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4.3 out of 5 stars
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From its first publication in book form after the serialisation, Little Dorrit has always proved to be a good seller. So why has this book always been so popular? For whole segments Amy 'Little' Dorrit does not even appear. The novel covers so much more than the title implies.

Little Dorrit is born in the Marshalsea, where her father is imprisoned for debt. Eventually he is released at the end of book one, when he comes into an inheritance. For Mr Dorrit this leads to paranoia that people are talking behind his back or laughing at him due to his former poverty. Poor little Dorrit finds it difficult to change her ways and is still a ministering angel to all and sundry.

What really stands out in this book are the locations, as the story travels from London through France, Switzerland and Italy. This is the most widespread geographically of any of Dickens' novels. Also this book probably has the most sub-plots of any Dickens novel, with mention of murder and smuggling, to actual acts of corruption and suicide, to love, marriages and death. Mrs Clennam tries to keep a family secret buried but is being blackmailed, and is her house haunted or is there a more rational explanation?

As to be expected with Dickens there are some great characters and some good comedy. Anyone who has ever had any dealings with govermental departments can really appreciate the Circumloction Office, and its practices. A few of the illustrations in this book are some of the very best to appear in any of his novels.

This is a must read book, that with so many things going on throughout will keep you absorbed for hours, and that you will want to read again.
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on 9 November 2008
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

The major strengths of the novel are its characters and atmosphere. Every character is sharply drawn, we can visualise them in our mind's eye; Dickens has the ability to invest each of them with their own distinctive speech patterns. He can also create atmosphere whether it be describing the Marshalsea or the interior of Mrs Clennam's house. He is wonderful at creating a scene, of placing his characters in that scene and exploring the interaction of each.

The weakness of the novel is its plot. It never really gains momentum and there is always a sense of stasis, of things about to develop, but never doing so. We are presented with a series of tableaux and then, suddenly, something happens with no relation to anything that has gone before. Much is left unexplained; we are never told what Doyce's invention actually is, we are given no clue as to the nature of Merdle's financial dealings, his downfall just happens. The Dorrits suddenly become rich halfway through the novel. It dosen't convince.

A warning about this Penguin edition. For some inexplicable reason, American spellings are used throughout (eg 'honor' instead of 'honour'). I am not sure why this has been done and as certain Victorian spellings are also used, it makes even less sense. Some readers may find this annoying and would prefer to read a different edition.

A bonus of the Penguin edition, though, is the inclusion of the original illustrations.
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on 20 November 2008
Little Dorrit is a prime example of Dickens' weighty descriptive style and his genius for observation and characterisation. It also, perhaps unusually for Dickens, has a semi-coherent story line.
The book chronicles the respective fortunes of the title heroine, a young women caring for her incarcerated father in the Marshalsea Prison, and Mr Arthur Clennam, a kindly businessman returned lately from the east, who becomes obsessed with the idea that his father was responsible for the Dorrit families woes. An entrie host of characters, good and bad, amusing and obnoxious, accompany the main protagonists on their mysteriously intertwined journeys. The only fault I can find is with the tale's finale, when it seems Dickens grows tired of the story, not actually having a great twist for the climax, and bumps off many of his characters before ending with a rather predictable chocolate tin finish. However, your sense of achievment at having penetrated deeper into the world of Dickens, meeting memorable heroes and villains will probably overcome any misgivings on this score. The scene where Mr Pancks cuts the patriarch's hair is pure genius and the petulant Mr Dorrit, Flora Casby and her objectionable Aunt are another constant stream of entertainment.
Apart from the moral that money will not buy you happiness, Dickens also used this book to launch a scathing criticism against the government and society of the time, represented by the infamous Circumlocution Office and a certain affluent couple named Merdle.
An excellent read for all those who have a reasonable grasp of the English language or have enjoyed other Dickens books.
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on 18 June 2009
A vivid and detailed tale of Victorian England, which has many similarities to present day Britain. A really masterful story by Charles Dickens, graphically narrated by Anton Lesson, another master of his profession. It has more than 10 hours of story, ideal for a long car journey or enlightening another pile of ironing or a long winter's evening. We wholeheartedly recommend it.
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on 12 October 2011
The task I had set myself about a year ago to read all Dickens' novels soon became not a task but a profound pleasure. Each of his novels (and I have Our Mutual Friend (Oxford World's Classics) and A Tale of Two Cities (Oxford World's Classics) left to read) has its own specific merits, but all of them I've found to be very captivating, peopled with the most wonderful characters, and (often) abounding with humour. So, if you have the time, I would urge you to read all of them. If not, and you need to select a sort of 'Top 3', 'Little Dorrit' ought to be one of those (my personal choice for the other two would be Bleak House (Oxford World's Classics) and Great Expectations (Oxford World's Classics)).

'Little Dorrit' is a long novel (688 pages in the Oxford World's Classics edition, not counting the introduction and notes), but had it been 788 pages I would have been the last to complain. From the very start I was mesmerized by the different storylines (Little Dorrit herself being born in the Marshalsea prison, Arthur Clennam returning from abroad to his icy-cold mother in London), and how skillfully Dickens slowly but surely draws these together. The way in which Dickens creates the setting and atmosphere is superb, there is - as usual - a host of unforgettable characters (apart from the ones I mentioned, I'm sure I'll never forget Pancks, nor Flintwinch), and that unique blend of humour, irony, comedy and pathos that only Dickens knows how to achieve.

Hour upon hour of literary bliss and enjoyment for the price of barely two packs of cigarettes! If forced to choose, I'd even seriously consider giving up smoking for this novel ;-)
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on 22 February 2009
I was a bit put-off by a previous review that claims that this book has been changed to american spellings but went ahead and got it anyway as I thought that the illustrations were worth it (they are). I have found that the book has not been americanised (just opened it at random to page 362 and almost the first word I see is 'endeavour' - english version. It does conntain some olde english spellings, eg trousers is spelt as trowsers (not pants).
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on 12 May 2015
I read most of Dickens in my twenties, but this somehow got overlooked. I saw the BBC adaptation of a few years ago and was completely won over by Matthew McFadyen and Claire Foy in the lead roles. The book is a bit of a doorstop but a quite wonderful read. Some critics have accused Dickens of making Little Dorrit 'too good to be true,' but unlike some of his other heroines, she is brave, determined, practical and tough. She and Arthur Clennam are the moral centre of the novel, without ever coming across as self-righteous or pious. They both listen to all the 'biggod-nonsense' going on about them, but remain true to themselves, and in the end each other. In one of the Introductions it is claimed that Little Dorrit is Dickens darkest novel, and that only one of the characters, Flora Finching is a comic character. I would beg to differ, finding Mr Pancks very funny and Edmund Sparkler a constant joy. Highly recommended!
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on 1 February 2009
For me, a great book, Dickens' meticulous attention to detail sets the plot and through the book the story line develops, sub plot within plot. I enjoyed the book very much, as I have all dickens' books I've read. SMB
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on 19 January 2016
It's only worth writing reviews on here if the aim is to recommend something very good or warn of something lousy. In this case my 5 stars are not for Dickens, who no doubt has no need of them or anyone else's, but for the introduction by David Gates. It's a beauty. The intro-to-the-classics genre is generally musty, leather-elbowed and thoroughly skippable. This one mostly shrugs off its scholarship (though there's a delicate allusion to Euphrasia) and then gets properly blokey and obsessive about it all in a very charming way. Gates' own fandom (Beckett, Barthelme) and verbal tics ('tohu-bohu' anyone?) get some play, but come across as infectious and endearing. Like the characters in his own fiction who binge on Dickens in their out of town exiles, Gates admits that he's read Little Dorrit thirty times...This amplifies his remarks like this one, which work to enrich the experience of the novel and also prompt further thought: "If Shakespeare is literature's great keeper-out-of-the-way - who knows if he himself liked or disliked Hamlet or Lear? - Dickens is the great intruder."
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on 24 June 1999
"Bleak House" may have been masterfully managed, but I preferred this tense tale of poverty, riches and the parasitic class that breeds both. It is as cautionary a tale as the former: the role of the machinery of government and capitalist class on the lives of all under them has never been so powerfully depicted. Mr Merdle was based on a real person, a Sadlier who killed himself in Hyde Park when he caused the Tipperary Bank to fail. Amy Dorrit is to be preferred to Esther Summerson as a heroine in not being so off-puttingly and impossibly sweet. Dickens' mastery of plot is such to create an exciting mystery and a rich interweaving of character and plot that kept me up all night unravelling the puzzle.
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