Oliver Twist–The First of Ten

I remember the first novel I purchased by Charles Dickens for my own enjoyment and not for school.  I was vacationing near Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I completed the books I brought sooner than anticipated.  I wandered into a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Pickwick Papers.  I loved the novel.  Previously, I had read Great Expectations in school and again I enjoyed the novel.  Somehow I lost my way.  I didn’t pick up any other copies of his works.

When I started my 1001 novels you must read project I noticed that Dickens had ten novels on the list.  Only one other author, J. M. Coetzee, matches Dickens record.  I decided to start a Dickens project.  Then I heard that we were moving to England and I thought that was the perfect time to work on my project.  I decided to read all ten on the list in one year.  I had concerns.  He writes large novels.  Would I get through them while also leaving time for other novels?  Also, would I get burned out?  I loved The Pickwick Papers, but was some of this due to the fact that I read this novel while spending time in The Tetons, one of my favorite places in the world.  Was I associating my happy memories of the novel with my memories from my vacation?

I brushed aside the concerns and joined some reading challenges to help me stick to my own project.  And now I can report that I completed the first of ten.  I no longer fear that I won’t like his writing.  I adore it.  However, I’m still worried that I won’t finish all of them this year.  But I am on track of reading one a month to give myself some wiggle room for those larger tomes.  And a couple of them are pretty short.

Oliver Twist is the second novel Dickens published.  The first was The Pickwick Papers, which was a light-hearted novel filled with comedic characters and scenes.  Oliver’s story is not.  The orphan starts off in the world living in a workhouse, where he is not shown an ounce of love by any of his caretakers.  The only person who cared for him, was another boy, named Dick.  When Oliver decides to run away from the workhouse, Dick wishes Oliver well and says God bless you.  Oliver is surprised by his words.  “The blessing was from a young child’s lips, but it was the first that Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through the struggles and sufferings, and troubles and changes, of his after life, he never once forgot it.”

The young orphan decides to walk to London.  Along the way he meets Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger.  The innocent Oliver is seduced by the Dodger’s claim that he knows a man who will feed him and give him a place to sleep.  What Oliver does not realize is that the Artful Dodger is a criminal who is taking him into a den of thieves headed by Fagin.  At first Oliver thinks that the residents in the home make handkerchiefs.  However, one day when he joins the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates to make some he realizes that they are pickpockets.  He is stunned.  And when the two boys steal one, Oliver is mistaken by Mr. Brownlow to be the criminal.  At the police station the truth comes out and Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver home.  When Fagin learns of Oliver’s situation he is determined to get Oliver back.  Will Oliver ever be able to escape the evil Fagin for good?

Dickens novel is a scathing rebuke of the effects of the industrialized age for the poor living in 19th-century England.  His images of the suffering leave a lastly impression on the reader.  His use of satire helps drive the point home about the injustices of the Poor Laws, without repulsing the reader with one deplorable image after another.  And throughout the narrative, Oliver never succumbs to the evil he is surrounded with and stays a sweet loving boy offering the reader hope that there is still good in the world.  But will his goodness overcome the wickedness in the world?

I really enjoyed reading Oliver’s tale.  Up next is Nicholas Nickleby, the third novel by Charles Dickens.

This post is my last post for Charles Dickens Month hosted by Fig and Thistle.  It was a fun event to join and I would like to thank the host.  The writer’s 200th birthday is on February 7th.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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23 Responses to Oliver Twist–The First of Ten

  1. bibliopirate says:

    I thought I was the only person who bought dickens for fun, then again one of the last books I read was Moby Dick. So I figured I was just an odd ball.

  2. Jillian ♣ says:

    This was my first novel by Dickens (except for A Christmas Carol, which I adore.) I struggled with it, but ended up loving it in the end, because I think in the second half it redeems itself. (It’s far less dar!) I really disliked all of the street scenes and watching Oliver be jerked about. It made me feel really sad.

    But — I think the problem is me, not Dickens, and that I’d love it if I read it again. I do plan to reread eventually.

    I’m planning to read Dickens in Februart – A Tale of Two Citoes, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield.

    Enjoy your next by Dickens!

    • Jillian ♣ says:

      dar = dark / Februart = February 😉

      • TBM says:

        🙂 You plan on reading all three of those in February. Good thing there are 29 days this February. You are ambitious! Out of those I’ve only read Great Expectations and loved it. The other two are on my list, but I am trying to read them in order. I may have to break that when it comes to A Christmas Carol since I want to read that during December.

        Oliver Twist was not an easy read since Dickens really tugs at your heartstrings. He did lighten up the darkness in the second half, which may explain why I read the second half much more quickly.

        Good luck with your readings!

  3. deslily says:

    I am midway through Great Expectations right now (but not for any challenge). The only other by Dickens I’ve read (aside from Christmas Carole) is The Old Curiosity Shop. His writing makes me read slower than normal and I’m already slow! lol ..I found an old hardback copy of Pickwick Papers which is in my tbr pile along with David Copperfield and Oliver Twist but I can only read one at a time or I’d never read others as I have to give them my full attention. Just the fact that I had to be in my mid 60’s to finally read Dickens is amazing lol.. however, to be honest… I like Wilke Collins writing a touch more. I also have 2 Anthony Trollope hidden in that tbr pile ..I hope I live long enough to read them all ! lol

    • TBM says:

      His novels are not a quick read. I also am much slower when reading his works. And I’m finding you can’t pick up the novel for a few minutes at a time. He absorbs you. I haven’t read Wilke Collins yet, but many people have suggested the works to me. I hope you enjoy Great Expectations and all the others in your TBR pile! And better late then never in your discovery of Dickens.

  4. niasunset says:

    You are amazing dear TBM, I admire your reading projects… I am not as you, I mean I can’t read book regularly, everyday, I try to find time for reading. But I am so excited for books… Charles Dickens, he is one of my favurite writers… I think I can never give up to read him. But I am planning to read him this time in his original language. Thank you so much dear TBM, have a nice and enjoyable reading times, with my love, nia

    • TBM says:

      Dickens is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I hope you enjoy your English copy of Dickens. I wish you luck and happy reading!

  5. Since 2012 is a leap year, you have an extra day to read your ten Dickens novels. Perhaps, as it did for Phileas Fogg at the end of Around the World in Eighty Days, that extra day will make all the difference.

  6. Kate Kresse says:

    love dickens. did not get to read A Tale of Two Cities in January. Sounds like February will be the month for it—in honor of his 200th birthday 🙂

  7. Caroline says:

    Everybody likes another one of his novels best but since the only one I have is Great Expectations that will be my first, although I downloaded Bleak House on the kindle. I just don’t see myself reading such a long novel in /on an e-reader (which is it in or on?) .
    I started Oliver Twist as a child, not sure why I didn’t finish it. I have Polanski’s movie version here.

    • TBM says:

      I loved Great Expectations! It has been years since I read it though. My best guess is that you have Bleak House on an e-reader. But some might prefer to say in…but on sounds right to me. I need to check out the Polanski movie since you said you enjoyed it.

      • Caroline says:

        I wasn’t very precise, I haven’t watched it yet. It’s very short but then Oliver Twist isn’t one of his longest novels, right?

      • TBM says:

        For him it is shorter. My edition was 415 pages, but that included the illustrations. My next book by him is 769. I’m curious what you think about it.

  8. Lindsey says:

    I hope you like Nicholas Nickleby. It’s more sprawling that Oliver Twist – there are a ton of characters. I really enjoyed it overall, but it got a bit slow for me in the middle. Just keep going! 🙂

  9. Fergiemoto says:

    I should read this book. I’ve seen it on TV.

  10. I’ve also read Oliver Twist, years and years back. Food! Glorious Food!! 🙂

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