Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1837
Challenges: The Classics Club
Rating: Three and a half out of five
Reread

Synopsis:
The story of an orphan named Oliver, who runs away from his life in the work house and as an apprentice for a coffin maker and escapes to London. It is here that he runs into Fagin and his band of thieves and criminals and reluctantly is drawn into the seedy underworld of London and the lives of villain Bill Sikes, the artful Dodger and the prostitute Nancy. Oliver is not like those that haunt the criminal streets of the city and seems defined to escape this life and live the life of a gentleman.

My Thoughts:
As a child we used to have a VHS that had Oliver and Annie on it and I can remember watching the video on repeat at my aunty’s and singing along to the songs. I loved Oliver and the whole setting of Victorian England and the story stayed ingrained in my mind for years to come. It wasn’t until I was 19/20 that I saw an adaptation of Oliver that changed it from this charming musical romp to a more sinister and dark tale of murder, crime and mystery. It was this TV programme that made me want to read the novel, primarily because of the character Monks who has a mysterious grudge against young Oliver and this is the third time I have read Oliver Twist. This time I did read it for The Classics Club Spin and I think if it wasn’t for this I might not necessarily have picked it up this time round. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the story, as I did, but I don’t think it was the right book for Christmas time and the chaos that this brings. I found my mind wandering in the middle section of the novel, which was easy to do as I have read it before. I did enjoy the last one hundred pages or so as the narrative unravels and different characters get their comeuppance, although I do good a little whimper when poor Bullseye dies. I’m not denying that Dickens is a fantastic writer or that Oliver Twist doesn’t deserve its place as one of his most famous novels, but I just don’t think it was the right time for me to read it. That being said I do love his depiction of London and the darker side of the city, especially the idea that it really is luck of the draw if you end up destitute on the streets or saved by a kindly benefactor.

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Classics Club March Meme

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The Classics Club monthly meme for March is:

Do you love Jane Austen? Or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone?” (Mark Twain quotation)
Why?
Favourite Austen novel and why?

For me this is an easy question. I LOVE AUSTEN!

Austen has been on my radar since my early teens, but I didn’t read any of her novels until my mid/late teens and I didn’t study any of her novels until I was at university. In hindsight all of this was a blessing. It means I didn’t come to Austen with preconceived ideas or memories of drool teachers in stifling classrooms (as an English teacher I am determined to make any novels I teach exciting and engaging!) I came to Austen on my own terms, and yes I didn’t entirely enjoy Pride and Prejudice on first read, but luckily for me I didn’t write Austen off completely.

Since then I have read all of Austen’s novels and seen many TV and film adaptations and my love has only grown. Part of the reason I enjoy her novels stems from the witty language used throughout and the beautiful descriptions of each and every character. Yes, some of the characters grate on my nerves *cough* Lydia Bennett *cough* but they only add to the pleasure I derive from my read; don’t we all enjoy a great love/hate relationship with certain characters. The insightful depictions of family relationships and the trials and celebrations that come from these, as well as the closeness and the bond between sisters in the novels (not all) are one of the reasons her novels, for me, remain timeless.

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Arguably the most obvious reason Austen remains a well loved and prominent literary figure stems from the romantic attachments of her heroines. From Lizzie to Darcy, Emma to Mr Knightley, we can always expect a joyous romantic ending to an Austen novel. However, for some it is not the romance the endures, but the one that flashes by, that makes Austen novels a pleasure to read. A sentiment that leads me perfectly into my favourite Austen novel.

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Sense and Sensibility is my favourite Austen novel: I love the relationship between Elinor and Marianne and how their differences compliment one another and show up the flaws in the other’s personalities. For me it is the dastardly Mr Willoughby that earns this novel a special place in my heart. I do love a good villain. I find the confusion surrounding Elinor and Edward and their love for one another a fascinating storyline that still resonates with modern life.

And I don’t just love Austen for the novels. As mentioned there have been hundreds of TV and film adaptations of all Austen novels, as well as countless portrayals of her life, and it is through these that a share a special bond with my mum. She never seems to have time for reading (a truly shocking thought) however she does enjoy period dramas and it is Austen who holds the crown in this arena. You can’t beat a fantastic Austen adaptation: the beautiful buildings, enduring love stories and, of course, the ever present pianoforte!

Oh I have a yearning for an Austen-feat now!