.


  1. I've been an OT fan since I first read it as a pretty young teenager--it was my first Dickens, and remains a favorite. I agree about Nancy--actually, reading about her as a young girl myself opened my eyes to abusive relationships, so reading OT was good for my self-esteem as I was growing up :)

    I've always thought Dickens was a bit in love with Nancy himself--when he did his readings, I believe he always included the murder scene, and I think usually ended with it. I've read that repeatedly reading this scene took a toll on his health and may have hastened his death.

    Glad you finally found the time and place to enjoy OT--I agree, to every book there is a season.

  2. I'm so glad I liked it this time around! And now, a few days after finishing it, I feel a bit in love with Nancy myself. I feel much more fondly for her now than I did right when I was reading it. You just want to shake her when you're reading!

  3. I found this book preachy and depressing too -- until about 2/3 in, and then suddenly I loved it! I can't wait to read more of Dickens. So far I've only read this and his Christmas book. :-D

  4. Jillian - I think it helped that I had read about the first half on my first attempt, so I was able to skim a bit the second time, which let me speed through the preachy and depressing parts to the good stuff. :)

  5. Really? Bleak House is your favorite? Maybe it's just me then. I'm a bit over a third through and it's not doing anything for me at all yet. I keep telling myself, "Well, at least you'll know that you finally read it." (I'm hoping it simply gets better as I go) :)

  6. Julie - Bleak House is a bit sprawling and it takes a while for the stories to all connect, but once they did, I loved it! Just keep swimming! :)

  7. I'm reading Oliver Twist now and Bleak House is on the list for this year.

  8. Oliver Twist is one of Dickens' novels that I've read as opposed to watching a movie interpretation. The abuse of Nancy is disturbing and the murder gruesome. Like JaneGS I heard that Dickens always included that scene in his public readings which caused many to faint.
    I had hoped to read Little Dorrit this month, but now realise that this is an unrealistic goal.

  9. TBM - I hope you're enjoying Oliver Twist and will enjoy Bleak House.
    Linda - It took me forever to finish Little Dorrit. I'm usually a fast reader, but that one was a struggle. I'm glad I read it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I have his other works. I did read the second part much faster than the first part though, so hopefully it will pick up for you!