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