Monday, May 01, 2017

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 1838/1839. 608 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
 Premise/plot: Oliver Twist, the 'hero' of Charles Dickens novels, endures much drama before finally getting a happily ever after ending. 

Who is Oliver Twist? He's an orphan born in a workhouse. He's an orphan who dares ask for MORE gruel. He's a boy sold to an undertaker. He's a boy who's bullied to the point of running away. He's a boy who dreams that London holds the answers. He's a boy who falls into bad company. Coincidences surround Oliver. (He happens to be taken in to Mr. Brownlow's household. He happens to be taken into Mrs. Maylie's household. Both Brownlow and the Maylies knew his parent(s). Both care about what happens to him in the future. Both are on his side--Oliver is never truly alone against this mad, bad world.) He's a boy worth risking your life for--if you're Nancy. He's a boy that things happen to. Ever notice how all the drama just happens to him, because of him, around him, and Oliver is just there. (If Oliver is the hero, he's the most boring hero ever.)

The characters that are of interest in this one are: Nancy, Fagin, and Artful Dodger. If the novel is worth reading, it is because Dickens has peopled it with the likes of these, the least of these, the thieves and prostitutes. 

My thoughts: Here's my advice for what it's worth: Read the book before you see the movie or the musical. Every time you're tempted to watch an adaptation, make a point of rereading the book. That may slow down your eagerness some. Why this admittedly weird advice. I read this book years ago--years--and I've since seen about two or three adaptations. (Including the live musical a few weeks ago.) I had forgotten that most adaptations--if not all adaptations--really, really mess around with the plot. Some adaptations are better than others. (One adaptation in particular I wish I could get my time back!) But having all those adaptations in my head really ruined reading Dickens for me. 

For example, in the movie, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist and brings him back to the thieves. He's held hostage until the end finale--the big showdown. A lot of intense stuff happens and Nancy is all about rescuing Oliver from his fate. In the book, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist; Oliver is forced to help in a robbery; he's shot; he's abandoned; he's taken in by a kind and loving family; his happily ever after essentially begins right then and there; the book has hundreds of pages left where Oliver is safe and the drama is moving on without him. Plenty of drama. New characters are introduced--like Monks--old characters are also reintroduced--like Noah and Charlotte, Mr and Mrs. Bumble. But Oliver Twist has disappeared from the plot--almost proving that though this novel has his name, he's the least interesting character in it.

I think if you read the book with the expectation that he will be DOING anything except asking for more and accepting whatever comes his way, you'll be disappointed.

I think the most interesting character in this one is Fagin. Especially in the musical adaptation. He can MAKE the show. His songs are the most interesting, most entertaining, best for energizing the audience.

I think the next most interesting character is Nancy. Her scenes were very emotional. But I don't understand why she would keep going back knowing that her very life was in danger. I don't understand love like that. I hope I never do.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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