The Old Curiosity Shop

I began The Old Curiosity Shop long ago and dropped it, due to it’s rather draggy pace, but recently picked it back up again to read with a group.  If you are a fan of Dickens and haven’t read this one, you might like it as it has some memorable characters and funny lines.

If the book were written nowadays Dickens might have been admonished to tighten it up, remove some of the redundant parts, make it a tad less sappy, and add some dimension to a few of the characters.  However, I feel like it’s hard to fault a man who was writing this novel in serialized form, having to produce two chapters a week for a year, at the same time as he was writing other books in the same manner, editing a literary magazine, and undertaking various other endeavors in an attempt to pay the bills.  Really, for all that, The Old Curiosity Shop is remarkably written!

The story follows the trials of a too perfect little girl/young woman, her horrid grandfather, various and sundry servants, friends, relations, and hangers-on, and an unbelievably dastardly villain who seems more like a goblin than a person.  Although it’s not very tightly paced as a complete novel, as you read you can easily understand why people kept buying it in installments week by week!

In true Dickens fashion, the book also contains moralisms and admonishments about the state of poor people, supposed criminals, and the high-handed ways of those who view themselves as better than the rest.  I don’t think you could get away with that sort of heavy-handedness now, but I do think one very important role of literature is social criticism, and so I find it interesting to consider it when I find it.

Overall, given that The Old Curiosity Shop is a classic and is available free on Kindle, I’d recommend it.  If you haven’t got a lot of time on your hands, it might be interesting to get the free Kindle version and read the book in two chapter chunks on your phone as you stand in line, so you get the effect original readers got from the serialization.

If you’re a fan of Dickens, what is your favorite of his works?


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5 thoughts on “The Old Curiosity Shop

  1. I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said “One would have to have a heart of stone not to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” Having said that, I am a hardcore Dickens fan, so naturally I loved the book. I have yet to meet a Dickens novel I didn’t like (though Dombey and Son took some ploughing through and Barnaby Rudge is probably my least favourite in that I have only read it once and have little desire to read it again…maybe I’ll have a bash at it again one day).

    1. Forget to mention that David Copperfield is not only my favourite Dickens novel, but also my favourite book. I’ve read it many, many times. It is like an old friend!

  2. Tale of Two Cities. I did a big project on Dickens as a junior in high school, and it stood out by far as my favorite. But there are still several I have not read yet, including this one!

  3. I was a huge Dickens fan in h.s. and college. When I picked up TofTC recently, I had trouble with the verbosity and slogging nature of his writing. But, my favorite Dickens has always been Great Expectations. Love the mystery of it, the characters (even bitter old Miss Haversham), the beautiful descriptions of England and the final reveal. I agree about the serial writing and huge work load he carried – highly impressive!

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