The Life & Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Whew!  I finally finished my second novel by Charles Dickens.  Eight more to go this year.  I had hoped to finish this novel in February, but it took me three extra days.  The novel is 796 pages long and I read it for one of my challenges, The Tea and Books Reading Challenge.  This challenge involves reading novels over 700 pages.   With this novel, I completed the first of six chunksters I have selected for the year.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby was Dickens’ third novel.  Nicholas is a young man who has to take care of his sister and mom after his father dies.  His father had lost all his money after making several unwise investments leaving Nicholas, his wife, and daughter destitute.  Nicholas heads to London with both of them to ask for help from his uncle and his dad’s brother.  Uncle Ralph decides instantly that Nicholas will not be successful in life.  Ralph is a cruel businessman who does not wish to help his only relatives.   The uncle does help Nicholas get a job as assistant to Wackford Squeers, who owns and operates a school for boys in Yorkshire.  However, Squeers is a cruel teacher who takes in unwanted boys and abuses and starves the boys knowing that there will not be any repercussions.  Nicholas cannot stand the cruel treatment of the boys and finally snaps, attacks Squeers, and then runs away.  Ralph hears of this event and soon after he becomes Nicholas’ enemy.  Nicholas has to find a way to survive without his uncle’s aid and money.  In addition, he has to outmaneuver his uncle who wants to destroy him.

From the description above, you might assume that the novel is overly depressing.  In fact, the novel is quite humorous.  Dickens has such a knack for writing social satire that I couldn’t help from laughing out loud on several occasions.  Also, he has such lovable characters and wonderful scoundrels that you love to hate.  I kept cheering on Nicholas and wishing for his uncle to fall flat on his face.  This novel solidified his reputation and it was the first time he included a romance in the story.

Before starting my project to read ten novels by Dickens, I had never heard of this novel.  After reading it, I’m ashamed to admit that.  In fact, during his time, the novel was published in installments.  The public could not wait for the next one to be released and some of the installments were pirated as soon as he completed them.  This novel is such a great addition to his works.  And I’m glad that I finally “discovered” it.

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 ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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27 Responses to The Life & Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

  1. niasunset says:

    And as I learned now there is film too, based on this novel… You know dear TBM, I should read them again… I am exciting for going back and read them again these classical books… But I am afraid I am not a good reader of books… I can’t find time in these days. But I remember, it was great enjoy for me to read his books… How will hit me in my today’s mind when I read them again, to be honest I wonder. About Charles Dickens what is in my mind mostly, his cat love… How he becomes a cat lover… How his daugther cat made him to love them… I am glad you finished to read these books… I love UK and old days of her too… Seems to me so romantic… I want to watch this film too. Thank you dear TBM, have a nice day and enjoyable readings, with my love, nia

    • TBM says:

      It would be interesting to reread his works again later in life, but that would be quite a commitment. His novels are so long and you can’t breeze through them. They take time to process. I didn’t know that he loved cats. I’ll have to pay close attention to the rest of the novels. Also, I have a biography on him that I plan on reading once I finish his novels. The novels are fun to read in the UK. I love when he describes parts of London that I’ve been too. I can picture the characters and the setting. Thanks Nia! Have a great day.

      • niasunset says:

        Of course to read them in the same city where these novels passed or written, should be so exciting and also should be adding a special feeling too… I wished to be there too. As I told before, I love old days of this country… seems so romantic to me. Hope you have a nice day, you are welcome and thank you, with my love, nia

  2. fgassette says:

    Thank you for sharing your narrative on this book. I have never read it, but you have made me want to find a copy and become absorbed in it as well.


    • TBM says:

      It is easy to get absorbed in it! He sucks you into the story and into the lives of his characters. I love Dickens and his writing. If you read it, I hope you enjoy!

  3. Caroline says:

    I think it is not ususally the book people think of when they think of Dickens. It sounds interesting, I like what you say about the characters, those one loves to hate and the likable ones.
    Who knows maybe I will read my first Dickens this year. I decided that should i read such a long book I would post several times about it.

    • TBM says:

      He really knows how to develop his characters. His bad guys are so delightful. I feel myself really hating them and wanting to see their fall. I would love to follow your progress as you make your way through a Dickens novel. I think his writing would draw you in and you might forget about the amount of pages.

  4. You’ve made me want to go back and read more Dickens. He’s such a master at portraying the down and out.

  5. Geoff W says:

    I’ve got two Dickens novels I’m hoping to squeeze in this year since it’s his 200th, but I haven’t committed to them (yet). But congrats on denting the Tea & Books Challenge! I’ve definitely burned out and am taking a break before I tackle the last two or three.

    • TBM says:

      I bet you need a break…you’ve been on a roll. Do you know which Dickens you want to read? Some of his novels are smaller. We might be reading the same ones this year.

  6. Fergiemoto says:

    I’ve heard of it but haven’t read it. Looks like I will need to put it on my list. Thanks for the summary!

  7. This is one I really must read, thanks for reminding me of it.

  8. Bridget says:

    This sounds better than other Dickens novels I’ve read! I hated to read anything by Dickens in high school, but maybe it won’t be so bad now that I’m older. I always found them depressing, though (specifically Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities), so it’s good to hear that this one is actually funny! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      There are depressing things that happen, but mostly I found it humorous. I liked his approach to the story and I love his use of satire.

  9. Happy bicentennial Charles Dickens! All of his work is great but sometimes I need a dictionary to understand all of the words – an example of our education system at work.

    • TBM says:

      His vocabulary is impressive. It saddens me that people in today’s world, including myself, don’t use words like him. He sure had a love for them.

  10. robert87004 says:

    Dickens is one awesome storyteller, for sure.

  11. Jackie Cangro says:

    I’ve never read this one either. I read A Tale of Two Cities a long time ago and I’d like to read Great Expectations, but I haven’t been able to muster the focus necessary to get through it. There was a comment earlier about reading Dickens at different points in your life. I bet that if I reread A Tale of Two Cities now I would come away with a new appreciation for it.

    What is next on your Classics list?

    • TBM says:

      I’ve started another Dickens. I’m about 300 pages into Martin Chuzzlewit. I’m enjoying it, but so far it isn’t as funny as Nicholas Nickleby. I still have about 500 pages so I’m hoping it picks up a little.

      A Tale of Two Cities is on my list for later this year.

  12. I’ve always loved Dickens – there is a fluidity to his writing and such joy in the writing of the words that you know you’re taken cared of as a reader – since the writer evidently knows what he’s doing and where he’s taking you. Now I miss Dickens more. 🙂

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