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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