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on 29 March 2016
This is an excellent book but very heavy going. This is Dickens' last complete novel; by the time he wrote this, his writing style had become so sophisticated that it is certainly not an easy read. Dickens doesn't narrate a story; he allows the reader to watch the story unfold. More than any other book by Dickens, he gives his characters complex personalities which develop and alter as a result of the unfolding events within the story. At first I felt the main theme throughout the story was rather implausible but I should have had more faith in the literary master; the twist at the end of the story gives reasons for the previous absurdities.

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!
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This was Dickens’s last completed novel, originally published in serial form in twenty episodes during 1864 and 1865. Though not as long as Bleak House, it contains more complexities of plot and is peopled by a vast cast of characters: perhaps rather too many for even a novelist of Dickens’s calibre to choreograph capably.

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.
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on 16 August 2014
This is the last of Dickens' novels and contains some stylistic quirks. He talks a lot about "dust" which is presumably a metaphor for something, but he never says what. I tried to imagine what it could mean, but failed, and concluded that it represents something trivial and commonplace that you can nevertheless make a lot of money out of.

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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on 25 March 2015
For me, this is not among the best of Dickens' works, but overall still a good read. The typical strands within the overall tale turn this into a Victorian version of a soap opera; all are linked in a chain of course, but not all of the strands are vital to what most would take to be the basic premise (this is very hard to identify if its possible at all). There is also the problem of the first 20% or so of the book, being punctuated by a strange summary style of delivery. It is also hard to sum up as so much goes on, and features so many characters - some central, some almost central and a fair few make-weights. But let us try. . .

A body is dragged up from the river, there then follows investigations and inquiries with regards to identification and cause of death. At the same time we are introduced to the usual Dickensian crew: the almost nightly gathering of rich idle loafers and their haughty ladies, and of course, a fair smattering of the poor and destitute, with some folks what we would now call middle class pretending to be richer than they are - or at all. Although their parts in the tale play out separately, ie, mostly within their own sphere, the classic Dickensian trait of all strands at least connecting if not fully coming together, slowly, slowly takes place as the story (at times, painfully) progresses. At the same time, each character or group of same, develop their own stories, not linked to the one thing which does bind them, albeit tenuously in many cases.

I have still given this a fair to good rating though - three stars. This is because if one can persevere the unfortunately at times mind-numbing opening chapters, a great read really does develop, after of course accepting that not all said strands run anywhere near parallel for the bulk of the tale.
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I have to admit I didn't immediately feel convinced by this reading, as the author of the first review clearly did.

But after a while, my god it grew on me. Timson is extraordinarily good at getting Dickens' way of writing to work, read out loud. I really felt like I was getting some insight into what it must have been like at the time, hearing Dickens himself read out his new novel.

Timson has a great ear for the different characters, and you immediately fall in love with the Boffins in particular. And he makes the opening scene with the tides of the Thames seem deeply sinister.

£38 might seem like a lot for a book but it is about seven weeks of solid entertainment if you drive half an hour a day... Much better than a random night at the theatre you might not even like.

The best thing about it is that it's completely unabridged. So you get every single little detail of the novel - and you can drink it in with so much pleasure (and leisure) because someone else is reading it to you. Rarely have I listened to an audiobook which so much reminded me of the delights of having a bedtime story when i was little. Really good, v v v v v recommended.
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on 18 April 2012
I bought the print version of Our Mutual Friend because I was struggling to read such a long book on my eBook (it was our Book Club choice recently in an attempt to read a Dickens but avoid one where we already knew the plot). Each chapter tends to be about a different set of characters - and there are a lot of them - so it's useful to be able to skim quickly back through the book to reacquaint yourself with them, especially if you can't read this in big chunks (which I would recommend).

It does take a while to get into the book and used to the language if you haven't read any Dickens before, but once you get going it is a joy. You can see that this was originally published in parts over a long period and as a complete book it might have benefited from some editing in places, but then that would lose some of its heritage.

Overall, this is definitely worth taking time to read, whether or not you've read any Dickens before. And as I said, the advantage is that, unlike some more popular Dickens novels, you're unlikely to know the plot, although the blurb on the back does give one important aspect away, unfortunately, so avoid reading that if you can.
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on 13 September 2012
I'm sure it's brilliant but I made a mistake in purchasing this item.
While off sick, a friend obtained from our local library, a 28 CD Audio set of this book by Charles Dickens for me to listen to while recovering.
It was very enjoyable, so I thought I would like to own it myself.
I looked for it on Amazon (always my first port of call for such items these days) and found this set second-hand.
Unfortunately, I didn't notice in the description that it was on Audio Tapes, (I am partially sighted, so that's my excuse) I long ago gave up on those and have no machine to run them on now, and I was unaware this story was available on tape at all!
I have asked the seller to accept as a return, but as it's not their fault, I am unsure as to how this will be received.
As for the story itself it's very good, highly recommended, buy it!
I understand it's also available on DVD (BBC Dramatised version) but personally I wouldn't care for that, I much prefer audio.
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on 19 January 2015
This is a good read, but you have to give yourself plenty of time to sit down and concentrate. You can never be sure, with Dickens, which passages are essential to the plot and which are just blether, so be careful about skimming. I found I had to keep flicking back to clarify details and characters so actually would recommend a print edition for this book. The characters are wonderful, the story is intriguing and exciting and the whole is a reminder of what we have gained through our better care for the poor and underprivileged and what we have lost in terms of community.
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on 28 April 2017
Poorly edited with lots of half words. I got used to the American accent of the storyteller but the mispronounciation of English words and place names was really wearing. Not up to the usual standards for Brilliance Audio as I have quite a collection of their CDs, including several by Dickens. Such a shame.
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VINE VOICEon 15 July 2012
I deliberately chose the free Kindle version as I wanted to simultaneously listen to the Our Mutual Friend: Unabridged (Naxos Complete Classics) audio version. The kindle version was virtually flawless with hardly any typos or other textual irritants.

The audio version was beautifully read and added so much to the characters. It also helps with comprehending some monstrously convoluted sentences. As audio devotees will know, you also need to set aside time, peace and quiet, Factor 15 and a well-tipped poolside waiter.

Some people may think I am insane when I say that, at times, I also wished I had a hard copy to skip back and forth more easily given the 50-odd characters and 900 pages.

Lastly, a couple of words on a much-reviewed book. Dickens is a genius and this book is staggeringly brilliant.

I want to marry 'the boofer lady'.
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