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The Old Curiosity Shop: By Charles Dickens & Illustrated (An Audiobook Free!)

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How is this book unique? Free Audiobook Illustrations included Unabridged The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. The Old Curiosity Shop was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in How is this book unique? Free Audiobook Illustrations included Unabridged The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. The Old Curiosity Shop was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in his weekly serial Master Humphrey's Clock, which lasted from 1840 to 1841. It was so popular that New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final instalment arrived in 1841. The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841. Queen Victoria read the novel in 1841, finding it "very interesting and cleverly written."


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How is this book unique? Free Audiobook Illustrations included Unabridged The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. The Old Curiosity Shop was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in How is this book unique? Free Audiobook Illustrations included Unabridged The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. The Old Curiosity Shop was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in his weekly serial Master Humphrey's Clock, which lasted from 1840 to 1841. It was so popular that New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final instalment arrived in 1841. The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841. Queen Victoria read the novel in 1841, finding it "very interesting and cleverly written."

30 review for The Old Curiosity Shop: By Charles Dickens & Illustrated (An Audiobook Free!)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    The Old Curiosity Shop was the most popular of Dickens's novels during his lifetime. Yet now there is perhaps no other novel by him which splits opinion so much. How can that be? The simple answer is that tastes change. Just as with modern-day fantasy stories the reader has to suspend their disbelief, accepting the basic premise of the magical or dystopian world described, with Dickens one has to "go along with" his unique view of the world. Yes, he was writing about everyday characters and the h The Old Curiosity Shop was the most popular of Dickens's novels during his lifetime. Yet now there is perhaps no other novel by him which splits opinion so much. How can that be? The simple answer is that tastes change. Just as with modern-day fantasy stories the reader has to suspend their disbelief, accepting the basic premise of the magical or dystopian world described, with Dickens one has to "go along with" his unique view of the world. Yes, he was writing about everyday characters and the highs and lows of their lives. His novels are very much rooted in reality, or they would not have had such an influence on legislation and the public perceptions of the day. But in a way they are also peopled with characters of fantasy. He will refer to "the fairy" or "the goblin" and this is how he views those characters. Their physical descriptions, mannerisms and behaviour all fit the type. Once you buy into the whole package, you realise that this is not a hopelessly sentimental or unrealistic view, but a fabulous tale of good versus evil with a great dollop of chance, and marvellous fairies and grotesques around every corner. And the characters? Oh, the characters! There are literally dozens of cameo pieces. They jump out of the book at every opportunity, these highly coloured images demanding attention, having but a brief, short life of perhaps a few paragraphs at most, before their vitality sizzles and dies, never again to be encountered by the reader. Who remembers Mr Slum, who was trying to persuade Mrs. Jarley to employ his services as a poet in helping to advertise the waxworks? Vividly described, he is actually based on a person Dickens remembered from his horrific days at Warren's Blacking Factory. But he vanishes from the pages without trace. There is the unbearably snooty Miss Maltravers, the hypocritical monster of a teacher, with a crocodile of young ladies trailing in her wake. Unforgiveably, she makes Little Nell cry - and is then never seen again. There is Tom Scott, the only character in the entire novel, apart from Quilp's downtrodden wife, who genuinely seems to like Quilp. Tom has a penchant for standing on his head and walking on his hands; he later becomes a professional tumbler. But often these characters appear for an instant, sparkle brightly, then disappear never to be be seen again. On every page too, there is the fingerprint of the author, for Dickens has a unique way of telling a story. Even when describing a harrowing or tragic episode, he will still manage to somehow make the reader smile. In the main he does this through his characters, and he will also anthropomorphise his animals. Dickens will even personify objects or buildings; it is all grist to his mill of engaging his readers, and if at all possible, amusing us at the same time. His style combines exaggeration, hyperbole, sarcasm, irony, good humour, a sense of the absurd, a strong sense of injustice - all these combined in a formula which is essentially the recipe for the human condition, and reaches a pinnacle in the writing of "The Inimitable" Charles Dickens. Of course, all this can only be experienced through reading the text. The best dramatisation in the world cannot convey any of these linguistic devices. Yet Dickens's stories are perennially popular, adapted for films, TV, radio and stage, and have been retold in numerous ways ever since they were written. Quite an achievement for an author whom some class as "dull"! So what is the story about, and who are the main characters? Well the story started life as a series of sketches for Dickens's weekly magazine, "Master Humphrey's Clock". Dickens's original idea was that the magazine should be similar to "The Pickwick Papers", with an old man surrounded by a group of friends, who would all relate stories to each other. They would all read out their own manuscripts, the proceedings being presided over by Master Humphrey. The magazine contained a few of these short stories, plus the first episodes of both The Old Curiosity Shop and later "Barnaby Rudge". He had started to include a serial expressly because sales of the magazine had begun to drop. The public were disappointed by "Master Humphrey's Clock", but were quickly intrigued by the story of The Old Curiosity Shop. It captured the public's imagination, and after Dickens had written the first three chapters, being the astute businessman that he was, with an eye for what whetted the public's appetite, he decided to turn it into a full novel. Here is the author, in a preface to a later edition of the novel, "Master Humphrey (before his devotion to the bread and butter business) was originally supposed to be the narrator of the story. As it was constructed from the beginning, however, with a view to separate publication when completed, his demise has not involved the necessity of any alteration." He thus neatly got out of any rewriting, although a modern reader is left with an abandoned first person narrator at the end of chapter 3. From the reader's point of view, the voice of the narrator has felt particularly personal up to that point. It is easy to recognise him, even from the very first words of the book, "Night is generally my time for walking." Now anyone who knows anything about Charles Dickens's life, will recognise the author from this. He used to walk for miles, and for hours on end, all over London - and often at night. Then in the novel the narrator tells us, at the end of the third chapter, that he is going to disappear, and from then on, presumably, we will have an omniscient narrator. Oddly, this works. Dickens has already created an atmosphere of mystery, tension and intrigue. We have two abominable grotesques, an old musty house full of "curiosities", and a tiny "fairylike" child. We have been hooked right from the start by the questions the author/narrator also feels. Where does the old man go every night and why? And is he really rich? The upshot of these disjointed events is that the reader, who is already feeling an unworldly sense with this novel, is put on edge even more, and feels a little disturbed and dislocated. At this point it could easily turn into one of Dickens's ghost stories. Once Dickens had freed himself from the constraints of "Master Humphrey's Clock", he was able to give free rein to the story of The Old Curiosity Shop. He was free to expand on his original idea, increasing the suspense, and interweaving unforgettable characters into the action. There are the main characters, such as the malicious and shudderingly evil, hateful, misshapen, dwarf moneylender Daniel Quilp. Descriptions of him are abundant, always emphasising his sub-human qualities, threatening to "bite" people - and even the poor dog - all the time. When asleep he was, "hanging so far out of his bed that he almost seemed to be standing on his head, and whom, either from the uneasiness of this posture or in one of his agreeable habits, was gasping and growling with his mouth wide open, and the whites (or rather the dirty yellows) of his eyes distinctly visible." Quilp revels in plotting the downfall of those around him, and maliciously making a misery of the lives of his nearest and dearest, his shadow of a wife Betsy and her mother Mrs Jiniwin. We meet Sampson and Sally Brass, lawyers, the obsequious brother and dragon of a sister, a sparring duo who provide much comic relief whilst being integral to the plot. Here is a portrait of the charming Sally, of whom, by the way, Quilp is much enamoured, ".... the lady carried upon her upper lip certain reddish demonstrations, which, if the imagination had been assisted by her attire, might have been mistaken for a beard. These were, however, in all probability, nothing more than eyelashes in a wrong place, as the eyes of Miss Brass were quite free from any such natural impertinencies. In complexion Miss Brass was sallow - rather a dirty sallow, so to speak - but this hue was agreeably relieved by the healthy glow which mantled in the extreme tip of her laughing nose." There are the young heroes, Dick Swiveller - often rather the worse for drink, disinclined to work, full of blather; a careless rogue, but essentially honest and true, "Mr Richard Swiveller wending his way homeward after this fashion, which is considered by evil-minded men to be symbolical of intoxication, and is not held by such persons to denote that state of deep wisdom and reflection in which the actor knows himself to be," and Kit Nubbins, a salt of the earth, devoted both to Nell and his mother, but not really very bright and easily taken advantage of. There are the Garlands, a kind and generous couple, who put the reader in mind of the benevolence of the Cheeryble brothers in "Nicholas Nickleby". Eccentric characters abound, and many have the most wonderful names: Sophie Wackles, a flighty young girl, Codlin and Short, proprietor and puppeteer of a Punch and Judy show, Isaac List and Joe Jowl, crafty gamblers, Mr Chuckster, an annoying windbag, who is the Clerk to Mr Witherden, not to mention the renamed servant, "Sophronia Sphynx". Yet in this novel Dickens seeks to increase the mystery even further by deliberately keeping the names of some characters from us, sometimes right up to the end. There is "the Small Servant", "the Marchioness", "the Single Gentleman", "the Bachelor". And even Nell Trent's grandfather, a pivotal character in the book, is not given a first name. "The fairy" is of course Little Nell, usually referred to as "the child". "The goblin" is the grotesque dwarf Quilp, quite possibly the most evil villain ever to spring from Dickens's pen. The parts containing these characters are the myth, the fairytale, the eternal struggle of good versus evil, the parts where we want to cheer on our heroes, our angels and fairies, and boo the goblins and baddies. It is also an unworldly doom-laden thread of the story. Simon Callow calls it, "an extraordinary and complex novel, which summons up an almost Wagnerian world with its dwarf and its gold, a cautionary tale about capitalism... It is astounding that Dickens should have whipped up this whole elaborate fable out of thin air, more or less overnight, quickly extrapolating it out of a little story he thought he might write about a sickly child and her grandfather, in order to keep faith with his public; he never pleased them more with anything." Indeed, when published as a novel this gave fresh impetus to the serialisation. The mystery continued right through the story, now given added depth and complexity by virtue of its novel status. It took the public by storm, selling an astonishing hundred thousand copies a week, and for the last episode Dickens was inundated with letters from both sides of the Atlantic, begging him to spare Little Nell's life. When the last instalment arrived by ship, crowds in New York were shouting from the pier, "Is Little Nell dead?" Dickens himself had had great difficulty in deciding this point, with so much of his public pleading for a reprieve. Even William Charles Macready, the great actor to whom Dickens had dedicated his previous novel, "Nicholas Nickleby" begged Dickens to let Little Nell live. Dickens's friend, mentor and biographer, John Forster, advised the opposite, telling him that Little Nell should die, "so that the gentle little pure figure and form should never change to the fancy". Dickens finished writing The Old Curiosity Shop at 4am on January 17th, 1841. The story had been serialised for ten months, and Dickens had been in torment over the planned ending, unable to bring himself to write it, living the experience so vividly that he could not make his characters face the death of their heroine, "I tremble to approach the place a great deal more than Kit; a great deal more than Mr. Garland; a great deal more than the Single Gentleman.... I am slowly murdering that poor child. It wrings my heart. (view spoiler)[Yet it must be. (hide spoiler)] " The whole depiction of Nell was a reworking of Mary Hogarth, Dickens's real life sister-in-law who had died three years earlier at the age of 17. Dickens never really got over this loss, although there are indications in The Old Curiosity Shop that he was beginning to come to terms with it. There are several scenes set in a neglected graveyard, with Little Nell musing on thoughts of death. For much of the book she had been in a virtual trance - always wondering if she was awake or asleep - and this seemed to increase until she seemed to achieve a kind of serenity, and an acceptance of her fate. In the graveyard Nell, "grieves to think that those who die about us are so soon forgotten" but was told that unvisited graves were the inspiration of good thoughts and actions by those who remembered the ones who had died but who themselves went on living. Of course, the more obvious interpretations of the graveyard scenes are as portents and metaphors, foreshadowing what may be to come. To a modern eye at least, there are many themes in the novel we may easily recognise. Alienation is a primary theme. Each character is in their own little world, often friendless, and with little power to influence their circumstances. Thus there is entrapment and loss of freedom. Creativity is there too, the creativity of Quilp to reinvent himself according to circumstances, and in the character of Dick Swiveller, to a lesser extent. It is tempting too to take a 21st century view of Quilp. What has happened to damage this character; to make him so intent on causing so much pain, devoting all his energies to planning destruction and ruin? Had he been abandoned or illtreated as a child? Was it other people's perceptions of his difference or deformity which lay at the root of his behaviour? But the truth is probably that he was just Dickens's "goblin". Materialism is a paramount theme, naturally. The whole novel hinges on money - the lack of it, and the deceptions involved in acquiring it. This novel is more similar to "Oliver Twist" than either of the other novels by Dickens which precede it. In both there is a naive and supremely good central character; in both it is a child who actually acts as if they are an adult. Nell may be "nearly 14" at the beginning of the novel, but is perceived by all as a child. And Dickens makes sure the reader never forgets this by constantly referring to her as "the child". Both children have special qualities of innocence, forgiveness, endurance, and martyrdom. Both novels chronicle the journey of these children, and the events which ensue from that. In The Old Curiosity Shop we also follow the journey of Dick, which parallels it. Nell's journey is a life and death one, Dick's is more psychological, but they mirror each other to a great extent. In both these novels we see two more of Dickens's recurring themes. One is the damage done to children by foolish and reckless parents and grandparents. The other is the paradox of financial security. In Dickens's world, if it has been gained at the expense of morality, it is meaningless and will result in a terrible fate. For Dickens both of these were private and personal wounds; episodes and paradoxes from his own life, which he constantly thrashed out in his own mind, and made his characters play out. Was it ever possible to live a morally good life and also keep safe and well? Dickens interpolated episodes from his own fancy - the circus troupe, the waxworks and so on. All of these enjoyably entertaining episodes are Dickens indulging his whimsy, his penchant for all things theatrical. But the grim industrial scenes of the furnaces, based on those in Birmingham at the time; the grinding poverty and scenes of individuals trapped in a living death, are depressingly real. In these we have a glimpse of the Dickens who is to write the truly great socially aware novels of his middle period. Perhaps the best description of the effective formula for writing a serialised novel such as The Old Curiosity Shop comes from Wilkie Collins. Now we remember him from his own classic novels. But in this context, he was Charles Dickens's friend, and a fellow writer who had his material published in Dickens's magazines. His advice to writers hoping to be included in Dickens's magazine? "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait." With The Old Curiosity Shop we have exactly that experience - in abundance. Plus in the final chapter we have, as always, a satisfying explanation of what has happened to all the main characters. Even the cantankerous and self-willed horse "Whiskers", whose antics more than once released the tension from a particularly harrowing part of the story, is given his own summing-up, his own "happy ending" in the final chapter. Oscar Wilde may have remarked, (view spoiler)[ "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Nell without laughing" (hide spoiler)] , but if the reader has been caught up in the throes of the story, with all its tragedies and all its absurdities, then even now the reader is more likely to feel akin to those crowds on the New York Pier. So, does it actually exist, this "Old Curiosity Shop"? Well, yes. In all probability it is a building on Portsmouth Street, Holborn, London. It was built in 1567, and Dickens often used to visit it. Later it was named "The Old Curiosity Shop" in honour of his novel, and is now quite famous.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    In the slums of London in the mid 1800's, on a dirty, lonely and obscure street, a crumbling house still stands, The Old Curiosity Shop. Inside lives an old man (never named), and his pretty, young granddaughter, Nell Trent in the back of the building. An older, lazy brother of Nell's, Frederick is always coming to the house, trying to get some more cash ( he already has wasted, too much) from the grandfather, he needs for his drinking. The almost worthless merchandise the store has, strange nic In the slums of London in the mid 1800's, on a dirty, lonely and obscure street, a crumbling house still stands, The Old Curiosity Shop. Inside lives an old man (never named), and his pretty, young granddaughter, Nell Trent in the back of the building. An older, lazy brother of Nell's, Frederick is always coming to the house, trying to get some more cash ( he already has wasted, too much) from the grandfather, he needs for his drinking. The almost worthless merchandise the store has, strange nick- nacks, that people will not buy. Old furniture, weird toys, ugly statues anything that the public would hate, they have. The very impoverished gentleman has a secret vice, that keeps the two very poor. The grandfather every night, leaves the 13 -year- old girl alone in the gloomy, creepy house, with only a little candle to shine her surroundings. He goes into the darkness and comes back in the early light, tired, discouraged, and silent about his doings. In the neighborhood lives a dwarf, Daniel Quilp, so evil that the wealthy man, loves nothing better than to cause everyone around him trouble. He laughs so hard at their misery, that Quilp, all call him just this name, rolls in the ground with uncontrollable mirth... He married a very attractive woman Betsy, at the urging of her mother and she lives, the wife, to regret it both do, all three in fact, the mother -in -law stays with the couple. The power of this small, intelligent man to terrorize his family, his big head , repulsive face, filthy mouth, crooked legs, violent ways he enjoys greatly . The always scheming dwarf, lends money to Nell's grandfather but the old man soon loses it, and barrows some more. Of course it is never paid back, and Quilp very quickly takes the grandfather's house ( quite legally), and sells all the merchandise inside, anything for a few pounds, usually much less. Little Nell and her grandfather must vacate too, fleeing, afraid of Quilp who thinks, they have money hidden from him. Anything is better than to live in the unclean streets, both dream of paradise the open country air, rivers flowing by, a beautiful blue sky, trees climbing high above them, flowers everywhere, yes the two to survive, from the tyranny of the dwarf and the city, must leave. Their long travels on dusty, hot roads, hungry, thirsty , tired and the rains come down, no friends, no money living in the open, sleeping in the cold ground but the relatives are devoted to each other ... Meeting Punch and Judy artists, a woman in a wagon with waxworks to display, ill mannered canal workers that give them a lift to a city in their boat, odd gypsies and friendly people, also, who assist the travelers. But they can never remain , the curious ask too many questions and Quilp is still after them. Walking on a road, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, heading to a grimy city, experiencing phenomenal growth, constant noises from the machines nearby, smoke coming out, polluting the area, darkness in the daytime, workers in their soiled clothes living in shacks, the children playing in the filth. Another world is developing, the puzzled Nell sees, it doesn't look like England anymore. But the fugitives must keep on going, until they find, Utopia ...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    AN EQUILIBRIUM OF DISGUST AND DELICIOUSNESS You have rarely read a novel in which the bad stuff is so so so bad and the good stuff so good and the crunching wrenching sounds of the gear changes between the good bits and the bad bits can be heard from three streets away. Little Nell and her grandfather will revolt modern readers – the former is treated with a religious sanctimoniousness which would make a vicar throw up into the collection plate, and the latter is a gambling addict and depressive AN EQUILIBRIUM OF DISGUST AND DELICIOUSNESS You have rarely read a novel in which the bad stuff is so so so bad and the good stuff so good and the crunching wrenching sounds of the gear changes between the good bits and the bad bits can be heard from three streets away. Little Nell and her grandfather will revolt modern readers – the former is treated with a religious sanctimoniousness which would make a vicar throw up into the collection plate, and the latter is a gambling addict and depressive old bastard, and the two of them bog this novel down; the reader groans aloud when they hove into view. There are some completely unreadable pages in this novel. QUILP Whereas Quilp is a genius of malevolence 'Now,’ said Quilp, passing into the wooden counting-house, ‘you mind the wharf. Stand upon your head agin, and I’ll cut one of your feet off.’ He should have had a Marvel comic of his own. ANOTHER PROBLEM Dickens makes his work and that of his readers a whole lot harder than it should be by refusing to give some characters proper names, so they are referred to clumsily throughout the whole 567 pages as “the grandfather”, “the schoolmaster”, “the young scholar”, “the bachelor”, “the old gentleman” – sometimes he has conversations between these nameless creatures. I have no idea why, he was a dab hand at inventing great names, like Dick Swiveller or Sally Brass in these very pages. DICKENS/BEATLES Yes, these days you get some people saying they think both are way overrated and should be consigned to the bin and are Not Geniuses. But that’s just trash talk. Maybe if you’ve only heard Yellow Submarine and Octopuses’ Garden and only read Martin Chuzzlewit and Hard Times you will think this way. But that would be to willfully refuse to notice the bigger picture – the vast, oceanic picture. I’m working on a precise album-by-book Dickens/Beatles equivalence table but tentatively I think The Old Curiosity Shop = Beatles for Sale, an album which contains a handful of very poor efforts – whoever wanted to hear I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party more than once? STILL FUNNY Yes, Dickens is still funny. Here’s my favourite bit. Two showmen are discussing freak show giants. ‘What becomes of old giants?’ ‘They’re usually kept in carawans to wait upon the dwarfs,’ said Mr Vuffin. ‘The maintaining of ‘em must come expensive, when they can’t be shown, eh?’ remarked Short, eyeing him doubtfully. ‘It’s better that, than letting ‘em go upon the parish or about the streets,’ said Mr Vuffin. ‘Once make a giant common and giants will never draw again. Look at wooden legs. If there was only one man with a wooden leg what a property he’d be!’ ‘So he would!’ observed the landlord and Short both together. ‘That’s very true.’ ‘Instead of which,’ pursued Mr Vuffin, ‘if you was to advertise Shakspeare played entirely by wooden legs, it’s my belief you wouldn’t draw a sixpence.’ ‘I don’t suppose you would,’ said Short. And the landlord said so too. ‘This shows, you see,’ said Mr Vuffin, waving his pipe with an argumentative air, ‘this shows the policy of keeping the used-up giants still in the carawans, where they get food and lodging for nothing, all their lives, and in general very glad they are to stop there. There was one giant—a black ‘un—as left his carawan some year ago and took to carrying coach-bills about London, making himself as cheap as crossing-sweepers. He died. I make no insinuation against anybody in particular,’ said Mr Vuffin, looking solemnly round, ‘but he was ruining the trade;—and he died.’ FROM THE RIDICULOUS TO THE SUBLIME the same guy who wrote that come up with this mawkish shite : When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world, and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer’s steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven. Of course that’s from the intolerable section concerning the Death of Little Nell – no spoiler there, it’s the most famous death in all Victorian literature. (In passing I just noticed the resemblance of these sentiments to "I Believe", a big hit for Frankie Laine in the 50s : I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows etc etc ) GRAMMAR The modern reader of Victorian novels has to get acclimatized quickly to some seriously encumbered grammatical construction. I think this must put a lot of people off. The density of the prose makes it difficult to speed read. For instance Without inquiring whether Salamanders were of necessity good confidential agents, or whether a fire-proof man was as a matter of course trustworthy, Frederick Trent threw himself into a chair, and, burying his head in his hands, endeavoured to fathom the motives which had led Quilp to insinuate himself into Richard Swiveller’s confidence;—for that the disclosure was of his seeking, and had not been spontaneously revealed by Dick, was sufficiently plain from Quilp’s seeking his company and enticing him away. Or But knowing the scheme they had planned, why should he offer to assist it? This was a question more difficult of solution; but as knaves generally overreach themselves by imputing their own designs to others, the idea immediately presented itself that some circumstances of irritation between Quilp and the old man, arising out of their secret transactions and not unconnected perhaps with his sudden disappearance, now rendered the former desirous of revenging himself upon him by seeking to entrap the sole object of his love and anxiety into a connexion of which he knew he had a dread and hatred. A PROBLEMATIC NOVEL Is it worth it? I think you probably leave this one till you’ve read the best five and have either become a Dickens fan or not, and even if you are a fan you’ll probably find yourself getting round to it almost last, as I did. And I’m glad I did, but you might want your money back. Four stars? well, 3.5 rounded up really. SCENES WE’D LIKE TO SEE Grandfather : Are we there yet, Little Nell? Little Nell : Only another 12 miles of rough symbolic terrain to plod through, grandfather. Grandfather misses his footing and plunges down a disused mine shaft. Grandfather : Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Smash, kerrang) Little Nell : Thank you God! I’m finally free! Now I can assume my real identity of Nell-Eee, Conqueror of Worlds, Shagger of Galaxies!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Charles Dickens likes to beat the shit out of his main characters. It's like a form of domestic abuse! Has he beaten the crap out of another character more than poor little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop? Certainly Pip and Oliver get theirs. But at least with them there's some sort of happy ending or comeuppance for the villains. Like Little Dorrit without the uplifting ending, Nell is flat out beat down. Time and again she is taken advantage of and there is no redemption, not in my eyes. Sure, Charles Dickens likes to beat the shit out of his main characters. It's like a form of domestic abuse! Has he beaten the crap out of another character more than poor little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop? Certainly Pip and Oliver get theirs. But at least with them there's some sort of happy ending or comeuppance for the villains. Like Little Dorrit without the uplifting ending, Nell is flat out beat down. Time and again she is taken advantage of and there is no redemption, not in my eyes. Sure, you could say that she gets to finish out her miserable life in a better place than where she started, but (view spoiler)[then she immediately dies. (hide spoiler)] . What was wrong with Dickens? Why did he like to make his characters, and by proxy us, suffer so much? Yes, pitting characters against trials is important to keep up the tension and keep the reader's eyes locked on the page, but this is different altogether. It's as if the trial is over and all we see is the punishment. No, I can not say this is one of Dickens' more successful attempts at his brand of entertainment. He wrote of, quite literally, of hard times. England was not a pleasant place for the lower classes in the 19th century, especially in the 19th century. It was a time ripe for an author keen on social commentary. In the later half of the century, England birthed an author quite keen on telling it how it was while adding in some good old fashion story-time fun in the form of adventure and outlandish characters. Good as The Old Curiosity Shop is, however, it doesn't quite work on the whole. I think it's because Dickens forgot about the fun.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing." Oscar Wilde In this, the third Dickens novel (1841), one can see Dickens stropping his sharp sabre of social satire with the tale of "little" Nell Trent (almost 14) and her emotionally unstable grandfather going on the run across the dismal English countryside to escape the monstrously malevolent Daniel Quilp, a grotesque, hunchbacked dwarf usurer, once gramps runs up a huge debt to Quilp after becoming addicted to "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing." Oscar Wilde In this, the third Dickens novel (1841), one can see Dickens stropping his sharp sabre of social satire with the tale of "little" Nell Trent (almost 14) and her emotionally unstable grandfather going on the run across the dismal English countryside to escape the monstrously malevolent Daniel Quilp, a grotesque, hunchbacked dwarf usurer, once gramps runs up a huge debt to Quilp after becoming addicted to gambling. Quilp has his evil eye on Nell as Mrs. Quilp #2, and tells her so. I think it's so well known that it's no longer a spoiler to point out that this is the only Dickens novel in which the protagonist dies. It was a good story, but I found Nell a mawkish character and the last tenth of the novel saccharine. Of the eight Dickens novels I've finished-- this, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House and Oliver Twist-- this is the only one I've not thought worthy of four or five stars. I recently started and put on hold Barnaby Rudge, and I intend to read Dombey and Son, which some have said is most underrated. The Pith: Primarily Victorian sentimental pudding for Dickens Sweet Tooths

  6. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Not too sentimental. Oscar Wilde was clearly in a bad mood. Boasts the evillest dwarf outside German folklore, the irrepressible Qulip. Cute kid (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] and her put-upon granddaddy (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] in King Lear and Cordelia metaphor. A crackerbox of eccentrics: the morally unsure Dick Swiveller, the ruthless Brasses (precursor of the legal vipers in Bleak House), the hero-in-waiting Kit. A rodomontade of freaks and carnies, from Mrs Jarley’s Not too sentimental. Oscar Wilde was clearly in a bad mood. Boasts the evillest dwarf outside German folklore, the irrepressible Qulip. Cute kid (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] and her put-upon granddaddy (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] in King Lear and Cordelia metaphor. A crackerbox of eccentrics: the morally unsure Dick Swiveller, the ruthless Brasses (precursor of the legal vipers in Bleak House), the hero-in-waiting Kit. A rodomontade of freaks and carnies, from Mrs Jarley’s waxwork nobility to the stilt-walking Punch performers. Classic Dickens comic brio and irresistible, long-flowing sentences. Padding that tastes like pudding. Terrifying tension between Qulip and his victims. Poignant climax. A single gentleman who sleeps enough for a double gentleman. A servant girl who prospers. A lady more masculine than her brother. Twice as many dei ex machina than in Nicholas Nickleby: from Nell suddenly inheriting a house (after spending the night soliciting help from plague-ridden slums with dead infants for doorstops), to the typical Dickens solution of a benign rich relative dishing out fortunes. Popular songs embedded in dialogue. An allegorical pilgrimage. The liberation of an abused wife. Improbable marriage between stepdad and daughter. Faultless Men of God. Great notes in the Oxford Classics edition. Um . . . What’s that? You want some more? Why, you rascally scoundrel: back in your chair! I loved this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    “Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play, or coming home from it.” Charles Dickens ~~ The Old Curiosity Shop I have a strange history with The Old Curiosity Shop. I bought it in 2009. Started reading it in 2012. Lost it in a move. Found it in 2014. Misplaced it while shelving books. Found it again in 2019. And now, finally finished it. So my annual December Dickensthon took place this autumn. And that's OK, because this feels very much like an autumnal book “Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play, or coming home from it.” Charles Dickens ~~ The Old Curiosity Shop I have a strange history with The Old Curiosity Shop. I bought it in 2009. Started reading it in 2012. Lost it in a move. Found it in 2014. Misplaced it while shelving books. Found it again in 2019. And now, finally finished it. So my annual December Dickensthon took place this autumn. And that's OK, because this feels very much like an autumnal book. Some random thoughts before I review The Old Curiosity Shop *This is a very difficult book to review *The subplots of The Old Curiosity Shop are far more interesting than the main plot *Dickens is far better at writing young male leads than young female leads *Nell's Grandfather doesn't love her, he uses her *Nell's Grandfather is an asshole *Richard Swiveller shows remarkable powers of redemption ~~ I loved Dick Swiveller *Kit would make a wonderful lead character. I'd love to visit the world Kit inhabits fully So my dear Dickens ~~ you threw a curve ball at me this time. The Old Curiosity Shop is perhaps too Dickensian; am I making sense? Sweet, innocent, pure of heart, a child victimized by a cruel injustice or heart-breaking misfortune ~~ only in this case it was both ~~ and if that's not enough, this is visited upon two different youths: one suffering injustice the other misfortune ~~ Dickens X2 ~~ but more is not always better. And yet, with all this tragedy taking place in both Nell and Kit's world, Dickens is able to set everything right. Well, almost everything. It's a familiar world ~~ all the Dickens’ trademarks are all here ~~ the villains, the broad caricatures, the amusing names, the kindly poor, the powerful benefactors, and bits of humor scattered here or there. And yet ~~ it's a different Dickens ~~ a young Dickens ... The old curiosity shop is the business establishment of Grandfather Trent; he lives there with his adored and angelic granddaughter Nell. For want of a better name, Trent is a real asshole. It was Old Trent's poor judgement that allowed Quilp to enter the Trent's world. It is his addictions that lead to his family's misfortunes. In the employ of Mr. Trent is young Kit, the honest and dutiful son of a widowed mother. Kit is the hero of the piece, and one of most interesting characters in the whole piece. Another surprise is the character of young Mr. Richard Swiveller; he was thought to be quite a good for nothing and a cad, but he turns out to be a shining knight. He is the other hero of our tale. Dickens is a master of writing tales of redemption, and Dick is one of the best examples of Dickens' mastery in this area. Into this mix are thrown the evil Sally Brass, one of the best villains Dickens has ever written, Mrs. Jarley, a kindly woman who shelters Nell and her grandfather from the evils of their world, the Schoolmaster, who is kind hearted, but his arrival is a little too convenient. And let's not forget Marchioness, Sally's long suffering servant, who turns the tables on the Brass family. And there is Daniel Quilp, an evil dwarf who makes everyone's lives miserable. And yet, as evil as Quilp is, I hold firm that the true villain of the piece is Grandfather Trent. And how is the book?Dickens is an extraordinary novelist, of that there can be no doubt. And yet, despite his unquestioned status among English writers it could be argued he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Many today view his write too melodramatic. I know his characters can be two dimensional ~~ but most are well rounded and complex. Yes his story lines can meander, but the way he controls his plots is amazing. His writing helped to elevate the novel to new heights. And lastly, the social reforms that benefited the working classes in Victorian England would never have happened without the voice of Charles Dickens. Dickens does all this and more within the pages of The Old Curiosity Shop. Lastly, I have to admit I was not entirely satisfied with Dickens’ ending. Maybe it's because I knew the ending in advance. Little Nell's fate didn't concern me in the end. I wanted to know what became of my friends Kit and Dick. Nell and grandfather had grown superfluous to me. But, The Old Curiosity Shop was riveting, and Dickens offered so many unpredictable surprises. One more thing. I took the ending much better than Oscar Wilde did It turns out for all his criticism, Wilde never read the tale of Little Nell.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    Another masterful confection of pathos and comic genius, this time featuring such characters as the slacker Dick Swiveler and the cruel Daniel Quilp. My generic comment about Charles Dickens: First of all, although I am a partisan of Dickens' writing and have read and relished most his works, I concede to three flaws in his oeuvre that are not insignificant. First, while he seemed to develop an almost endless variety of male social types, his female characters are much less well developed. Second, Another masterful confection of pathos and comic genius, this time featuring such characters as the slacker Dick Swiveler and the cruel Daniel Quilp. My generic comment about Charles Dickens: First of all, although I am a partisan of Dickens' writing and have read and relished most his works, I concede to three flaws in his oeuvre that are not insignificant. First, while he seemed to develop an almost endless variety of male social types, his female characters are much less well developed. Second, although he portrayed the stark brutality of economic and class inequality with unparalleled clarity, his diagnosis of what needs to be done is flaccidly liberal, suggesting that the wealthy should simply be nicer and more generous to the poor(yet his writings did propitiate structural changes, e.g. to the Poor Laws, in his lifetime). Third, in tying up the loose threads of his extremely complex plots, he often pushes this reader past the boundary of the reasonable suspension of disbelief. Some readers also object to his sentimentalism or to his grotesque characters but I find these extremes create a dynamism in combination with his social criticism. These caveats aside, I deeply enjoy reading Dickens for a number of reasons. He exhibits stratospheric gifts of imagination in portraying extremes of human character in extreme situations. His idiosyncratic characters each have an unmistakable and unforgettable voice. His highly crafted language is endlessly inventive and evocative. Finally, he created a parade of some of the funniest, evilest, and most pathetic characters one will ever encounter and although extreme, they also ring true to equivalent characters from any time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    A Treacly Treat Written between the spring of 1840 and the late autumn of 1841 for the weekly serial “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop is utterly blemished by the constraints on a writer’s imagination such a serial publication demands, for the novel is extremely ill-composed, its plot comes out as threadbare and rather pointless, and some of the characters undergo rather improbable changes. In fact, had this been the first Dickens novel I had ever laid eyes on, I would p A Treacly Treat Written between the spring of 1840 and the late autumn of 1841 for the weekly serial “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop is utterly blemished by the constraints on a writer’s imagination such a serial publication demands, for the novel is extremely ill-composed, its plot comes out as threadbare and rather pointless, and some of the characters undergo rather improbable changes. In fact, had this been the first Dickens novel I had ever laid eyes on, I would probably never have discovered the wonderful richness and enjoyment this inimitable writer has to offer, as I would hardly have touched another of his books. The Old Curiosity Shop tells the story of Little Nell Trent and her dotard of a grandfather, who – due to the machinations of her profligate and money-hungry brother and of the diabolical dwarf Quilp – are made to leave their forfeited home in London, the eponymous Old Curiosity Shop, and abscond into the countryside to lead a humble, but happy life as beggars. Matters are complicated by the grandfather’s compulsive gambling and by Quilp’s determination to hunt the couple down. On the other hand, there appears a strange middle-aged gentleman who has taken a keen interest in finding the whereabouts of Nell and her grandfather and in bringing Quilp to justice. Unfortunately this book is seriously flawed in many ways. After the first three chapters, for instance, the first person narrator withdraws from the story, since Dickens was well aware that this point of view would put him under severe restrictions in constructing his tale, which at first was not intended as a full-length novel but as another of the shorter yarns spun by Master Humphrey. While we may generously pass over such an awkward interference on the author’s part, matters are not improved by the writer’s decision to have Frederick Trent, Nell’s brother, who has played a crucial role in the first few chapters, suddenly drop out of the novel completely, whereas his comical sidekick, Dick Swiveller, is retained through all sorts of twisted plot devices. Speaking of these, Daniel Quilp’s motives for hunting Nell and her relative are rather threadbare, too, and in the second half of the novel, Quilp seems to concentrate his attention on Nell’s former friend and ally Kit so that on the whole there is no coherent plot at all. Admittedly, Dickens was never too convincing at creating plots, but in most cases he made up for this deficiency by inventing inspiring characters and giving haunting descriptions of 19th century life. In these respects, however, The Old Curiosity Shop tends to be rather disappointing, too. There is the feckless and indefatigably imaginative Dick Swiveller, to be sure, whose falling in love with the Marchioness, a young servant, shows Dickens at his best, and there are Sampson Brass and his virago of a sister as two vile deceivers, and there is, of course, Daniel Quilp himself, an embodiment of exuberant evil, who is, somehow, flawed by Dickens’s inclination to overstep the mark of verisimilitude, but this is it. Kit Nubbles, for example, a rather naïve and imbecile nitwit at the beginning of the novel, has suddenly turned into a self-confident and honest young man at his next appearance. Worst of all, however, are the pure characters we are supposed to sympathize with, they are even worse than most of Dickens’s paragons of virtue. What can I write about Nell apart from her being virtuous, loving, self-sacrificing, innocent and patient – all this, mark, at the gentle age of twelve? She is so angelic that she fails to arouse any human interest at all. And then there’s grandfather Trent, an ineffectual, lachrymose and peevish egotist, who gambles, not for his own sake, but in order to earn abundant riches he wants to lavish on his grandchild. Reading about how these two cut and dried heroes wend their way through all sorts of hardships is tantamount to going on a strict diet of unbuttered and untoasted white bread, which is, paradoxically, made the drier for all the treacly sentiment that Dickens pours on these scenes. Too much sweet is bad for your teeth, so you start grinding them. The worst part, in these terms, is Nell’s deathbed scene, which has been immortalized by Oscar Wilde’s irreverent remark that you must have a heart of stone to read it without dissolving into tears – of laughter. I find that Aldous Huxley in his essay Vulgarity in Literature gives an even more devastating, yet clairvoyant analysis of Dickens’s inability to provide a really touching account of the death of a child, because he compares the treatment of Little Nell with Dostoevsky’s artistic rendition of the death of little Ilusha Snegirov in The Brothers Karamasov – a scene that actually moves me to tears whenever I read it. “One of Dickens’s most striking peculiarities”, Huxley states, “is that, whenever in his writing he becomes emotional, he ceases instantly to use his intelligence. The overflowing of his heart drowns his head and even dims his eyes; for, whenever he is in the melting mood, Dickens ceases to be able and probably ceases even to wish to see reality. His one and only desire on these occasions is just to overflow, nothing else. Which he does, with a vengeance and in an atrocious blank verse that is meant to be poetical prose and succeeds only in being the worst kind of fustian.” Nowhere in Dickens’s works is this flaw as obtrusively meretricious as in Little Nell’s deathbed scene, and the acclaim he earned for this podgy hotchpotch from his contemporaries might rather prove to be of interest to Peter Gay, in writing another of his insightful books on 19th century mentalities, than serve as evidence of artistic quality. Running down a novel by one of my favourite writers was not an easy thing to do for me, but a spade must be named a bloody spade, coûte que coûte. It is for the creation of Mr. Swiveller, the brazen couple and, to some degree, of Quilp that I would concede that this book has some little merit after all.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    Dickens, how dare you end the novel like that! MY EMOTIONS YOU PIG-DOG! This was great, really great (obviously, it's Dickens for goodness sake). The story of Little Nell and her grandfather is tragic and beautiful, while Daniel Quilp is an incredibly dastardly Dickensian villain (he's no Bill Sikes though). Read this because it's Dickens and he's a fucking genius.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I'm going to chew on this one a bit. Like many of Dickens novels, the characters that stick with me are minor characters, or the bad guys. I'm not sure the novel could exist without Nell and Kit, but they were both too angelic, too mono, too one-dimensional. If I'm going to pick a monochromatic side, I'm going to go with the nihilist dwarf, Daniel Quilp. There is something about this Dickens villian that is just fantastic. However, I much preferred the rounder characters in this book, especially I'm going to chew on this one a bit. Like many of Dickens novels, the characters that stick with me are minor characters, or the bad guys. I'm not sure the novel could exist without Nell and Kit, but they were both too angelic, too mono, too one-dimensional. If I'm going to pick a monochromatic side, I'm going to go with the nihilist dwarf, Daniel Quilp. There is something about this Dickens villian that is just fantastic. However, I much preferred the rounder characters in this book, especially 'Dick' Swiveller and The Marchioness. I also liked the minor saints: The Bachelor, Mr. Garland, Abel, and the poor schoolmaster. This was an early and VERY popular Dickens serial, so I also liked it simply for the idea of fiction being such a cultural moment and this book probably being one of the things that allowed Dickens the room to develop his social novel chops.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mona

    3.5 A Dickensian "Alice in Wonderland" "Curiosity Shop" vs. "Alice This novel, serialized in 1840 and 1841, and published as a book in 1841, reminds me in some respects of "Alice in Wonderland" (published in 1865). Maybe it's that they're both British Victorian novels. Maybe it's the abundance of eccentric (and even lunatic) characters that seems to be the specialty of British novelists of the time. Maybe it's the original (and quite wonderfully demented) illustrations by George Cattermole and Habl 3.5 A Dickensian "Alice in Wonderland" "Curiosity Shop" vs. "Alice This novel, serialized in 1840 and 1841, and published as a book in 1841, reminds me in some respects of "Alice in Wonderland" (published in 1865). Maybe it's that they're both British Victorian novels. Maybe it's the abundance of eccentric (and even lunatic) characters that seems to be the specialty of British novelists of the time. Maybe it's the original (and quite wonderfully demented) illustrations by George Cattermole and Hablot Browne (with some possibly also by Samuel Williams and Daniel Maclise). "Alice" of course is a comedy and a parody of political figures of the time, where "The Old Curiosity Shop" is not (apparently) a political parody, but a tragicomedy in a (sometimes) more serious vein, although with an abundance of humor and sarcasm (as in the use of the epithet "beautiful" for Sally Brass, who, from both the descriptions of her and the illustrations appears to be anything but...) Characters The best thing about this novel is its plethora of weird and colorful characters (many with appropriately peculiar names). These include the following, among others. • Nell Trent. A beautiful and saintly child who is one of the main characters. She loves and cares for her aging grandfather. • Nell's grandfather (usually referred to as "The Old Man"). He adores Nell. He owns the Old Curiosity Shop, and mysteriously disappears at night, leaving Nell alone. Nell discovers the reason for this later. • Christopher "Kit" Nubbles. He is initially Nell's grandfather's servant. The grandfather, however, dismisses him on false suspicions that he has spied on him. Kit lives near the Trents, in poverty, with his mother, and two younger brothers (Jacob and "the baby"). His fortunes later improve when he becomes a servant to the Garlands, an elderly couple who live in Finchley with their adult son, Abel. • Daniel Quilp, the villain. Quilp is an ugly and demonic dwarf, who delights in tormenting nearly everyone else. He is greedy and malicious. • Samson Brass, Quilp's solicitor (lawyer). His obsequious and rambling speeches, long and exagerrated, are quite humorous (although Brass doesn't seem to realize this). • Sally Brass, Samson Brass's sister. Swiveller (see below) refers to her as "The Dragon". She is a formidable woman who doesn't take guff from anyone and runs her brother's law office. She is quite learned in the law. She's not too nice and has terrible fashion sense, habitually wrapping her head in an old brown scarf (referred to as "the headdress") • Richard "Dick" Swiveller, who works as a clerk in Brass's office. Initially a rogue and a ne'er-do-well, he develops into one of the more decent people in the book and finally grows up near the novel's end • Frederick Trent, Nell's older brother, a scoundrel. HIs grandfather doesn't like him at all. • The small servant. A young girl who is a servant at the Brass household. Sally imprisons her in the lower part of the house (the kitchen and possibly a basement area). Swiveller befriends her and calls her at first "The Marchioness" and later, Sophronia Sphinx. • Barbara, another servant in the Garland household. • Mrs. Jarley, the proprietress of a travelling waxworks show who employs Nell for a short time • The "single gentleman", a mysterious lodger in the Brass household • Mr. Marton, a poor schoolmaster who befriends Nell and her grandfather • Codlin, propietor of a Punch and Judy show • Short, Codlin's employee or co-owner of the show • Mrs. Quilp, who's terrified of her husband • Jerry, a guy who owns a travelling dog show. The dogs wear colorful costumes and have names like Pedro and Carlo. • Many others, too numerous to mention. As usual, Dickens is really good at depicting working class characters. Sappiness and Other Failings I really enjoyed the book. My main criticism would be that Dickens, knowing his audience quite well, deliberately makes the story, at times, saccharine, and "tear jerking". He mines the sappiness factor to its full extent. Little Nell is really more a miniature adult than a child. Such types do exist, as anyone who's been around can testify. But Dickens plays up the pathos of her story and sometimes seems to be pandering to his audience. However, I can also guess that perhaps Little Nell represents a child he himself may have lost in his own life. Also, especially in the Little Nell part of the multiple story threads, Dickens often tells rather than shows. I think this might have been typical of serials of the time, however. In addition, characters are often highlighted and discarded, and the direction of the plot changes. This unevenness is because the novel was published as a serial first before it was put out as a novel. Still... In spite of these flaws, Dickens' genius with characters and story, and his genuine sensitivity to the suffering of the poor, make this an enjoyable read. Audio Reader Anton Lesser did an excellent job reading the many characters in this audio. Illustrations I read along in the ebook and Kindle book from Gutenberg. I highly recommend these, as they contain the marvelous original illustations.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wolf

    I loved The Old Curiosity Shop! I have to admit that I hadn't even heard about this book before I started poking around for another Dickens novel to read. It really has everything in it that Dickens is known for -- quirky characters, villains and heroes, harsh justice and redemption, and plenty of humorous moments too. I found myself captivated by the story, furious at the grandfather, and full of pity for poor Little Nell. A great read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The book itself is okay--(a young girl and her grandfather flee London to escape an evil creditor)--but for me the real fun was reading a story that people got so excited about over 150 years ago. According to Wikipedia, "In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel .... Dickens fans were reported to storm the piers The book itself is okay--(a young girl and her grandfather flee London to escape an evil creditor)--but for me the real fun was reading a story that people got so excited about over 150 years ago. According to Wikipedia, "In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel .... Dickens fans were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who may have read the last installment in the United Kingdom), 'Is Little Nell alive?'" I bet Dickens and Rowling would have a lot to talk about. I would love to know what Dickens thought of the Harry Potter series if he could come back to life and read it. Because "The Old Curiosity Shop" was published in weekly installments, Dickens profited by dragging out the action--so his famous wordiness is in full force in this book. But I think the best way to enjoy Dickens is to surrender to the wordiness and let it carry you along. It makes for the strange experience of reading passages that go something like: "blah blah blah blah paid by the word blah blah BRILLIANT GEM blah." ... Hmm ... Come to think of it, reading Dickens is actually not that different from watching Lost.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 'One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears... of laughter.' I don't have anything to add to Oscar Wilde's masterly summing-up. He nailed it. Maybe some enterprising person would like to open a GR account for him, and just present his unedited opinions? I'm sure he'd collect a lot of votes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    Rereading/relistening for the third time - I have an unreasoning love for this book even though it suffers from a lot of the same sort of problems as Nicholas Nickleby. What can I say? Partly it's because of Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness. Partly it's because Quilp is so utterly evil and singleminded. But that's not all of it. I just love every bit of it. I'm struck anew by the accurate look at addiction and the toll it exacts upon loved ones as well as the addict. Original review below. ===== Rereading/relistening for the third time - I have an unreasoning love for this book even though it suffers from a lot of the same sort of problems as Nicholas Nickleby. What can I say? Partly it's because of Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness. Partly it's because Quilp is so utterly evil and singleminded. But that's not all of it. I just love every bit of it. I'm struck anew by the accurate look at addiction and the toll it exacts upon loved ones as well as the addict. Original review below. ======= This is a strangely fascinating tale and you can easily see why it was so popular in its day. The poverty-stricken Nell and her grandfather escaping the villainous dwarf Quilp has all the makings of The Fugitive. Everyone suspects that the grandfather is wealthy and it would be worth while to clap him into the insane asylum while marrying Nell when she comes of age. (A brief note here, Nell is continually called "the child" so I was surprised to find that she is actually 14 years old. This makes much more believable her dual innocence and ingenuity in escaping ill wishers.) Charles Dickens' early novels often included a road trip, but adding the element of penniless escape from a determined hunt for such innocent figures had me on the edge of my seat. Who would they encounter next? Would chance acquaintances really help Nell and Grandfather or would they try to turn them in for a reward? Adding to that is the grandfather's mysterious problem which leads the fugitives the brink of disaster when it is revealed. This leaves the reader with a gripping sense of peril. As is always the case, Dickens treats us to a host of memorable characters. Touring the countryside leads to encounters with sideshow type performers, a wax museum, and many other oddities of the time. In this sense The Old Curiosity Shop could be taken to refer to the journey itself, replete with eccentricities that will either move or startle the viewer. My favorite character was that charming ne'er-do-well Dick Swiveller. Thinking it over, I realized that he is the only character in the book who shows growth and moral development. That is unusual for such a minor character, but as we follow Dick's path through the book we see that he has a talent for discerning the truth, treating others considerately, and for taking action when needed. All this is done without ever making him sentimental or annoying. His story is almost always told through behind-the-scenes action such as when we see him playing cards with the Marchioness. This is a foreshadowing of Dickens' talent which will bloom greatly in his later books. The audiobook was performed by veteran narrator and actor Anton Lesser. Lesser brings his acting background to more than just voice performances. Sometimes a world of meaning is conveyed through a sigh, a pregnant pause, coy delivery, or deliberate pacing. It left me always eager to return to the book even though I'd read it before. The Old Curiosity Shop is very enjoyable and not just the soppy, sentimental book we all think we "know" because it is common knowledge that Nell dies in the end. ===== Review copy of audiobook provided by SFFaudio.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I'm revising my rating because I just don't have good memories of this book. I got a two-volume set from around the 1880s, and decided to read through it; I kinda liked Nell, but it was like slogging through mud for me to get into the story. Well, I made it to the end of the first volume, and by then I'd invested enough time to put it aside, so I gritted my teeth and ploughed into it. I could hardly wait to finish the final chapter, because this villain is utterly bad and was totally creeping me I'm revising my rating because I just don't have good memories of this book. I got a two-volume set from around the 1880s, and decided to read through it; I kinda liked Nell, but it was like slogging through mud for me to get into the story. Well, I made it to the end of the first volume, and by then I'd invested enough time to put it aside, so I gritted my teeth and ploughed into it. I could hardly wait to finish the final chapter, because this villain is utterly bad and was totally creeping me out. Imagine my shock when it ended on a cliffhanger and "End of volume II" instead of "The End." I was missing a third volume! By that time I was mad; this book was not going to conquer me. When I got a chance, I got a complete volume and finished it off. I didn't feel a big payoff like I hoped. In the end, things still look generally hopeless. It kept getting sidetracked from the Nell story I wanted to read and focusing on other, repulsive characters. If it wasn't a classic, I'd probably give it two stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Duntay

    I am quite worried by this insipid-looking woman on the cover... So far my favourite character is Whiskers the pony. I'm not sure if that bodes well. I confess: I abandoned Little Nell. In a drawer, in a B&B in Tobermory. I did however finish the book, after lugging it about since March. I'm afraid my initial reservations were confirmed: Nell was insipid, and Whiskers the pony was ace. Especially as it is reported that his final act was to kick his doctor in his last illness. The doctor is nev I am quite worried by this insipid-looking woman on the cover... So far my favourite character is Whiskers the pony. I'm not sure if that bodes well. I confess: I abandoned Little Nell. In a drawer, in a B&B in Tobermory. I did however finish the book, after lugging it about since March. I'm afraid my initial reservations were confirmed: Nell was insipid, and Whiskers the pony was ace. Especially as it is reported that his final act was to kick his doctor in his last illness. The doctor is never introduced, but there are many other characters in this book that could do with a good kicking.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    Daniel Quilp stands short in stature, but has a large spirit. A dwarf, he has endured the prejudice and the malign intentions of people who judge him solely on his appearance. For example, one character (Kit) says of Quilp that he is uglier than anyone you might pay to see in a circus freak show. Despite the relentless hostility towards him, Quilp, through his intelligence, his energy, and his large spirit, has managed to rise in the ranks of the business world. But even his success does nothing Daniel Quilp stands short in stature, but has a large spirit. A dwarf, he has endured the prejudice and the malign intentions of people who judge him solely on his appearance. For example, one character (Kit) says of Quilp that he is uglier than anyone you might pay to see in a circus freak show. Despite the relentless hostility towards him, Quilp, through his intelligence, his energy, and his large spirit, has managed to rise in the ranks of the business world. But even his success does nothing to temper other people's scorn of him. At one point, when he is though dead, the people who should be closest of him celebrate his death, and make fun of his memory, all while drinking his own liquor. The owner of the Curiosity Shop has borrowed money from Quilp under false pretenses. Instead of using the funds to develop his business, the owner blows it all to feed his secret gambling addiction. Quilp lends him money more than once before he discovers what the owner is doing with it. The shop is worthless, so even after legal foreclosure proceedings, Quilp only recovers pennies on the pounds that he has lent. It seems likely, however, that the owner has hidden a large treasure from Quilp and is trying to escape from his obligations. The owner has a granddaughter, Nell Trent. She helps the owner escape from his responsibilities. She is a devious girl. She hides her motives from Quilp, assists her grandfather in fleeing his just obligations, then helps the two of them conceal their identities in order to avoid Quilp. In time, this girl stoops to lying even to her grandfather. And eventually, her dark spirit descends into an unhealthy obsession with morbidity. Quilp, in the meantime, tries in vain to find these two who have gone to such lengths to avoid paying him his due. The strange thing is that Dickens insists that Nell is a perfect angel and that Quilp is a monster. But in terms of what they do, almost all of the bad can be put at the feet of Nell and her grandfather. And I had a hard time finding any single act of Quilps that was wrong. He's a monster because he's a misshapen dwarf, and that's that. For a while, I was hoping that this was some grand play of irony, and that Dickens would eventually wink at us and let us in on the joke. But it never happens. Despite what's going on in the story, Quilp is always said to be a monster, and Nell is always a perfect picture of Victorian passive virtue. And the affect ranges from the oppressively dull to the nauseating. There is little to no narrative drive here. What does pass for story amounts to little more than gross coincidence. There are all sorts of details that do not bear the slightest scrutiny. For example, an unnamed stranger takes up residence with the villainous attorneys. He then goes to great lengths to interview every Punch and Judy show that comes into town. He's looking for Nell and her grandfather. When I found out who he is, and reflected back on these actions, I could think of absolutely no reason why he might suspect that the owners of a Punch and Judy show would know anything of Nell's whereabouts. And the characters are not even one dimensional. I find it interesting that Nell and her grandfather, on their picaresque adventures, encounter first a Punch and Judy circus, then a traveling wax works, and finally a graveyard by a church. It's almost like they are trying to find a community where their characters belong. Punch and Judy have way too much depth of character and motivation, so they are not a good home. The wax works people are a little closer to the mark, but wax figures have a certain amount of energy and spirit that Nell and her grandfather are lacking. Only in the graveyard do Nell and her grandfather find a group with whom they are truly akin. The remaining characters are even less deep and vivid than this pair. So, with no plot and horrible characterization, who is the hero behind this book? Dickens! He is truly a great writer. So great, that its a shame that he here has refused to write a good book. Instead, he has written a colossally great failure. Everything is overdone, except for any element that might make a book good. This probably isn't the worst book I've ever read. But I do find myself wondering what circle of hell would have sinners forced to read this. Maybe, somewhere a bit deeper than the circle where a trio plays sonatas for banjo, accordion and bagpipes. But perhaps not quite as deep as the Jaws 2 viewing room.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The Old Curiosity Shop seems the perfect title for this novel, even thought the titular shop hardly features beyond the first few chapters. It's a perfect curio, a ramshackle assortment of strange Dickensian characters and one never knows what one will find from one chapter to the next. There's no overarching plot or purpose, and the novel revolves around a bunch of characters, namely Daniel Quilp, Richard Swiveller, Little Nell and Kit Nubbles - for starters - all vaguely loosely connected, but The Old Curiosity Shop seems the perfect title for this novel, even thought the titular shop hardly features beyond the first few chapters. It's a perfect curio, a ramshackle assortment of strange Dickensian characters and one never knows what one will find from one chapter to the next. There's no overarching plot or purpose, and the novel revolves around a bunch of characters, namely Daniel Quilp, Richard Swiveller, Little Nell and Kit Nubbles - for starters - all vaguely loosely connected, but pretty much doing their own thing. Little Nell loves everybody, has no money and goes on a road trip to nowhere. Daniel Quilp hates everybody, makes money and ruins other people's lives. Richard Swiveller is a layabout who discovers he has a heart of gold and Kit Nubbles finds his fortune in the world. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and there are moments in the novel aplenty where Dickens introduces a plot strand that he evidently felt he might expand upon, and then changes his mind and takes the book somewhere else. With most other authors this kind of abysmal plotting would be a huge detriment to the book; yet Dickens was pretty much creating serial fiction at this point and laying down the rules, working out for himself what works and what doesn't, so whilst he perfects narrative coherence in later efforts, here the lack of consistency merely adds something to the charm. In terms of "towering masterpieces" then, for Dickens this is not it. This is a classic example of Dickens early fiction and I happen to love it for the enthusiasm, vibrancy, charm and comedy that Dickens brings to the table. Nobody ever loved telling stories more and his love of the thing oozes through every page (there are even narrative devices whereby Dickens talks to his audience saying "I bet you're glad we're back with this story because I love this character"). He loves incidents and situations. It's easy enough, also, to pull out some of Dickens classic concerns from this novel - that those with a good heart shall win out (incidentally Quilp's demise was a moment of pure sublimity - his heart was certainly not good) and that those not blessed with good finances are still worthy people. That the rich should look after the poor, that the legal system is a system set up and designed to protect the rich and offers no recourse to the poor (his plot resolutions somehow undercut this a little bit early on). It's all here in The Old Curiosity Shop and it's all completely charming. One must indeed have a heart of stone not to care for Little Nell who doesn't seem overtly sappy to me since Dickens is careful not to overdose the reader on her adventures, but use her as a "good" paor of eyes to observe the strange and often bittersweet goings on around her (and she's the catalyst for some fine prose musings throughout) Kit Nubbles feels like a prototype Pip as the young poor lad whom chance and a good heart makes good (although he's beset upon by darker forces, they don't come from within). Swiveller is a little Skimpole-ish and one of my favourite Dickens creations, bumbling about as he does in a haphazard manner, alongside Quilp whose pure evil and malevolence oozes off of the page, whether he's trying to intimidate a young 14 yr old Nell into agreeing to be his wife (very creepy!) or sadistically abusing his wife and mother in law (he sits up all night just so she cannot get any rest) his exploits form the heart and backbone of the book. This is one of Dicken's weaker novels but it's still firmly a 5 star effort (I've since decided that I was wrong to downgrade any Dickens to lower than 5 stars, I was simply trying to be politic) since Dickens writing is simply that vivid, that entertaining, that compulsive and that damn good. I was sorry when I turned the last page since I'd really started to fall in love with the characters (yes, including poor Nell. POOR NELL!!) and could have happily read about them and their adventures for another 1,000 pages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    "...and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told." When I started this novel I got all excited, thinking it might be even better than Great Expectations, my favorite Dickens novel to date. What always happens to me with Charles Dickens, though, is that my interest starts to fade about 2/3 of the way through the book. He has many sub-plots going all at once, and he abandons some of them for so long in order to focus on just one. Often the one he favors is the one I'm least interested in, "...and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told." When I started this novel I got all excited, thinking it might be even better than Great Expectations, my favorite Dickens novel to date. What always happens to me with Charles Dickens, though, is that my interest starts to fade about 2/3 of the way through the book. He has many sub-plots going all at once, and he abandons some of them for so long in order to focus on just one. Often the one he favors is the one I'm least interested in, so I have to slog through just to get back to the characters I like better. Part of the problem is the serialized nature of the original stories, and part of it is just me and my impatience as a 21st-century reader. I won't belabor the plot. It's been done to death. There's much to love about this book, most important of which is Dickens's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of what would otherwise be dry details. I found more sneaky humor in this novel than in any other Dickens I've read so far. I especially enjoyed his many ironic references to the mannish Sally Brass, e.g. "the beautiful virgin" and "that fascinating woman." Honestly, this was a 3.5 star read for me. I'm semi-grudgingly rounding up to four stars because there's no denying the genius of the writing, and especially because I appreciated the comic relief in an otherwise sad tale.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    Oh, "The Death of Little Nell." I dreaded reading " The Old Curiosity Shop, " because I didn't want to deal with it. We've all heard about her death so many times it has become a caricature, a maudlin tear-jerker. Cue the tiny violins. In putting off reading this book I denied myself a very good, complicated study of some typical Dickensian characters, the dishonest lawyer, the good mother, the jolly baby, a cantankerous pony, the evil, unlovable stereotype (This time a dwarf). They are all the Oh, "The Death of Little Nell." I dreaded reading " The Old Curiosity Shop, " because I didn't want to deal with it. We've all heard about her death so many times it has become a caricature, a maudlin tear-jerker. Cue the tiny violins. In putting off reading this book I denied myself a very good, complicated study of some typical Dickensian characters, the dishonest lawyer, the good mother, the jolly baby, a cantankerous pony, the evil, unlovable stereotype (This time a dwarf). They are all there, and so well drawn they become real, plausible people. How did Dickens do it? I don't know. Now, on to the death. It was surprisingly realistic. The grief and tragedy of the chapters dealing with Nell's death and its aftermath resonated with me as a person who has suffered great loss. It was not overdone, and I believe that was because Dickens put the emphasis, not on the passing of the little girl, but On the effect of had on those she left behind. This was a case of my expectations of a book being nothing like the reality. It is not my favorite Charles Dickens novel. Of those I have read, "Our Mutual Friend" holds that place in my heart.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Once more I find Dickens to be a story-teller of the first rank, full of zest and a love of life. Almost everything is perfect, but more on this qualification later. The book is so engaging – all the physical and psychological traits of the characters are so well rendered. The images of streets, houses, and the countryside are superb. In a biography of Dickens I read some time ago it was related that he was a massive walker – wandering, sometimes daily, several miles through city streets and cou Once more I find Dickens to be a story-teller of the first rank, full of zest and a love of life. Almost everything is perfect, but more on this qualification later. The book is so engaging – all the physical and psychological traits of the characters are so well rendered. The images of streets, houses, and the countryside are superb. In a biography of Dickens I read some time ago it was related that he was a massive walker – wandering, sometimes daily, several miles through city streets and countryside checking every nook and cranny. The observations he assimilated during these treks are well-reflected in this book. The journey of Nell and her grandfather is an arduous, but at the same time wondrous road trip with new discoveries and encounters. We see how Nell develops and takes charge, illustrating Dickens as a feminist long before the term was invented! Page 308 (my book) The throng of people hurried by, in two opposing streams, with no symptom of cessation or exhaustion; intent upon their own affairs; and undisturbed in their business speculations, by the roar of carts and wagons laden with clashing wares, the slipping of horses’ feet upon the wet and greasy pavement, the rattling of the rain on windows and umbrella tops, the jostling of the more impatient passengers, and all the noise and tumult of a crowded street in the high tide of its occupation; while the two poor strangers, stunned and bewildered by the hurry they beheld but had no part in, looked mournfully on; feeling, amidst the crowd, a solitude... They withdrew [Nell and her grandfather] into a low archway for shelter from the rain, and watched the faces of those who passed, to find in one among them a ray of encouragement or hope. Some frowned, some smiled, some muttered to themselves, some made slight gestures, as if anticipating the conversation in which they would shortly be engaged, some wore the cunning look of bargaining and plotting, some were anxious and eager, some slow and dull; in some countenances were written gain; in others, loss. It was like being in the confidence of all these people to stand quietly there, looking into their faces as they flitted by. Each chapter is a well scripted unit with a mystery leading you further into the story. The “almost” I mentioned at the beginning refers to the loose ending.(view spoiler)[ I did not feel a complete wrap-up at the conclusion. What were the motivations of the scoundrel Quilp? Why did he evict Nell’s grandfather – and why did he want to keep pursing them whey fled? What exactly was he paying his lawyer Sampson Brass to do? (hide spoiler)] Nevertheless all these character interactions were enthralling.(view spoiler)[ I was surprised at the striking portrayal of the gambling addiction of Nell’s grandfather. (hide spoiler)] Yes Dickens can be overly angelic; Nell and more so Kit are prime examples. But there is such an emotional core throughout that keeps pulling the reader into the characters, settings, and events. The ending is heart-rending. Through-out we remain possessed by this master raconteur who elicits such a strong range of emotions. Page 129 And now that five-and fifty years were gone, she spoke of the dead man as if he had been her son or grandson, with a kind of pity for his youth, growing out of her own old age, and an exalting of his strength and manly beauty as compared with her own weakness and decay; and yet she spoke about him as her husband too, and thinking of herself in connexion with him, as she use to be and not as she was now, talked of their meeting in another world, as if he were dead but yesterday, and she, separated from her former self, were thinking of the happiness of that comely girl who had died with him. I should mention that the graphic drawings featured in every chapter in this Reader’s Digest edition are exquisite!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ayu Palar

    More than a century ago, people were waiting on the docks at New York to ask a question to passengers from England ‘Is Nell dead?’. So influential Old Curiosity Shop to those readers’ lives! And how Little Nell has stolen many readers’ hearts! I adore the novel so much and I do think that Little Nell’s life is tragic, yet I didn’t shed any tear when I closed the last page of the book. There are other elements of the book that attract me more, especially the rich description that successfully bui More than a century ago, people were waiting on the docks at New York to ask a question to passengers from England ‘Is Nell dead?’. So influential Old Curiosity Shop to those readers’ lives! And how Little Nell has stolen many readers’ hearts! I adore the novel so much and I do think that Little Nell’s life is tragic, yet I didn’t shed any tear when I closed the last page of the book. There are other elements of the book that attract me more, especially the rich description that successfully builds the grim atmosphere of the book. The energy of Old Curiosity Shop does not lie on Nell, yet on the villain Daniel Quilp. Quilp is one of the best characters ever made by Dickens. Not because he’s handsome and super nice, but because he’s ugly and evil. From his appearance, Dickens descibed Quilp as ‘inhuman’ , and thanks to the illustrators, we just wish we won’t meet someone like Quilp on the dark street at midnight! Not only his ugly looks, Quilp is also scary due to his awkward acts: ... for he ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon until they bent again ... (p. 39) Yeah, that’s Mr. Quilp. He rarely talks, he just growls, chuckles and squeals. We do not have to know why he acts like that. He is pure evil and that’s what’s weirdly interesting from him. I also sense Quilp being sexually attracted to Nell (who is 13 years old, is he Humbert-Humbert prototype?). He adores Nell’s beauty and even directly says to Nell she should be Mrs. Quilp number two! I shivered when I read he flirted at Nell. But oddly, it is Quilp that truly gripped me. Every time he appears, I couldn’t wait to know what he’s gonna do next. Another character that I think is also Dickens’ finest creation is Richard Swiveller. At first, he seems to be a flamboyant young person and is soon going to be the stupid character in the book due to his flowery phrases and quotations here and there. One scene of Mr. Swiveller that I like is when he meets Miss Brass for the first time. It is hilarious and proves the witty humour of Dickens (chapter 33). Yet as the story goes, Mr. Swiveller grows into a young man with a golden heart. Because of him, all matters are solved. The world needs more of Mr. Swiveller. He saves the day and as important as that, he brings fun and joy to us! The struggle to get a copy of Old Curiosity Shop wasn’t an easy one (ask Sherien), and thank God I got it because reading it was a truly pleasant experience. It took me around two weeks to finally finish the novel since I wanted to read every line carefully. I wanted to enjoy the rich description of the book, and yes I did. However, no matter how big my love to Old Curiosity Shop , I still have to be objective. I was about to give it five stars yet there are a thing from the plot that kinda annoys me. Actually the plot walks in the right straight path, but then the character of Fred Trent (Nell’s brother) is quite useless. The conflict could have been more interestingly complex if Dickens explored his character more. But then, the main question is: is the novel worth reading? Absolutely.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sergio

    There’s Little Nell, an orphan, and her grandfather says, “she shall be rich one of these days, and a fine lady.” They are devoted to one another, and as the story unfolds, we see that Nell is the most devoted. The girl cares for the old man, and when they leave the shop she leads him on their journey. The narrative is full of picturesque and amazing characters, vivid images of city life and nature, with the villains plotting cunningly and the honest people coming to rescue, but not always in ti There’s Little Nell, an orphan, and her grandfather says, “she shall be rich one of these days, and a fine lady.” They are devoted to one another, and as the story unfolds, we see that Nell is the most devoted. The girl cares for the old man, and when they leave the shop she leads him on their journey. The narrative is full of picturesque and amazing characters, vivid images of city life and nature, with the villains plotting cunningly and the honest people coming to rescue, but not always in time, unfortunately. Nell meets various people and thinks of their destinies, of life and death. Where they, her early days of peace and home comfort? She endures hardships and grows in understanding that suffering is universal. Her grandfather has a dream of making her happy, but the means he has chosen lead to destruction of both his wits and the object of his love. Thus, the sleep of reason welcomes death. This novel, though with many entertaining elements, has its lesson: devotion and love are not protected from false ideas and fatal actions.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So I've done it, I've finished The Old Curiosity Shop, and I have to say I was very surprised. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I found there was a great deal more to this story than the trials and tribulations of Nell and her grandfather. The truth is, you could’ve edited them completely out and still had a perfectly serviceable novel, filled with interesting characters and fascinating period detail written by someone who’d lived in that time and seen it with his own eyes. Though mu So I've done it, I've finished The Old Curiosity Shop, and I have to say I was very surprised. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I found there was a great deal more to this story than the trials and tribulations of Nell and her grandfather. The truth is, you could’ve edited them completely out and still had a perfectly serviceable novel, filled with interesting characters and fascinating period detail written by someone who’d lived in that time and seen it with his own eyes. Though much of the fascination in the story, for me, was their long journey through the English countryside. I felt like a tourist visiting another era. First, I think I’ll address the big issue: the death of Nell. Of course, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you knew what you were in for and Dickens delivers. That particular spoiler was handed to me by the World Book Encyclopedia when I was a kid and, as a result, I never planned to read this one. Nevertheless, here I am and it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Sure there was tons of sentimentality and melodrama, not to mention enough foreshadowing for ten novels, but all of this is cushioned by the fact that Nell isn’t really a fully rounded character. This is odd since she’s supposed to be the main character of this novel, yet she comes across as a kind of construct designed to embody all the virtues that were so lionized in that era. Unlike many others such as the poet Algernon Swinburne, who called Nell "a monster as inhuman as a baby with two heads," I didn’t dislike Nell. There is much about her that reminds me of the woman I married, who’s as uncompromisingly good as anyone I’ve ever met and I’m a very lucky man as a result. (You bet your backside I’m bragging.) I felt for Nell, but the inevitability of her death made it easier to bear when it finally happened, though, I have to say it, this could’ve been a perfectly good novel without killing her off. There is much about this story that, I think, says a great deal about the rather queer relationship the people had with death back then. They were surrounded by it, and a large family could expect that a significant percentage of their children would not make it to adulthood. I’m not saying we have a healthy relationship with death today, we’re mostly in denial about it, but the seeming a love affair they had with it back then seems bizarre, like a peculiar kind of Stockholm syndrome. I was particularly annoyed when Dickens sermonized, after Nell was buried, about how good things grow from the death of the young and virtuous. I really wanted to smack him upside the head and say, “Really Charles? That’s your justification for this? Young people die every day and I guarantee you nothing good comes from it. Ever! So you can just stuff the sanctimonious preaching.” Quilp seems like an odd sort of villain, a cartoonishly evil, vertically challenged psychopath who is so transparent in his bad motives that it’s hard to understand how he could succeed at his dirty dealing. The only thing he actually does in the course of the book that appears to make him any money is when he takes possession of the shop and sells off its contents, something any banker would have done under the same circumstances. Most of his efforts seem to be about spreading misery and suffering with no real profit to himself beyond the fact that he enjoys inflicting misery and suffering. He isn’t even chiefly responsible for Nell’s downfall. That privilege belongs to her loving grandfather. Nell would’ve been better off if her grandfather had dropped dead of a stroke years before. She’d have been sad, but better off. That idiot ruined everything by deciding that he wasn't rich enough and the answer was to gamble! That’s right because everyone knows that habitual gamblers do nothing but get rich. And what’s with all the thees and thous? Did he know what century he was in? Did he know his own name? Did he have a name? This fool ruined Nell’s life and eventually ended it with one bad decision after another. It was never made clear to me why he felt it was necessary for him and Nell to sneak away in the night after Quilp had evicted them. Did he think they were going to be prevented from leaving? I can understand Nell wanting to get away from Quilp after he suggested that he’d like to make her wife number two after he eliminated his first wife, but even he said that would likely be years away so I don’t see what the hurry was. Despite all that, I liked many of the characters in this book. Kit was every bit as good a person as Nell was while being a well-rounded character to boot. I was happy for him and Barbara. Dick Swiveller was unpromising at first but rounded into form later in the novel and I came to like him a lot. I also found the Marchioness to be a fascinating character in her own right. An entire novel could’ve been built around her and her odd circumstances. I didn’t care much for some of the nineteen-century attitudes displayed in this novel. The idea that inner evil is reflected by physical ugliness while inner virtue is reflected by physical beauty is suggested by the way Quilp and Nell are portrayed. Also, the idea that Sampson Brass’s spinelessness is a feminine trait while his sister’s inner steel is a masculine one is patently misogynistic. Still, when you’re looking at the values of a different era you have to take the good with the bad. We’re not so perfect ourselves. All in all, I enjoyed this book. It’s an unexpected gem. Some of the characters I found here will stay with me for a long time. I recommend this one if you don’t mind a bit of turbocharged nineteenth-century style sentimentality. I’m a bit of a softy myself, so I can handle it, at least up to a point.

  27. 4 out of 5

    TheSkepticalReader

    More so like a 2.5 star. It’s a bit stereotypical and I felt like Dickens never fully did Nell justice in the end. And the dwarf being the obvious evil dude is also eye roll worthy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This is a wonderfully enjoyable book. The classic Dickens formula is put to work: good vs. evil, hardship, the sad reality of real life, the journey, the secret, the bittersweet happy ending. All this equation performed amongst a myriad of extremely colorful characters and scenes so pictographic in description and prose that the landscape seems to pop up out of the book and play out in animation before the eyes. Dickens has such a way with his characters. They are always to the extreme. When the This is a wonderfully enjoyable book. The classic Dickens formula is put to work: good vs. evil, hardship, the sad reality of real life, the journey, the secret, the bittersweet happy ending. All this equation performed amongst a myriad of extremely colorful characters and scenes so pictographic in description and prose that the landscape seems to pop up out of the book and play out in animation before the eyes. Dickens has such a way with his characters. They are always to the extreme. When they are good, they are syrup sticky good. When they are evil, they are the devil himself. When they are ridiculous, which quite a few are, you find Dickens is the real original classical king of comedy. In 10th grade “The Old Curiosity Shop” was on the list of classical reading for the second semester at my school. Everyone said, when you get to Mr.___’s class you will love reading, “The Old Curiosity Shop”. Imagine my surprise when it was my turn with the famed Mr.____ and he decided we should read Tolstoy. Through the years I sort of forgot about its existence until I saw PBS Masterpiece theater was airing a movie version. I thought, great I will DVR it, read the book and compare. I read the book with excitement and enjoyment always with the movie as the reward in the end on my mind. I figuratively became the director and cast my favorite British actors as the infamous characters. I imagined the action and the comedy. In my mind’s eye, I saw the competed film and it was wonderful. Comical! I couldn’t understand why it had taken me so long to read this book. Upon finishing the book, I rushed to sit and watch this PBS Masterpiece. The host introduced it. The introduction proceeded. A scene came up, people moved and spoke. I stopped the player and rewound it to make sure I was watching the correct film? It was, to my extreme dismay, absolutely nothing like the Dickens masterpiece. I think it actually was a mockery and disservice. If I was Dickens I’d roll over. If I was an actor and given that script, I’d thrust it back into the hands previously given this horrible farce of an object and say in my best British accent, “No, Sir! I most certainly will not do any such thing!” Grandfather was not a feeble addict. Nell wasn’t an angel lead by the love of a delirious old fool. Swiveller (my favorite character) looked like a Jack Sparrow reject and he was not nearly as drunk or ridiculous as written to be. Sally was thoughtful? What? Brass was not as sniveling. Kit was weak and missing his big honest heart. Mrs. Quilp was not pathetic and Quilp himself was not as evil, small or demonish. Also, a whole gang of other interesting and vital characters and adventures were lost, I assume to the cutting room floor. How dare they? How very dare they make a mockery and sad display of such a masterpiece of great literature. I thought the purpose of film was to convey stories in the book into a visual representation from the words, through the mind’s eye, into a real touchable world. In this case, Dickens needs no modern day distortion. He has conveyed without mistake, without any of our new fangled devices, with only his pen a picture and experience single handedly. I don’t regret the movie, only because it motivated me to read this wonderful book that I had quite forgotten about. This is a must read for a lifetime. I enjoyed every moment. Do give yourself time to stop and revel in the experience of it. Five Stars!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I felt as bedraggled as Nell by the end which was horrid by the way.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    Oh, the unique characters in this novel - from one spectrum of lovely and sweet to the opposite pole of hideous and and evil; and, a great garden variety in between. This is what stands out in my mind most when I think of The Old Curiosity Shop —the characters. Charles Dickens picks the most clever names for his cast! Richard (Dick) Swiveller, Mr. Cheggs, Miss Wackles, Mr. Chuckster, Kit Nubbles, Little Nell (who has become famous) - Quilp - where did he get this name! All these names match their Oh, the unique characters in this novel - from one spectrum of lovely and sweet to the opposite pole of hideous and and evil; and, a great garden variety in between. This is what stands out in my mind most when I think of The Old Curiosity Shop —the characters. Charles Dickens picks the most clever names for his cast! Richard (Dick) Swiveller, Mr. Cheggs, Miss Wackles, Mr. Chuckster, Kit Nubbles, Little Nell (who has become famous) - Quilp - where did he get this name! All these names match their personalities so well. Little Nell is probably the most famous in association with The Old Curiosity Shop. She is a sweet, innocent, physically frail, BUT savvy girl, about 14 years old, as the story starts, who loves her grandfather unconditionally! The descriptions of her and the grandfather traversing across the country together are etched in my memory forever. From beautiful, warm and sunny country scenes to the unbearably cold and rainy, dismally-decayed city scenes. Ah, and Kit Nubbles is another special soul you cannot help but fall in love with. He lives with his mother, brother (little Jacob) and baby in a very poor part of town. But, Kit is a very positive boy and sees good in everything and most everyone. He has his heart set on Little Nell from the beginning and the dialogue between the two is so beautiful. This paragraph below is a piece that depicts her heart for Kit - and, this paragraph is the essence of both their sentiments of life. “It was natural enough that her short and unfinished dialogue with Kit should leave a strong impression on her mind, and influence her dreams that night and her recollections for a long, long time. Surrounded by unfeeling creditors, and mercenary attendance upon the sick, and meeting in the height of her anxiety and sorrow with little regard or sympathy even from the women about her, it is not surprising that the affectionate heart of the child should have been touched to the quick by one kind and generous spirit, however uncouth the temple in which it dwelt. Thank heaven that the temples of such spirits are not made with hands, and that they may be more worthily hung with poor patchwork than with purple and fine linen!” Quilp! Quilp is the hideous and treacherous dwarf! The villain of this story. Ironically, he is married to a lovely girl (both inside and out.) Interesting how Charles Dickens maneuvered this matrimony which depicts spousal abuse to the enth degree. Yes, Quilp is quite evil. By the way, I thought of an actor who could play Quilp pretty darn well. For those who remember Danny DeVito in Taxi - let me see - his character name was Louie de Palma - ah, yes, the bully, the rogue - ah, yes- he could play Quilp quite perfectly; impeccably! I read that Tom Courtenay played Quilp in the Disney made for television version. Don’t know why they did not think of Louie. Like I said, Quilp is the villain in the story, but other characters within are just this - Characters! This story is almost a tongue in cheek with much of the descriptions of these persons. There is Sally Brass who works in the law office Bevis Marks, with her brother, Sampson. Dickens takes two pages to describe Sally. It is hilarious. Here are a couple of the lines: “In face she bore a striking resemblance to her brother, Sampson —so exact, indeed, was the likeness between them, that had it consorted with Miss Brass‘ maiden modesty and gentle womanhood to have assumed her brother’s clothes in a frolic and sat down beside him, it would have been difficult for the oldest friend of the family to determine which was Sampson and which Sally, especially as the lady carried upon her upper lip certain reddish demonstrations, which, if the imagination had been assisted by her attire, might have been mistaken for a beard. These were, however, in all probability, nothing more than eyelashes In the wrong place, as the eyes of Miss Brass were quite free from any such natural impertinencies.” And, while reading, the funniest part that came to me is when a police constable (a normal folk off the street) comes around and his thoughts of Miss Sally Brass - in one sentence-“he looked at Miss Sally Brass as if in some doubt whether she might not be a griffin or other fabulous monster”. I laughed out loud on this one. Then, there is Richard Swiveller (or Dick). What a funny fellow this chap is. He is brought in from the beginning of the story and has a connection with Quilp, the scoundrel. You will read about Dick throughout the novel. Great twists and turns with this character! Here is a sample of him speaking to Quilp: “Well,” said Richard Swiveller, stopping short in the act of raising the glass to his lips and looking at the dwarf in a species of stupor as he flourished his arms and legs about: “you’re a jolly fellow, but of all the jolly fellows I ever saw or heard of, you have the queerest and most extraordinary way with you, upon my life you have.” Absolutely loved this book! As a whole, during this read, I actually chuckled more than I cried. There are solemn foreshadowing parts that are thought provoking, no doubt, and there were spots I had tears streaming down my face. I know I have overstated this with my review of David Copperfield but, Charles Dickens’ writing is majestic; sublime; perfect. Metaphors and personifications are so beautifully staged by Mr. Dickens within this novel. Many intricate pieces that fit together like a puzzle by the end of the story. I want to say so much more but I don’t want to give one thing away. The crackerjack surprises are what make this novel great! What gives me solace is I own “The Old Curiosity Shop”, “David Copperfield”, “Christmas Carol”, and many others of Charles Dickens’. If ever I need a good read, these will always be by my side, like a friend - to pick up and enjoy again and again, at any time. Serenity now and forever!

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