Phew. There is nothing little about this book. It runs 860 pages in the Penguin Classics edition, not including an introduction, notes, and appendixes. I really like Dickens, but I never finish one of his novels and think "Hey, that could've been longer." I've been slowly working my way through his novels and while every stereotype about him (sentimental, long-winded, a bit corny) is true, I've found his novels are deeper, more complex, and more socially engaged than I once thought. He was particularly aware of the failures of society to take care of the poor, disenfranchised, and imprisoned. His own father was imprisoned for debt and prison is both literal and metaphoric is this novel. One of his faults I think is that he was far better at creating supporting characters than lead characters and the title character, like many of his females, is nice, but a bit dull. It is an exhausting read, but also rewarding. He wrote it serially, as he did many of his novels, but it was published in book form in 1857. Look for an edition with the original illustrations.
Recently returned to London after spending twenty years abroad working in China, Arthur Clennam finds himself taking an interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and her father, William Dorrit, a long-time inmate, due to his debts, in the Marshalsea Prison. As Arthur befriends Little Dorrit, he encounters a wide cast of characters on whom the shadow of the Marshalsea falls. While there are dark and conniving characters and others whom are simply superficial and flawed, Little Dorrit remains constant and is the impetus for far more changes in his life than Arthur ever could have imagined.
Charles Dickens, for all his flaws, knew how to create a compelling novel. While there's no denying that he created some hefty tomes (my edition of the novel comes in at 860 pages), they are filled with rich characters and expansive and intricately detailed plots. In this novel, Dickens begins with a mystery that slowly unravels over the course of the narrative, shedding new light on relationships and characters but always leaving the reader wondering just where the plot might be going. The characters are vivid from Amy Dorrit's diminutive stature to Pancks and his hair that defies gravity to Rigaud with his terrifying smile. And while Little Dorrit is very demure as all of Dickens' idealized heroines are, she still has an independent spirit that is never quite subdued regardless of her circumstance. In addition to the plots and characters, Dickens includes some truly delightful turns of phrase. His wit comes through in a multitude of places, whether he be ranting about the general ineffectualness of government or describing a character with a healthy dose of snark. Full of sympathetic characters and a plot that pulls you on to discover what will happen to all of them, Little Dorrit also explores the long-term effects of imprisonment and poverty on the psyche with pathos. A delight throughout, the novel will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you reach the final page.
I really loved this book, it's now one of my favourites. All the subplots get nicely tied up, which is always important to me. This is my first Dickens book, and I hope all the other ones are like this.
Love the wit of Dickens! *for those who don't care for reading...the BBC adaptation is faithful to the book. Of course there are a few things out of order and slightly different, but over all well done.
I really had trouble following all the sub-plots. It was good to read other reviews on the book because I think a 2nd reading would have been required to get a full understanding of all the sub-plots. I still enjoyed the book immensely and will read it again. I watched the BBC drama of Little Dorrit and I am reading the book for the second time and enjoying it even more. The governments of today seem little changed from that of Dickens time.
I love Dickens' writing. I highly recommend this book.
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