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Our Mutual Friend (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 May 1997
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The fact that Dickens is always thought of as a caricaturist, although he was constantly trying to be something else, is perhaps the surest mark of his genius. --George Orwell
Charles Dickens' classic tale of mystery, read by Alex Jennings --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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At the beginning, I searched online several times to read various synopses of the book to help my understanding. This I found very helpful. After-all, it's not easy to follow the content when, for example, Miss Jenny Wren calls her alcoholic father her naughty child and he in turn calls her his sharp parent.
And who is Our Mutual Friend? It's MONEY; for this book shows clearly how it affects people — sometimes for the better, often for the worse.
So a very complex book. I shall certainly be reading it again in a few years time. Highly recommended — but, if you're new to Dickens, I suggest you start with one of his other novels and work your way up to this one.
12/12/16. I have just finished reading this again and have enjoyed it even more than the first time. What a fantastic book!
The opening scene shows Dickens at his best, with Gaffer Hexham, a waterman from Rotherhithe, out in his small boat on the Thames with his beautiful daughter Lizzie, retrieving a corpse form the water. We soon learn that this is not as unusual an occurrence as might be supposed, and that Hexham is known as a finder of corpses. Papers on this particular corpse suggest that it is John Harmon, heir to the estate of his father, ‘the Golden Dustman’, who had made a fortune out of marshalling and removing the capital’s rubbish. John Harmon had been estranged from his father who had, as a consequence, attached some unconventional conditions to his will, including the unexplained requirement that, to inherit his legacy John Harmon would have to marry Miss Bella Wilfer, daughter of a nearby clerk. In the apparent absence of John Harmon, the whole estate reverts to Mr and Mrs Boffin, former servants of the Golden Dustman
Interleaved with the developing story of the corpse in the river is an account of the Veneerings, a wealthy family with a complacent circle of acquaintances. Dickens uses the Veneering sand their circle to lampoon social mores among the caste of newly prosperous businessmen and their families, and also to compare the comfort and ostentation of their existence with the poverty rife around the city. They indulge in prurient discussion about the disposition of the estate of the Golden Dustman, and enjoy a good laugh at the prospect of the Boffins struggling to adjust to their new found wealth. In fact, the Boffins seem surprisingly unaffected by their good fortune, and are principally concerned at how they might help Miss Wilfer, and what other good works they might undertake.
Dickens always tries to provide hefty doses of light relief (most notably to my mind in the person of Jerry Cruncher in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’). In ‘Our Mutual Friend, the comedy derives from Silas Wegg, a one-legged purveyor of fancy goods, whom Mr Boffin, recognising his own lack of education, commissions to read Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ to him. Wegg is a great opportunist, and drives a hard bargain, eager as he is to earn sufficient money to buy back his missing leg which has been preserved by Mr Venus, a prolific taxidermist.
The plot is far too complex for me to attempt a synopsis here. There are, however, some of Dickens’s more common themes such as the gulf between the rich and poor, social pretension, the redeeming power of education and also rebirth and reinvention. I feel that Dickens let the gravity of his themes overwhelm him to the extent that he lost control of the plot. There are more unresolved threads than is usual for Dickens, and a lack of coherence within some of his principal characters. I enjoyed the book over all but felt that this was Dickens slightly overreaching himself.
His prose is also sometimes curiously mannered. He has lists of things which he repeats in numerous consecutive sentences. At other times he writes in a kind of shorthand using incomplete sentences. However, these eccentricities aside, it is as good an example of his work as many others. There are plenty of characters and caricatures to enjoy and many sub-plots to follow. As ever, you can trust Dickens to bring them all to a conclusion by the last page. He is also pleasingly sarcastic about social conventions, politics and money.
There is no need to reveal any of the plot except to say that the action takes place in London and is centred around the river Thames. If you like Dickens, you will not be disappointed.
The eBook itself only gets ** (2 stars) because of the number of punctuation errors (over 40 - admittedly in a very long book) that I found. These consisted almost entirely of missing quotation marks to show the reader where the speeches began and ended, which was very irritating. I assume that the printed pages had been scanned in and spell checked but not proof read - poor editing.
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and they all come together at the end.Read more