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on 10 June 2011
Before I began reading Dickens in earnest (scarcely half a year ago I confess), I would have been hard pressed even to name 'Dombey and Son' as one of his novels. I am very content to be cured of my ignorance in that respect, because of all Dickens' novels that I have read so far (which is, as I'm reading them chronologically, The Pickwick Papers (Oxford World's Classics),Oliver Twist (Oxford World's Classics),Nicholas Nickleby (Oxford World's Classics),The Old Curiosity Shop (Oxford World's Classics),Barnaby Rudge (Oxford World's Classics) and Martin Chuzzlewit (Oxford World's Classics)), this is my personal favorite.

The reasons why are manifold. First of all, the theme of the book (a child neglected and unloved by his sole remaining parent) must surely strike a chord with anyone. We've all been children, and can recollect in hindsight that one of the most basic drives of any child is to be liked and feel loved by its parents. That such is not the case for Florence Dombey made me feel truly sorry for her and identify with her feelings all the more readily. True enough, perhaps she's a bit 'too good to be true' (after years of neglect, who would still love his father unconditionally as she does?) but Dickens paints her so lifelike that I never felt bothered by this.

Secondly, perhaps more so than in any other book I've read so far, Dickens demonstrates in 'Dombey and Son' his unequalled capacity to mix different moods: there's both heartfelt sorrow and true happiness, bitter hatred (between Paul Dombey and his second wife for instance) as well as hilarious humour. The humour there is comes primarily from some truly unforgettable characters: Captain Cuttle is a source of constant delight throughout the book, but so are Susan Nipper, Mr. Toots, Mrs. Skewton and Major Bagstock. To turn to the less cheerful characters, Paul Dombey is a masterful study of a man completely dominated by the demands of his time on how to behave, a man also with powerful feelings but unable to express them. His second wife Edith is probably one the most powerful female character Dickens ever portrayed.

Looking back upon the book now, I realize that a large part of its attraction lies in the happy ending 'against all odds', and one could surely argue that in real life this is not always the case. Probably not, but is it, then, better to read 'realistic' books all the better to learn to cope with life, or is it okay to read books with happy endings to lighten the burden of real life? I tend to be of the latter conviction, and therefore cannot but say that I immensely enjoyed this book, and will definitely reread it at some future point in time!
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Personally I have always been a fan of this book, and it is a personal favourite of mine. For some reason this novel is often neglected, probably making it the least read of all of Dickens' completed novels, but there doesn't seem to be a particular reason for this. It isn't as this is the worse book he ever wrote, far from it, but it may be because it is his most 'domestic', and perhaps in some ways not the sort of book you expect from Dickens.

Mr Dombey wishes for a son to continue the business Dombey and Son, as it has been run through the years. He already has a daughter, Florence, who is six when his wife finally gives him a boy. Mr Dombey has his wish at last and everything will continue as normal - or will it? What Mr Dombey wants, and what he gets are two different matters entirely. This is a book of its time, where marriages were arranged, women were meant to be seen and not heard, rather like the children, and Man ruled the world. In his usual way, Dickens questions these practices, making him possibly one of the more socially aware authors of his day, if not the most aware. Whilst tackling the serious matters of the day, he also gives us some absolutely wonderful characters, and some great comedy.

Perhaps more tightly plotted than some of his other works and not cloyingly sentimental (apart from arguably a certain death scene) this is a great book to read. Thackery himself despaired at the famous death scene, crying that he wished he could have written like that. There are slightly more than average typos in this text, but I can't really complain too much, as it doesn't cost, and it means that I don't have to carry around my treebook version with me. Remember, just because it isn't a novel that has been recently produced for tv (the BBC shelved plans for this a few years back), don't be put off, this is well worth reading.
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on 18 August 2015
Deciding it was time I caught up on some of my not read Dickens, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one was more readable than many of his lesser known tomes - albeit barely believable, as all his characters, as ever, are caricatures, designed to depict the extremes of good and bad in human nature.

HOWEVER - for the obvious reason that Dickens was originally paid by the line by the journal who published his work, it is hardly surprising that there is more padding than narrative, and one can be forgiven for skipping and scanning huge chunks of his rhetoric - (waffle which would never be acceptable today) - to avoid losing the essence of the story. If Dombey & Son were cut by at least a third, it would have vastly improved the novel. But not, presumably, Dickens' bank balance!
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on 6 April 2018
A good plot, brilliantly written. For me, this book is on the cusp of Dickens' writing style. The plot, with its many intertwining characters, is more involved than his earlier work and, at the same time, written less metaphorically than his later work. So, an involved plot, beautifully written, and not quite as difficult to follow as his later work. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2013
This is one of Dickens' lesser known works. It is packed with the usual range of great characters. The beginning is very promising as Dombey Sr. welcomes his infant son into the world. He has already rejected his daughter Florence as being "no use whatsoever". All his hopes and ambitions are to be invested in Paul Jr. - a rather puny child who develops a probing mind and observant eye. Paul's mother dies in the first few pages. (She could have survived if only she had made more effort, says her sister-in-law Mrs Chick!)

Once again Dickens paints a very sympathetic of a young girl. Just like Esther Summerson and Little Dorrit she exudes goodness. She seems willing to absorb any cruelty thrown at her and in return offers forgiven and humility. Was she a reflection of the ideal Victorian young woman?

My problem with Dombey & Son is that there does not appear to have been any real planning of how the plot was to develop. It is as if Dickens had the first chapters published without knowing how the story would end.

Dombey Sr. is stiff and stuffy and eventually brought down by hubris. He was such an unpleasant character with no redeeming features that I am probably not the only reader to wonder why he was treated so sympathetically.

However there are still moments of great brilliance - especially many of the scenes with Paul Jr.
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on 6 September 2010
Whilst this novel is undoubtedly a study in the ultimate vindication of honesty, love and innocence over avarice and pride and about redemption - themes prevading much of Dickens's subsequent work what marks it out as a great historical work is the manner in which it depicts the social and economic effects of the rapidly expanding Victorian railway system.

Dickens uniquely depicts how the railways came to alter the consciousness and thought processes of the individual eg Mr Toodle the engine fireman:'I starts light with Rob only I comes to a branch.I takes on what I finds there and a whole train of ideas gets coupled on to him...what a junction a man's thoughts is( p581).

The disruption to communities due to the rapidity of the bulding of the railway network is depicted graphically:'there was no such place as Staggs Gardens.It had vanished from the Earth.'(p.244)The ribbon development of London accelerated by the building of the London To Birmingham line is illustrated beautifully by the description of the setting of John and Harriet Carker's house:'blighted country where dusty nettles grow... neither town or country'(p515)

Dickens has produced the literary equivalent of Turner's 'Rain,Steam, Speed' painted four years prior in 1844.He depicts the destructive power and danger of the railways:'away with a shriek and a roar and a rattle...burrowing among the dwellings of men ...the track of the remorseless monster,Death!(p311).It is ironic that Dickens's awe and fear of the railways evident in this description and in the demise of Carker should see himself be involved in the the Staplehurst accident of 1865.
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VINE VOICEon 2 June 2011
People criticise Dickens for the wordiness of his books and because of his highly 'schmultzy' descriptions of sad occasions. Oscar Wilde said 'One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.'

Sure, Dickens is highly descriptive where for example, Agatha Christie, was not. But then where he describes scenes of Victorian life, he enables the reader to understand for example, what street life was like. Without that description I have no way of knowing what it was like - he would have no reason either to exaggerate nor to lie.

Yes, his description of life and death situations could be described as schmultzy, but they could be quite powerful to the non cynic. Better than todays writers, many of whom seem to delight in self analysis and trying to draw us into their inner thoughts and emotions.

A good read. Yes it was clear that the ending would be happy, but so what!
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on 27 March 2016
I am working my way through all of Charles Dickens books. I find that the Wordsworth edition's are of excellent value and quality containing delightful illustrations. Of those read so far Dombey and Son is by far my favourite. Although having said that my present book, Bleak House is looking pretty good too.
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on 5 July 2017
The formatting of this is non existence. By all means, if you just need the text, it'll do but it's not great; paragraphs are all joined together, pictures aren't aligned with the text and looks like it was made haphazardly in Microsoft Word, doesn't have any data for referencing (only useful/applicable if you're a student), the paper used feels cheap and all this at a rather expensive price, considering that it hardly feels like a book made by one of the most renowned and celebrated writers in British history.
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on 28 April 2017
I really enjoyed the Brilliance Audio production, which is very engaging. The story is really interesting and thought-provoking.
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