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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essence of Charles Dickens
This is the story of a little girl called Nell, who together with her grandfather, must run away from a succession of villains in an almost epic journey! You'll find everything here that you love about Charles Dickens: humour, satire, drama, unforgettable characters, laughter, and tears (I read somewhere that when Dickens read The Old Curiosity Shop at his public...
Published on 28 July 2006 by Amazon Customer

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most difficult Dickens for the modern reader
I think this Dickens novel is the one that's probably hardest for a modern day reader to appreciate. The Victorians adored the character of Little Nell and American readers were so eager to find out the ending that they 'were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in the United Kingdom),...
Published on 31 Dec. 2011 by H. M. Holt


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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essence of Charles Dickens, 28 July 2006
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is the story of a little girl called Nell, who together with her grandfather, must run away from a succession of villains in an almost epic journey! You'll find everything here that you love about Charles Dickens: humour, satire, drama, unforgettable characters, laughter, and tears (I read somewhere that when Dickens read The Old Curiosity Shop at his public readings, the audience would actually burst into mass tears!) There are moments of heart-warming joy and moments of despair, and I think anyone with empathy and imagination will love this classic tale of good and evil.

A word of warning though: if you buy an edition with annotations, don't read them!! I made this fatal mistake, and was informed by a note in the middle of the novel about the fate of one of the main characters and what happens to the person at the end. What a spoiler! It ruined the whole pleasure of reading for me and I only managed to finish because the narrative was so lovely... if it had been any other novel I would surely not have bothered to go on to the end. Allow yourself the pleasure of reading this novel for its warmth and literary greatness - don't touch the notes.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most difficult Dickens for the modern reader, 31 Dec. 2011
By 
H. M. Holt "souloftherose" (Tring, Herts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I think this Dickens novel is the one that's probably hardest for a modern day reader to appreciate. The Victorians adored the character of Little Nell and American readers were so eager to find out the ending that they 'were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in the United Kingdom), "Is Little Nell alive?"' But it was difficult for me to appreciate the kind of sentimentality and pathos that distinguishes the character of Little Nell and I preferred the wonderfully grotesque character of Daniel Quilp who terrorises his wife, eats boiled eggs 'shell and all' and is the most lascivious of Dickens' villains (although this is 1840 so you only gets hints of this aspect).

"he ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon till they bent again, and in short performed so many horrifying and uncommon acts that the women were nearly frightened out of their wits"

Given Dickens' comments (as reported by Claire Tomalin in her biography, Charles Dickens: A Life) that his bad characters portrayed the characteristics he found within himself, this portrayal of Quilp raised some interesting psychological questions in my mind about Dickens himself.

The introduction to my edition indicates that there are a lot of references to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (Penguin Classics) in the story which, again, a 19th century reader would have been very familiar with and I am not really familiar with at all. One character also frequently includes lines from popular songs in his dialogue and I can appreciate how this would have been very comic to a reader at the time but by the time I've had to look up the relevant footnote in the back of the book the joke has lost a little something in the translation as it were.

What I found most interesting about my reread of this book was the insight it gave into Dickens' feelings at the time of writing. A few years before Dickens started writing this novel, his beloved sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, who had lived with him and his wife Catherine since their marriage, died suddenly at the age of 17. Dickens was absolutely distraught by her death and had to take a break from his publishing schedule for both The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist - this was the only time in his life when Dickens failed to get an instalment out on time. His grief for Mary's death seems far greater than we would consider reasonable given their relationship (and really there doesn't seem to be anything to suggest their relationship went beyond brother and sister in law); he wanted to be buried next to Mary and the published announcement called her 'the chief solace of his labours'. History is silent as to his wife's opinion of all this - from reading Tomalin's biography I almost get the impression that Catherine wasn't allowed to have opinions. Anyway, there's a bit of debate about this but it seems that when Dickens was writing The Old Curiosity Shop he may have had Mary in mind when he created the character of Little Nell and the idealisation of Little Nell as 'so young, so beautiful, so good' may well be linked to Dickens' idealisation of Mary Hogarth.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite engrossing, 17 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
"The Old Curiosty Shop" carries with it a heart-wrenching reputation, and therefore I resolved to read it. This reputation, as with that of it's creator himself, is not misplaced.
Certainly, the novel is not what one would term realistic - there are a few too many happy coincidences for that. However, this shortcoming is completely compensated for by the sheer vividness of the world Dickens creates. Each character can almost be seen by the reader, and simultaneously each evokes their own unique emotion, from passionate hatred to empathy and warmth.
As for it being heart-wrenching, nobody with a soul should be able to read this undeniable classic without being destinctly moved. Like most works by Charles Dickens, "The Old Curiosity Shop" carries with it the irresistible human understaning and quiet wit of it's creator, and as such is a novel that should be read by everybody.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 7 Sept. 2007
By 
L. Spurling (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I have just finished reading this book and I must say that I found it a little disjointed, although there were some real gems of characters in it - Swiveller, the Brasses, Quilp. That's why I've given it a 4 instead of a 3. The "good" characters were, as often in Dickens, rather boring and just too good to be true. Some things were left unsaid: for instance, how did Quilp's wife ever get to marry him!!!! There was a little note at the end that said her mother coerced her, but that part of the story might have been a lot better. All in all worth a read and, despite my criticisms, I wish I could write a fraction as good as Dickens!
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3.0 out of 5 stars "No - never to return ...", 28 April 2012
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Over the years, and after reading all of Dickens' works multiple times, I have re-read The Old Curiosity Shop. I've confirmed to myself that this is most definitely not one of my favourite Dickens books; however it has its highlights, and is a bit like the curate's egg, only bad in parts. The parts that are good are very good indeed. The character of Quilp is a delight; horrible through and through, happy only when all others are miserable, and devoting all his energies to bringing other people down. The only letdown with the character is the manner of his comeuppance - a bit too much like just tying off a loose end. Mr Swiveller, and the rather ghastly Mr and Miss Brass also shine through in this book.

Other characters shine through in this story; but they are few, and they come and go again, without really leaving much of an impression for the reader, like Nell's nasty brother, and Mrs Jarley. The book reads more like a number of short vignettes loosely tied together; perhaps not surprising when you understand that the genesis of the book was really part of what was to be Dickens' Master Humphrey's Clock, a weekly periodical written and edited by Dickens from 1840-1841. The fact that this magazine did not perform particularly well with the public led Dickens to twist the beginning of the Old Curiosity Shop (which begins with a narration, apparently by Master Humphrey) into the story we read today, published in weekly instalments in 1841. Funnily enough, the other book published during this period, which also had ties with Master Humphrey's Clock, Barnaby Rudge, does not, in my opinion, suffer from the same disjointedness as the Old Curiosity Shop.

I think this book is best approached, not as a comprehensive novel (for it seems to be a story which shifts its focus and purpose as it progresses), but as a series of loosely tied together stories; a bit like Sketches by Boz.

Enjoyable, and most definitely readable; just not a great Dickens novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth satisfying your curiosity, 4 July 2011
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
At the outset of the book Little Nell lives with her grandfather, owner of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. However, the grandfather becomes heavily in debt to the odious Quilp and has to hand over the shop to him. Destitute and ashamed, Nell and her broken grandfather take to the road to make a new life for themselves. But, Quilp still believes that the old man has a horde of money somewhere, and sets out to track them down. Nell features in Quilp's schemes - he wants to marry her off to the feckless wastrel Dick Swiveller, friend of Nell's good-for-nothing brother, to ensure that he can channel the old man's money to himself. The novel cuts back and forth (to good dramatic effect) bewteen Nell and her grandfather's countryside adventures, some uplifing and some disastrous, and Quilp's plans to get hold of the hidden fortune. Although Quilp is a grotesque character, I felt that he, Swiveller, and a strong cast of supporting characters, were surpisingly believable, which is not always the case with Dickens. This degree of realism, combined with a sustained plot, made reading The Old Curiosity Shop an easy and very satisfying experience. My only significant criticism, and the reason for awarding the book 4 stars instead of 5, relates to the penultimate chapter concering Nell's fate. I found this chapter clumsy and over-sentimental and don't think it sits well with the rest of the novel. Fortunately, the final chapter helps restore the balance. Coming after the blockbuster Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop might appear a bit tame to some readers. It may lack the extremes of those books, but I think that the use of a slightly more reined in characterisation works very well and I would have no hesitation in recommending the book to anyone in search of a great read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars What about the shop?, 8 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Not one of my favourite Dickens novels. The shop was little more than a convenient starting point for the comparison of hard city life and the theory of idealistic rural life. For me characters are almost satirized - Nell too sweet and self sacrificing, Quilp too nasty and evil. No surprise outcomes, ending a foregone conclusion for me.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Old Curiosity Shop, 7 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Please be aware the reviews of this book posted here contain spoilers and seemingly have been written by people who have the wit they were given.The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics)
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13 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Old Curiosity Flop, 13 Feb. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Giving this book a rating of 5 stars does a grave disservice to the works of Charles Dickens. The Old Curiosity Shop has, at best, the elements of a fine novel, but does not carry them off. It is choppy, unfocused, maudlin (by even Dickens's standards) and is unsure of its subject. Who is the subject -- Nell, Kit, Dick Swiveler, Quilp -- all of these would make the subject of an interesting sketch, and I dare say this book is a series of sketches, but over 500 pages of these does not a 5-star book make. The 150-or-so pages of Dick Swiveler and the Marchioness are by far the best in this rather dreadful novel and are the saving grace of this otherwise 1-star book. 5 stars; my God, where does that leave Great Expectations, Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities, etc.?
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The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics)
The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens (Paperback - 25 Jan. 2001)
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