Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
Publish Date: 1838
Published by: Open Road Media (Kindle Edition), Richard Bentley (original)
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)
Synopsis (taken from the Barnes & Noble edition):
One of Dickens’s most popular novels, Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan who dares to say, “Please, sir, I want some more.” After escaping from the dark and dismal workhouse where he was born, Oliver finds himself on the mean streets of Victorian-era London and is unwittingly recruited into a scabrous gang of scheming urchins. In this band of petty thieves Oliver encounters the extraordinary and vibrant characters who have captured readers’ imaginations for more than 150 years: the loathsome Fagin, the beautiful and tragic Nancy, the crafty Artful Dodger, and perhaps one of the greatest villains of all time—the terrifying Bill Sikes.
Rife with Dickens’s disturbing descriptions of street life, the novel is buoyed by the purity of the orphan Oliver. Though he is treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most of his life, his pious innocence leads him at last to salvation—and the shocking discovery of his true identity.
I know the Dickens is known for being tedious with words, but this book took forever for me to read. I loved A Tale of Two Cities when I read it in school, but maybe because there was some actual intrigue and plot that one was just more interesting to me. This one just dragged on, filled with useless plot points about characters I did not care about, whose connections and actions, while in the end led to the secrets of Oliver’s parentage being revealed, felt so removed from Oliver himself and took so long to explain that I sometimes began to wonder why it was called “Oliver Twist” when he barely did anything in his own life. Everything just happened to him. The only time he really did anything himself to further his own story was in the beginning, and everything after that was a result of someone else’s actions.
Oliver himself was quite annoying. He was honestly a little too “good” for me, always crying over everything and loving everyone who was nice to him, and being so cheerful and hopeful and praying for everyone that I wanted to gag. I wished to see some other sort of emotion from him – some anger towards Fagin, or at his circumstances, or anything except the unending self-pity he seemed to constantly have. And all of the other characters were so one-dimensional in their personalities and emotions it was frustrrating. I think the only character I really enjoyed and who showed somme depth and character growth was Nancy, who struggled with doing what she was told and what she knew to be right.
I also know that this was written in the 1800s and that people were more open about their anti-Semitism back then, but why is it that Fagin is almost always referred to as “the Jew,” and that other Jews in the book are all evil and somehow easily recognizeable as being a Jew? It just made me cringe and my stomach turn every time I saw that word on the page, because it was always being associated with some distasteful.
Overall, I am glad to be finally done this book, which I had picked up because I both wanted to read more of the classics and also know the full story before picking up a retelling of it (which I don’t know for sure if I will now). I am proud that I kept going with it, but I can say for sure that it is not one of my favorites.
Beat the Backlist 2018 | Books Completed Toward Goal: 8/20