As a genuine Dickens fan, if not a prolific reader of his, I was surprised at what hard work this was to read. It then occurred to me that Dickens’ prose which puts the ver in verbose and the AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH in grammar, is almost impossible to wade through IF and this is the important bit, you KNOW the plot already!
I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Little Dorrit and The Old Curiosity shop when I had no idea what was going to happen next.
Dickens can certainly spin a yarn even when his prose is a psychedelic spiderweb! When his plots get going, the half a page sentences, the blizzards of colons and semicolons and commas, the twenty words where one would do, fall away and you find yourself bumping along merrily like a stranger clinging to a run away horse on a stormy night, exhilarated and eager to see what the hell will happen next.
If you know the story, and unless you were raised in a cave or were perhaps born in the 90s, everyone does, the prose becomes chest high ice cold mud you have to force yourself to struggle through with gritted teeth as the wardens dogs can be heard furiously barking getting ever nearer…or something like that. Apparently Dickensian prose is contagious!
I enjoyed the parts of this book where I did not know what would happen next, the characters and situations left out of all the adaptations and the musicals. There is a whole older Sister, another family, wives and lovers and thieves, a country adventure that were new and hence really enjoyable. I don’t know why it was left out perhaps it is hard to build a song and cheery dance number around consumption?
Anyway unless you are the kind of person who delights in calling a spade a ‘most excellent contrivance wielded frequently, but not exclusively by the common man, of flattened metal and rod of wood, to turn the earth and turn a penny….etc etc’ then approach with caution UNLESS you don’t know what is to come.