Book Review: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Book Review: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Paperback: 608 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens’s tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

This is the first critical edition to use the serial text of 1837-9, presenting Oliver Twist as it appeared to its earliest readers. It includes Dickens’s 1841 introduction and 1850 preface, the original illustrations and a glossary of contemporary slang.

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Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Oliver Twist is probably Dickens’s most famous novel, yet I just now had a chance to read it. Short version: I really, really enjoyed this story. I’ve read quite a few Dickens novels, and this was one of the least rambling, wordy works I’ve read by him. It was easy to understand, and while there are a lot of side stories, they do add greatly to the story overall and come on, the man was getting paid by the word. I’m surprised he didn’t throw in a couple more side stories for good measure.

I’ve avoided watching any movie or play versions of this novel because I hadn’t read it yet, so I was going into it as fresh as I could have, though I knew the basic premise. And I have to say, this story could very well fit in with a modern-day soap opera type TV show. So many ups and downs, and twists and turns! Just when it seems like Oliver is finally going to be happy, something horrible happens. Just when you think the horrible people are finally going to get what’s coming to them, something horrible happens. It’s a crazy ride, and an enjoyable one. As always, Dickens’s characters are beautiful and memorable in their caricatured style, and Dickens goes hard on the institution of poverty and how the “assistance” given to those fallen on hard times is a farce.

For fans of Dickens, this is a no-brainer, but for those who haven’t yet found a Dickens they like, I’d give this novel a try. It’s much more readable than his other works, and entertaining as well!

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