I have been remiss about posting my book reviews lately. I finished Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens, a few weeks ago.
Here is a quick plot summary. Martin Chuzzlewit senior is the grandfather to Martin Chuzzlewit. Martin senior is a cranky old man who is well off and greedy. He spends most of his time hiding from family members who want his money. He employs an orphan named Mary to be his nursemaid and tells her that while he is alive she will be looked after, but not to expect anything from him in his will. His grandson, Martin, falls in love with Mary. When Martin senior finds out he disinherits the younger Martin.
Young Martin apprentices himself to Seth Pecksniff, who is also a relative. Pecksniff maintains that he is an architect, however, he prefers taking the money from his students and have them do his work and then he claims that the work of his students is actually his own. Pecksniff takes in Martin to collect more money and to develop closer ties to the rich grandfather in hopes that he will be in the will.
However, the grandfather informs Pecksniff that young Martin is a rascal for falling in love with Mary and wants the tutor to kick Martin out. Pecksniff has no issues doing so since he really only wants the older man’s money. The younger Martin ends up moving to America, with Mark Tapley. Martin believes that America is the place for him to seek a fortune so he can return to England and marry the woman he loves. However, life in America proves to be disastrous. He doesn’t make his fortune and his survival is threatened. What will become of both Martins, Pecksniff, and all of the family and friends embroiled in this story and about selfishness and greed?
This is just a brief summary of the novel. At first when I started this novel I was a little disappointed. After reading and enjoying Nicholas Nickleby so much I thought that this novel would also knock my socks off. However this wasn’t the case. In fact, I found the first few hundred pages, my copy is 802 pages, to be somewhat slow and my reading took much longer than anticipated. But I persevered and I’m glad I did since I ended up liking it. It wasn’t as wonderful as other novels I’ve read by Dickens, but it has its own merit. The author actually thought that this novel was one of his better ones but it has been one of his least popular works with the public. I can see why. While it is good, it isn’t great. And a lot of people, me included, expect all novels by Dickens to be great.
One of the best aspects of this novel is the supporting cast of characters. Dickens is a master of character development and descriptions and this novel is more proof.
I loved this description of Mrs. Gamp:
“The face of Mrs. Gamp- the nose in particular – was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits.”
Mrs. Gamp is an alcoholic who is hired to take care of the sick. One night she is looking after a young man who is gravely ill. “Ah!” said Mrs. Gamp, walking away from the bed, “he’d make a lovely corpse.”
Another memorable character is Nadgett.
“He was a short, dried-up, withered old man, who seemed to have secreted his very blood; for nobody would have given him credit for the possession of six ounces of it in his whole body. How he lived was a secret; where he lived was a secret; and even what he was, was a secret.”
Nadgett is an informant for his employer. And his employer is actually a con artist.
If you are a huge fan of Dickens I would suggest this book. However, if you are looking for suggestions on where to start, I would direct you to other works since this may not be the greatest example of how well he can craft a story.
This novel counts towards several of my reading challenges, which include: A Classics Challenge, The Classics Club, The Tea and Book Challenge, and my own personal goal to read ten novels by Dickens
This is one of his I have never read. I have always been put off by the title. Thanks for the review. I think I will continue not to read it as there are so many other books in the world.
You probably won’t miss out too much. Not many people want to wait 300 pages for something in the story to pique their interest. I love Dickens, but this wasn’t my fave. I still enjoyed it, but I can see why others don’t.
It’s great that he pays so much attention to his secondary characters and Mrs Gamps sounds like quite a character.. I still haven’t decided which will be my first Dickens but I’m quite sure after having read your review that it will and shouldn’t be this one.
At present I have narrowed down the choice to three
Great Expectations or
A Tale of Two Cities
Bleak House is next on my list…and it is massive. I loved Great Expectations when I read it in school. And Tale of Two Cities is further down the list for this year. I know it isn’t on your list, but I started David Copperfield a couple of days ago and I’m loving it. As soon as I read the first paragraph I knew I would love the novel.
Mrs. Gamp is a great character…he has so many wonderful characters that I love to hate. I marvel over his attention to detail.
Not trying to sway you, but A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite. 🙂
Thanks for letting me know. I’m reading an amazing short story collection by an Irish authors Orflaith Folye and she took one of the main charcatres from a Tale of Two Cities and turned her into a fictional charcater in one of her stories. Very well done and that’s how I discovered that it might be a good starting point for me.
I should look into that story before I read Tale of Two Cities. What’s the name of the short story, if you don’t mind my asking.
I’ve never read this one and may have to pass on it permanently. I admire your fortitude for sticking with it! If I don’t love a book after 100 pages, I’m on to something else. So many books, so little….
Trust me I understand. But when I started this reading project I promised I would finish all of the books. And I hate not knowing how a book ends. Fortunately this one picked up…or the final 500 pages would have been oh so tedious.
I’ve read most of Dickens’ “popular” stuff, so perhaps I’ll dig into this.
That said, no matter how hard life gets, at least I’ll never wake up with the name Chuzzlewit.
I would love to know what you think of it since you are familiar with his novels. And yes, what a horrible name. I love the names he came up with for his characters. He has some great ones…and then there is Chuzzlewit.
I applaud your perseverance, my friend!
Good luck on achieving your goals. The book you described, ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, sounds like it would be an interesting read, except 802 pages? Who has time? Still, it sounds like the plot would be intriguing … and typical of the scoundrels running around today. 🙂
Many of his books are massive. I’m amazed that he could write such stories before the age of computers. I can’t even imagine the editing process without my computer.
The story is good once it got going 🙂
I need to read more of Dickens. Thanks for the summary!
I really enjoy his novels…this wasn’t my fave, but it still good.
Haven’t heard or read this one! Suppose I’ll read one day.
I hadn’t heard of it either until I saw it on the list. If you like Dickens I think you will like this one. Just be patient 🙂
Ooooh. I’m currently reading Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair (alongside two other novels, ugh!), and Martin Chuzzlewit has been mentioned quite a lot. Hmmm… I should probably check this out too when we look into possibilities of doing a classics theme sometime in the distant future. 🙂
Thanks for letting me know…Now I need to read The Eyre Affair. Several other people have suggested it and I love reading novels that mention novels that I’ve read.
A classics theme…you know I’m interested!
I think I’d need to be transported back in time to find my favorite high school lit teacher to help me translate this novel like she did with A Tale of Two Cities…..one of my favorites by the way!
If you find her, can she help me as well? I’m looking forward to A Tale of Two Cities.