I did it! I set out to read ten novels my Dickens in 2012. By the end of the year I had finished nine of them. Last week I finished the tenth. As you can see from the photo, there were many pages involved. I actually haven’t added them up, but it’s safe to say that I read thousands of pages. Do I regret embarking on this project? Absolutely not. To be honest, I’m a little sad that it’s over. There are still novels by Dickens that I haven’t read, but I have completed all of his novels on the 1001 list.
The last book on the list is Our Mutual Friend. Fittingly, it was the last novel that Dickens completed. Like many of his other works, the plot revolves around money, the poor, and social inequality. However, this one delved deeper into the plights of the poor. His insights are alarming, not because he thought the way he did, but because he was actually describing living situations and beliefs of his time. His descriptions tugged on my heart and made me angry.
A quick plot summary: John Harmon’s father has died. The will stipulates that John has to marry Bella Wilfer or he won’t get any of the money. And there’s lots of money involved. At the time of his father’s death, John is abroad. During his voyage back to England and to Bella, he’s believed to be drowned, possibly murdered. This suspicion plays an integral role in the novel, most especially for John. I’m going to let you in on a secret. If you don’t want to know it, stop reading. I should mention that the secret is pretty obvious in the book, but I still want to warn people who hate any type of spoiler. John isn’t dead. He doesn’t correct the belief that he is dead so he can get to know Bella, the woman he is supposed to marry, but he has never met her.
Like many of his novels, his cast of characters includes a wide array of folks: evil plotters, ignorant ones, simple-minded, murderers, kind, lovable, and many more. While I enjoyed this novel, it was not my favorite. I would recommend it for those who already know they like Dickens. His scrutiny of his own society is illuminating. For those who haven’t read him yet, I wouldn’t suggest starting with this one. It’s good, but it won’t show you his true brilliance. And I don’t think it will hook you on his storytelling abilities. Instead start with Great Expectations, David Copperfield, or Bleak House. Or if you want a short one, A Christmas Carol.
Many of you know that my project this year is to travel more via books, which means to read novels from all over the world, not just from America or England. However, I can’t ignore English writers completely. Jane Austen has six novels on the 1001 list. I’ve already read Pride and Prejudice for my 1001 project. I intended to read all of her novels closer together. But when I found out in 2011 that I was moving to London I decided to wait and read them while living in England. So folks, in addition to reading works from all over, I hope to read the remaining five Austen novels this year. Thank goodness she didn’t write such large books like Dickens. I don’t think this goal will be too hard to manage. However, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We’ll find out in December if I’m successful. One project done, on to the next one. Happy reading folks!