Book Review: The Old Curiosity Shop

Old Curiosity ShopThe Old Curiosity ShopThe Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens

My book club’s pick for January, and I only finished reading the book in May. Any urgency I felt to finish the book vanished when I knew I’d never manage before the meetup, and I read a summary of the plot events to see what happened with the story. I was still determined to finish the book, but found it was hard to get myself motivated to actually do the reading.

I’m amazed when I consider the book as it was published – a serial, and Dickens’ didn’t write the entire book in advance and then simply publish it a couple of chapters at a time; instead he published it almost as he wrote it, and so events that take place later in the story have to work with events that have already been written. My mind boggles at the plotting difficulties such a publishing schedule causes.

The publication frequency also explains some of the overly repetitious details – if it’s been two weeks since the last section was published, some refreshing of the readers’ minds might be in order. And the grotesque descriptions of some of the characters also makes sense, when they have to remain vivid for the reader.

As a serial publication, I’m impressed with Dickens’ work. As a novel that I read for the story, I’m much less impressed. I’m glad I read it, but don’t know that I’d really recommend it.

If you do read it, I highly recommend reading it in the sections as it was published. The copy I’ve linked to includes an asterisk that marks the publication breaks, but my Kindle copy did not have anything to mark the breaks. Reading too much at a time ends up highlighting the repetitive and tedious parts, but reading it in small doses spaced out helps make the story much more enjoyable. The copy I’ve linked to also includes some great illustrations that add a lot to the book. The text is available for free via Kindle, but you’ll miss the illustrations. If I’d only had the free Kindle copy, I doubt I’d have finished it, but I’d be surprised if most libraries didn’t have a copy available to borrow so I’d definitely suggest trying that.

Publisher’s Description:
The sensational bestselling story of Little Nell, the beautiful child thrown into a shadowy, terrifying world, seems to belong less to the history of the Victorian novel than to folklore, fairy tale, or myth. The sorrows of Nell and her grandfather are offset by Dickens’s creation of a dazzling contemporary world inhabited by some of his most brilliantly drawn characters-the eloquent ne’er-do-well Dick Swiveller; the hungry maid known as the “Marchioness”; the mannish lawyer Sally Brass; Quilp’s brow-beaten mother-in-law; and Quilp himself, the lustful, vengeful dwarf, whose demonic energy makes a vivid counterpoint to Nell’s purity.

Book Details

Title: The Old Curiosity ShopThe Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
Author: Charles Dickens
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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  1. […] from a 1200+ page book. It’s pretty easy to tell that it was serialized, but unlike with The Old Curiousity Shop, the repetative nature of the story that seems to encourage didn’t bother me as much in this […]

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