Sunday, January 25, 2015

OLIVER TWIST - Charles Dickens

The tale of the orphan boy Oliver Twist born and raised as a pauper.

This was Dickens first novel rather than a collection like Pickwick. The beginning sets the scene and establishing the conditions paupers had to endure living in work houses.  The children were treated as a hindrance and in Olivers' case sold off to lessen the burden on the parish.

The middle passages dragged a bit for me especially when dealing with Mr. Bumbles matrimonial pursuits.  This part felt like padding and may well have been as this was originally published in installments and I assume  Dickens got paid by the part.

The final third of the story rocks along nicely until its conclusion.

This novel gave us two of literature most horrid villains, Fagin and Bill Sykes, two men without a redeeming feature, extreme in their evil.

The story does tend toward the mawkish occasionally but this was done by Dickens deliberately for his readers.  This was written as a contemporary novel and I would hope that the some readers did take note of the conditions that people were living in everyday.

My only previous exposure to this story was Lionel Bart's musical adaptation so I kept seeing Jack Wild and Oliver Reed as I was reading but the movie bears no resemblance to the starkness of this story and how humans were forced to live.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


This book is delightful, 58 chapters of adventure featuring Mr Samuel Pickwick, retired man of business, and friends, as they drink, explore, laugh and cry over a period of two years in mid 1830's England.

This book was the first Dickens and originally published in monthly installments.  The chapters are loosely tied together through the characters of the book but most stand alone.  We have stories of Goblin's, shyster lawyers, drinking  in vast quantities, short stories within chapters, a stay in a Debtors Prison and vast amounts of humanity.

The episodes where Pickwick prefers a Debtors Prison to paying a disgraceful Court decision are sobering.  It's staggering that people were just left to die in prison because of civil debt.

Generally, however humour is the driver and this book is very funny.  I imagine P G Wodehouse must have had a great working knowledge of this book because his Bertie & Jeeves tales are Pickwick taken to the nth degree.

I can say honestly that not once in 700 pages did my interest flag; reading from beginning to end was a wonderful experience.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A TALE OF TWO CITIES - Charles Dickens

This is the first Dickens I have ever read and I absolutely loved it.

This is a love story set against the upheaval prior to and during the beginning of the French Revolution set in London and Paris.  I understand now why Sydney Carton is one of the great characters of English literature.

Seeing as the majority of the world has read this book there's not much to say other than it has made the only resolution I made for 2015, which was to read Dickens, so much easier, it would have been a tough ask if I didn't like the first book I attempted.

In a book full of well known quotes, the following is one that made me laugh in a book not known for its humour.

"The learned profession of the law was certainly not behind any other learned profession in it's Bacchanalian propensities."

Friday, January 2, 2015


If you have ever even once in your life thought you were a bit clever, read this and any thoughts you had of being well read are dashed completely.

This book contain 110 short essays on many of the 20th centuries "greatest thinkers,humanists,musicians ,artists, philosophers and several very evil men. From Louis Armstrong, Terry Gilliam, Goebbels,Hitler, Alfred Einstein (a cousin not a typo),Mailer, Freud,Proust through to many I have never heard of (to be honest this is most of the contents) but all are interesting and the essays well compiled.

With many of these essays James starts writing about his subject and then segues off into areas you wouldn't think are remotely connected but you find they are and it just opens your eyes further.

For its subject matter its an easy read, most of the essays run between three and ten pages, which makes it ideal for dipping into.

This is one of the most enlightening books I've ever read and will continue to read.  As a fan of long baths this book is now residing permanently close at hand and will cause much wrinkling of the skin while its re-read.