Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was the first Dickens book I ever finished. I had started A Tale of Two Cities and had trouble, specifically the romance made me nauseous. I had tried Oliver Twist or something similar years ago and wasn’t ready, but I was determined to finish this.
This book has been called people’s favourite, the greatest book ever written, etc, and I can’t agree with these sentiments. It was good, but there were flaws.
The good was the scope of the story. The glances into Victorian life I loved. Jenny with her crooked back and her queer legs I loved. Sloppy was great, needed more of him.
Less good were the resolution between Bella and the Boffins, the motivation of the school teacher was never really explored, and some of the characters I had no idea who they were at all, such as Tremlow.
A little too heavy on the romance, a little implausible. Could have done with more villains. I thought they were setting the lawyer up to be a villain with his impertinence to the school teacher and the brother, then they switched that, not sure why.
Some notes I made while I was reading:
why did Jenny call the elderly Jewish man “godmother”. Was he gay and a screaming queen? I searched Google for other references to calling elderly men godmother, didn’t find any.
The female school teacher is pining for the male teacher. She’s watching his house and seems a former pupil go in, a male. Then we get:
'They must find it rather dull and dark, Miss Peecher, for the parlour blind's down, and neither of them pulls it up.'
'There is no accounting,' said good Miss Peecher with a little sad sigh which she repressed by laying her hand on her neat methodical boddice, 'there is no accounting for tastes, Mary Anne.'
Which I assume is a reference to homosexuality, which I thought interesting for a book from 1865.
Finally a quote from the book about someone tasting wine which shows Dickens wonderful way of expressing himself:
Making a stiff arm to the elbow, he poured the wine into his mouth, tilted it into his right cheek, as saying, 'What do you think of it?' tilted it into his left cheek, as saying, 'What do YOU think of it?' jerked it into his stomach, as saying, 'What do YOU think of it?' To conclude, smacked his lips, as if all three replied, 'We think well of it.'
So I liked the book. Was it a 3 out of 5? A 4? Something like that.
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