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61 of 62 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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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essence of Charles Dickens, 28 July 2006
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Dickens Tale in a Wonderful Edition, 23 Jan 2012
Slowly working my way through Mr Dickens' work, I came to 'The Old Curiosity Shop', originally published in serial form. Most people will know the plot and perhaps even the fate of the main character(s) before starting; I won't mention these here (and as ever be cautious about the introduction which may give details away). The serial process of writing shows through, I think, as the action is episodic and not particularly cleverly structured. But, the episodes, especially as Nell and her grandfather travel around the country on foot, are varied, dramatic and enjoyable.

The novel wins the reader over most through its array of characters, both major and lesser, who are never dull and are always brilliantly drawn and entertaining. Many past readers have criticised Little Nell and Kit as being too good to be true (and irritating as a result); I didn't find that to be the case, although in fact I found Quilp, the evil dwarf, to be more tiresome in his relentless nastiness. The star of this book, I think, is the memorably named Dick Swiveller, a bon vivant who doesn't often pay his bills - he is a highly amusing creation who entertains the reader, is quite central to the plot, and, I would argue, is the only character who really develops throughout the novel.

One last comment on this particular edition of the book. I must admit, I have always been a fan of Everyman classics in hardback. They don't cost all that much more than the standard Penguin classics/OUP paperbacks - and they look and feel like books of such a high quality, made to last. The cloth binding, the integrated ribbon bookmark and the thick paper of the pages are all luxurious. This one is no exception, and comes with seventy five illustrations by Cattermole and 'Phiz', drawings which do help to picture events and which are often very atmospheric in their period detail. Also included is an Everyman introduction by Peter Washington, which discusses the book in general terms, and a stunning essay by G K Chesterton, added as an appendix.

A highly recommended tale in a highly recommended edition.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing piece of work, 10 April 2003
By 
Steven Brown (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I had bought this book in a multi-buy deal with other classics, and somehow it managed to sit on my bookshelf for almost a year before I got round to reading it - by the time I had finished it, I was kicking myself that it been wasting away for so long!
There are so many things going on it, and although some things are just *too* coincidental, it never fails to grab you into the story. Couple this with the fact that Dickens can draw a wonderful picture of London of his time, and you feel part of the whole thing.
The characters are wonderful as well - my favourites being Quilp, the evil dwarf, and Richard Swiveller (his antics 'working' in the office were always highly amusing).
In short, a real rollercoaster of a novel, thoroughly recommended!!
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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
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous dramatisation of one of Dickens' less known works, 1 Aug 2006
By 
The book may be a bit of a mess, written on the cuff as Dickens tried to salvage a misguided attempt at a magazine, but it's richly full of his brilliance, and this dramatisation is sensationally good.

Some outstanding scenes linger long after one's first listen, such as when Little Nell's father grapples with his gambling addiction (and how depressingly relevant that is these days) and when Dick Swivveler's discusses with an inanimate Punch doll whether or not he should start acting responsibly.

I bought the book afterwards to read them in full, but I discovered they weren't actually in the book: they are just part of the adaptation, but an adaptation that captures Dickens so well it weaves the created scenes seamlessly in with the Dickens own narrative and often these scenes are highlights of their own.

It's far from a perfect novel. Quilp is devilishly evil but of limited motivation, the narrator's role is unclear, as is the age of Little Nell, and there are several ludicrously contrived plot devices. But then, Dickens was writing it on the hoof.

Apparently, the novel's of interest to scholars for Dickens' attitude to pop culture (Punch and Judy shows, mime shows etc.): for me, it was a wonderful way to pass some long car journeys. At times, it got me so wound up as I listened that I found myself literally pleading aloud with Nell's father not to gamble the money... But Dickens is so brilliant that he captivates you and this production, uniformly well acted, delivers all that brilliance.
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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
"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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unashamedly pathetic, but an incomparable classic nonetheless, 23 Mar 2011
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This is my fifth Dickens' novel in a row, and it has, to say the very least, absolutely not diminished my appetite to read all of his novels. As I'm trying to do so as Dickens wrote them I can only compare with The Pickwick Papers (Oxford World's Classics), Oliver Twist (Oxford World's Classics), Nicholas Nickleby (Oxford World's Classics) and Barnaby Rudge (Oxford World's Classics). 'The Old Curiosity Shop' is both different from and very alike to those previous four novels.

First of all, I found it eminently 'Dickensian' in several aspects: the captivating characters, Dickens' rarely equalled talent for the spoken word and to give each character its very own voice, the overall sheer exuberance of the language, the sometimes rickety plot, and an amazing story-telling talent that captivates from page one and keeps you reading on well into the night. Concerning those characters, it struck me - more so perhaps than in the other novels I've read - that it's above all 'the villains' that are most powerfully depicted and claim center-stage. Above all there's Daniel Quilp, the scheming dwarf hunting down little Nell and her grandfather: he is the very embodiment of malice, to such a degree that he seems barely human (and Dickens often describes him as 'a creature' or 'the monster') and I have the feeling I'll remember him long after I've forgotten much if not everything about for instance the poor schoolmaster coming to the rescue of little Nell, or Mr. and Mrs. Garland. And there's others too: Sampson and Sally Brass are wonderfully drawn, repulsive as they may be. In fact, as is pointed out in the (excellent) introduction to this edition, the majority of the people little Nell meets on her journey are grotesques, barely recognizable as human beings.

In terms of atmosphere, however, 'The Old Curiosity Shop' is definitely more gloomy than the previous novels I've read, in fact it's my very first Dickens' novel that doesn't have an outright happy end for all principal characters. True enough, there are plenty of scenes of grand humour too (Richard Swiveller and 'The Marchioness' are an unforgettable couple, and so is Mrs. Jarley and the motley crew working at her wax-works) but overall, there's an almost constant sense of brooding menace and 'bad things about to happen'. The scenes describing for instance Nell and her grandfather's journey through an industrial town at night are almost descriptions of a journey through some sort of hell on earth, where the poorest of the poor do not even have enough money to bury their deceased children. Man seems but a tiny speck of dust in this industrial wasteland, as Dickens puts it: 'They were but an atom, here, in a mountain heap of misery'.

All in all, I found 'The Old Curiosity Shop' a very powerful novel and one that I am not likely to forget soon. It may be (at least to our 21st century taste) in places unashamedly pathetic, but Dickens pulls this off as no other author I've read so far could have. A true classic, and very much worth the read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dwarf named Quilp - a novel of immense stature, 19 April 2010
By 
Des (London, England) - See all my reviews
During those moments of sponge-like absorption, when facts about fish fingers being invented by Mr Birdseye and thousands of other grains of information crystalize into sandcastles of digested knowledge, I'd heard of Little Nell. Googling her now, I see there's a hotel named after her, a place in Aspen, Colorado and many other uses of her ephemeral name. Whilst knowing she was a tragic figure through the ether of existence, before Facebook was invented, when Spurs were a double-winning side, I didn't really KNOW her until I read the book.

170 years may have elapsed since Dickens penned his weekly contribution to the threepenny publicaton, Master Humphrey's Clock, publishing his novel shortly thereafter. Compared to contemporary fare of mass consumption - soap operas, tabloid newspapers, celebrity magazines - The Old Curiosity Shop is in a class of its own.

I'm normally an aficionado of Russian and Soviet literature - Dostoevsky, Zamyatin, Bulgakov - but Dickens creates more believable scenes, atmosphere, social commentary and deep-felt emotion than any of them.

The tale of Nell and her grandfather, travelling out of London on a forlorn journey, of the evil Quilp, his servant, a minor character, perhaps, but in keeping with reality very much human, who to Quilp's chagrin often walks on his hands, turning reality upside down, of the notary Sampson Brass and his extraordinary sister Sally, of Kit, Nell's young friend, so loving of her and loved by her and Dick Swiveller, a rakish character, nevertheless, with an innate decency, is enthralling from beginning to end.

No surprise that Americans wanting to know what happened to Nell before the story's conclusion, accosted Dickens, no real surprise that weekly subscribers - up to 100,000 of them - became so engrossed they contacted Dickens begging him for a happy ending.

In this fast-moving, inattentive age we need a book like this to grab hold of us, not letting go until we are emotionally exhausted. Too much soap has got into our eyes during insipid television and movies, this herioc novel redresses the balance. Yes there are coincidences, indeed the grandfather's addiction to gambling is still a curiosity in some respects, although repeated by many who haven't read the book, up and down this and many other countries, in betting shops, casinos and gambling dens every day of the week.

Quilp may have been an evil dwarf, but the book stands the test of time as a monumental work of considerable literary stature.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still entertaining, 15 Mar 2012
Any reader of Dickens' works would be hard pressed not to re-visit his novels on a regular basis. A recent re-reading of The Old Curiosity Shop confirms that the story is as fresh today as it was when I first encountered it (more years ago than I care to admit). Its timeless quality prevails. Oscar Wilde may not have been impressed with the author's characters, particularly Little Nell, but there's so much more to this story than just one person. If you have yet to read it, you've a treat in store - if you know the book, take another look. You won't be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Old Curiosity Shop (Kindle Edition)
This was free, so I can't complain too much. It's a classic obviously and I love the old style prose, but the pleasure of reading it is spoiled for me because of errors which I imagine occurred when it was transcribed for this format. One character, Sophy Wackles, suddenly becomes Sophia and Mr Cheggs becomes Mr Cheegs. Other words don't fit in context either. So I will continue reading it, but have to say I'm disappointed.
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