Sunday, July 29, 2012
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
I thought I had read all of the great Dickens novels: Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations; and while I knew I wanted to read Little Dorrit to work towards completing my Dickens novels, I had no idea this would be so good. Yes, Little Dorrit deserves its place on the top shelf of Dickens' works.
Dickens is angry in this book: angry about debtor's prison, angry about governmental bureaucracy (how not to get things done), angry about financial corruption. His anger is ameliorated by the presence of two of the best characters: Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam. While Little Dorrit may be seen as too good to be true and Arthur as too oblivious to be worthwhile, each brings their goodness to bear on the situations of the truly poor and misused.
We also get to see a part of England not often mentioned -- the travelers to the Continent, particularly Italy, and the communities they create there,
Dickens anger is sometimes masked by the comic situations and characters with which he populates his novels. Characters who change names (or sometimes remain unnamed) are identifiable by their quirky personal tics (his nose went down and his mustache went up). There is a scene of a house collapse that rivals Dickens' use of spontaneous combustion.
All in all, I was charmed by Little Dorrit. While long, it is well worth reading. For a later book with some of the same themes try Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now.