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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Old Curiosity Shop

Whew, finally, I finished the book!

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

 Hardcover: 624 pages

Publisher: Everyman's Library (August 1, 1995)

ISBN-10: 0679443738 Review
The sound of Little Nell clattering hurriedly over cobblestones immediately sets the stage by bringing to mind the narrow and dangerous streets of Victorian London. No fewer than 20 performers are called upon to conjure up the Dickensian world of wanderers, ne'er-do-wells, con artists, and kind Samaritans--and each performance is excellent. Tom Courtenay plays the sadistic Quilp, "the ugliest dwarf that could be seen anywhere for a penny" with magnificent sarcastic glee, and Teresa Gallagher's silvery, childlike voice is ideally suited for the role of the angelic Little Nell.

Nell is on her way home to the dusty shop where she and her grandfather live a rather mysterious life. The old man disappears every night--visiting gambling dens with the naive hope of winning a fortune. Instead he sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Enter Daniel Quilp, moneylender, who becomes furious upon learning that the grandfather is a pauper and will never be able to repay his tremendous debt. Quilp seizes the curiosity shop and begins making lecherous overtures to Nell, so she and her grandfather steal away one morning to seek their fortunes elsewhere. But the demonic dwarf is never far behind.

If, as they say, much of Dickens writing is based on parts of his life... he certainly met some unforgettable characters along the way.

This is the first book I have ever read by Charles Dickens.  Most might wonder why I chose a lesser known book of his to be my first time read.  To be honest I did it on purpose.  I love the old movies (and most newer versions too) of Dickens writings.  Needless to say I love love love A Christmas Carol .. all movie versions, with David Copperfield running a close tie.  Oliver Twist, and NIcholas Nickleby, and A Tale of Two Cities are some others.  I call them Period Pieces and just love the language and the characters he manages to create and the costumes.  So, having seen most of the movies at one time or another I thought that if I were to try READING Dickens that I would try something I hadn't seen a movie of.  I wanted to find out if I could see the characters he made without a visual help.   But I was concerned.  I am not the brightest bulb in the package and I worried that I would not follow his story well because of his wording.  

I was only partially right.  The language in which he writes is "foreign" to my mind, and so... I had to read slower... much slower.  But low and behold the characters came to me!

Here is a sample excerpt as Dickens describes a, not so nice, character, named Quilp on page 22 of The Old Curiosity Shop...

The child was closely followed by an elderly man of remarkably hard features and forbidding aspect, and so low in stature as to be quite a dwarf, though his head and face were large enough for the body of a giant.  His black eyes were restless, sly and cunning; his mouth and chin, bristly with the stubble of a coarse hard beard; and his complexion was one of that kind which never looks clean or wholesome.  But what added most to the grotesque expression of his face, was a ghastly smile, which appearing to be the mere result of habit and to have no connection with any mirthful or complacent feeling, constantly revealed the few discolored fangs that were yet scattered in his mouth, and gave him the aspect of a panting dog.  His dress consisted of a large high-crowned hat,  a worn dark suit, a pair of capacious shoes, and a dirty white neckerchief sufficiently limp and crumpled to disclose the greater portion of his wiry throat.  Such hair as he had, was of a grizzled black, cut short and straight upon his temples, and hanging in a frowzy fringe about his ears,  His hands, which were of a rough coarse grain, were very dirty; his finger[nails were crooked, long and yellow.

Now, I defy anyone to read that and tell my you don't get a very clear picture of the dwarf Quilp!

Many a time I had to go back and reread a paragraph I had just read, to be sure I understood what he wrote,  but .. I read on.

The story is not one of high adventure and does not render the book one in which you are rushing back to every free moment you have, but still.. it had captured me... and each time, upon lifting the book, I would totally want to be reading it.   Even the way it fit in my hands, being 5 x 8 in size and the smooth silkiness of each of the high grade pages, just felt right.  I felt different.  If there be one thing that bothers me, it's not the book itself... it's the fact that I am not quick to read the 'language" and understand it fast enough to be reading at my normal speed.. and even my normal speed isn't fast.  

Dickens writes this book dividing up the characters and thus when they are parted you read a few chapters of one person; possibly Nell and her grandfather, and then a few chapters on another character, possibly Quilp.

I am not one to "study" for long periods of time, otherwise I totally forget what I was supposed to remember.  And so it was with this book.  Thankfully the chapters are quite short which allowed me the luxury of stopping often when one ended and another about to begin.

I can't say I know why I continued to read this book.  I mean, there was surely a story there.  Most likely typical of a Dickens story, being dark , and dreary, and oft times sad.  But I think the same language that made me read slow and even reread whole pages was part of the reason I kept reading.  Actually, I found I did want to know just where this story was taking me.. and so I read the whole thing!  And yep, I'm proud of myself! 

I don't remember if I read any 'classics' while in school or not, if I did I'm guessing they didn't impress me enough to remember them.  I have a vague memory of the Pit and the Pendulum and maybe Le Miserable.  ... maybe.

This certainly isn't a book for everyone... unless you already like Dickens, and then I would say you might want to add this book to others you have already read.

The book has many characters that, as his other books, are quite unforgettable.  Dickens takes you through their lives in much detail and before ending the book lets you know exactly what happened to anyone mentioned in the story. 

I am glad I read this book.. and glad to have it in my library of books that I will be keeping.  I do have a copy of David Copperfield that I will attempt at a later time.  Two Dickens in a row would be a bit much for me, but I think now I will enjoy that one even more.   Yes, I already know the old movie about David Copperfield and even recently watched a BBC presentation of David Copperfield.  Now that I am more accustomed to his style of writing (though I doubt I will read it any faster!) I think I will enjoy a second book by Dickens.


Blogger My Cozy Book Nook said...

Good for you for sticking with it! I don't think Dickens is ever an easy read and I must always slow w-a-y down when I read him as well.

I have not (yet) read the Old Curiosity Shop, but I have read a few other Dickens' novels and the one thing that I absolutely LOVE about his books (besides the detailed character descriptions) is that once I finish, I feel the need to re-read to see how he tied all the seemingly unrelated characters together in the end. Does this happen in this book?

8:22 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

hello Molly: oh yes he does! somehow the characters all lead from one to the next. As other of his writings (that I know only by movies) this is yet another dark and often sad book. Amazing how he wrote so many and so few happy moments in them.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Kailana said...

I haven't done very well with the whole reading Dickens thing. I still have only read three! Should remedy that.

12:19 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

kelly: well that's two more than me! lol

12:35 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Great Expectations is one of the few books I've set down and never picked up again. I struggled through half of it before I gave up.

But, your review has me wanting to pick this book up and give it a go. Maybe my experience would be different with this one. That's my way of saying it's a great review, Pat. Thanks.

So, what do you think? Should I give it a try?


1:20 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

cj: if someone had told me to try this book I probably would not have. I wanted to try reading a classic, or I should say something by a classic writer. I love the old david copperfield movie, a Christmas Carol and many "period piece" movies so I tried this book.. well, that and I won a contest saying I could have any book under 20.00 so I thought I can't loose getting this book and trying it because it isn't even costing me.... it is dark. it is depressing in many ways, and from what little i can tell that's in everything he did. This book didn't make his most popular reads list so I don't know what to tell you. If you can get a copy for the library i'd say give it a go.. won't cost and you can set it aside if you don't like it. The book is not a "grabber" so I don't know what it was about it that made me keep reading. I did enjoy it. I won't say LOVED it because of so much depression in it..but I did enjoy the read.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Ana S. said...

I know just what you mean about the language making you struggle yet being a part of what makes you keep reading. That's happened to me with classics quite a few times.

2:59 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

nymeth: (to quote a vulcan I once knew...) fascinating! lol.. yes, I can honestly say something like, "I've never read anything described quite like Dickens does!"

3:01 PM  
Blogger Cath said...

Nice review. I wish I could remember whether or not I've read this. If I have, it was when I was a teenager so it's time I read it again. David Copperfield was a Dickens that I know I loved, and Great Expectations. Definitely planning to read One Dickens this year. Well done you for finishing it, Pat!

6:31 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

thanks Cath! I think part of finishing it was that i didn't know the story. I may have given up if I had. But now I do think I can read David Copperfield one day, hopefully this year, and I do want A Christmas Carol. Love Scrooge and want to read it.
Basically this book is the story of Nell and her grandfather being kicked out of the shop by Quilp who the grandfather owed money to. Then their "travels" living as beggers, I don't want to say more but maybe that will stir a memory if you read it before

7:21 PM  
Blogger chrisa511 said...

Right onto the wishlist!! Like you, this is a Dickens that I've never read and have never seen any of the period piece movies of. In fact I think I've seen every other Dicken's movie, but not this one. Have they ever made one, do you know? This sounds so awesome. And I love the Everyman's Library edition...that's the one that I put on my list. Now you should read A Tale of Two Cities :p It's depressing, but oh so good!

10:25 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

hey Chris: you know, I could have sworn I searched to see if this was a movie because I don't remember ever seeing this.. I looked just now and there are some dvds out.. one is a BBC production the other seems to be just a movie. nope, my next dickens is david copperfield, which i have in my tbr pile. then I want this version of a Christmas Carol..
I think that will be enough for a time of dickens ...

6:27 AM  
Blogger Cath said...

Our TV channel, ITV, did a dramatisation of The Old Curiosity Shop, Pat. I don't think it was this Christmas, I think it was *last* Christmas. I recorded it and never did watch it. It's probably available on dvd... I heard it was very good. As was the BBC's Bleak House from a couple of years ago and Little Dorrit from last autumn. Wish all this stuff was *free*.

A Christmas Carol is excellent. Very atmospheric. And maybe you could read a couple of Dickens's ghost stories for Carl's RIP challenge in the autumn. I recommend The Signalman and am certain you wouldn't have any trouble finding it online.

8:28 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Hi CAth: yeah, I found the dvd for the bbc's movie of it. I wonder why I've never seen it? I always watch, what i call, period pieces. love the talk and costumes in them!
I'm not into short stories but it's a thought that's for sure.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Ladytink_534 said...

I read my first Dicken's book more than 10 years ago but after reading A Christmas Carol for the first time last year I've been wanting to pick up some of his others. Maybe I'll give Oliver Twist another chance...

7:21 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Tink: well at least A Christmas Carol has a happy ending! It was a toss up when I sent for David Copperfield.. it was that or Oliver Twist and I read some revies on Copperfield, so he won lol

7:37 PM  
Blogger Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

I keep meaning to read something by Dickens. I've only ever read Great Expectations. I think I want to try Little Dorritt but this one is a contender as well. Possibly soon. Thanks for the good review!

3:39 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

michelle: the fact that i didn't know the story at all helped keep my interest (since it is my first into dickens) It was good..but sad.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

You're ahead of me here, Pat! I can't recall reading any books by him, just a comic book - David Copperfield! *gasp* so well done. I want to read Bleak House and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, if I can find a copy. I'm kind of dreading it for the very reason you mention, the language and how it can't really be ready quickly. YOu make it sound worth it, though. And I did like the tv version of Bleak House. Congratulations on reading your first Dickens!

11:59 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Susan: yes it was your blogging about Drood that pushed me over the top for that one. I had entered and tried to win a copy in two different blogs but didn't so finally sent for it. It looks intimidating ! lol

6:29 AM  

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