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on 7 August 2002
What can you say? Dickens writes brilliantly.
This entertaining saga follows the handsome eponymous hero through the slings and arrows that follow him into adulthood.
All I had heard about before was Wackford Squeers and Dotheboys Hall, but that is mostly over by the end of the first quarter.
As usual, the plot is a bit pointless but the characters are fantastic, and I thought the cameo role for the villain Mulberry Hawk led to some of the best bits of writing in the book, in particular the description of a drunken argument that leads to a duel. Dickens is such a good writer that he can toss off sensational bits of writing like this on bits of the plot that are far from crucial. His talent just can't be contained.
This, though, is the ignore the main part of the drama as Nickleby fights to overcome the injustices that assail his family. The book certainly has some powerful moments, as well as genuinely funny comic interludes.
Of the characters, Smike is the most tragically drawn and perhaps the most famous: I am not sure that authors today would treat mental impairment the same way, but that is perhaps a failure of today's readers and writers.
I suppose I don't think this novel has the depth of later work like "David Copperfield", which covers similar material, but it is still leagues ahead of most things you will read.
Thoroughly enjoyable and full of humanity.
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on 7 May 2017
A huge 880 page eventful book of the, as most Dickens written, serialised story of a young man maturing in 1840s England. Basically at 19 proud, fiery, well mannered Nicholas loses his father, and comes under the ‘protection’ of his baddy uncle Ralph. This miserly, scheming business man has Nicholas sent to Yorkshire as a tutor working for the equally bad headmaster Squeers, who runs a dirty Olivereque school; while Nicholas’s mother and pretty sister Kate are installed in a poor flat and need to seek work. Nicholas befriends poor Smike a bullied pupil and after a bust-up both runaway back to London and initially join a travelling theatre. Ralph, grows to hate Nicholas and family more and more, and plots to make money from Kate’s eligibility. There are over 20 main characters along the way creating a classic Dickensian narrative leading to, perhaps for some might be but fortunately not for me, predictable ‘reveal’ and dramatic, tragic conclusion.

I found the characters in many cases well rounded and enjoyable, indeed I’d say I found many more deep and engaging than, somewhat saccharin Nicholas himself (I’m think Ralph, Newman Noggs and John Browdie). The occasionally funny Dickensian turn of phrase equally entertaining. I’d recommend getting a version with a character list and the original illustrations. It is a very, very long book, which although written in bite sized chapters, I think requires that the reader keeps to a sustained reading pace otherwise risking it becoming, even for me in places, lacking drive and focus. For me one for the better Dickens, helped by me not actually knowing the, usefully uncomplicated story at all.
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on 30 November 2012
I ordered this book for my mother who is loosing her sight because of an auto-immune system disease. She doesn't need super large text, so 16 pt seemed perfect. Everything on the Amazon website (as well as the invoice when the books came) seemed to suggest that this was a two volume set. When the package arrived at my parent's house, we discovered that this is actually a three volume set! I had only ordered volumes one and two, so was fairly annoyed, but thought I'd just order the third in the set on the Amazon website. Turns out that the third volume isn't available (not just out of stock, but not on Amazon's website at all!). There's no point at all in having 2/3rds of a book! I was forced to return the two books I'd ordered (or rather get my father to do this remotely for me).
At £22.49 each - that's £67.47 for three volumes (if they had them) I find this price extortionate and exploitative of people who cannot see perfectly well. I'll order another set from a supplier who actually has the whole book available.
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A handsome young man who finds himself the sole support of his mother and sister after his father's death, Nicholas Nickleby is hopeful that his uncle, Ralph Nickleby, a weathy speculator in London, will assist the unfortunate family in its hour of need. Ralph's cruel response, however, is to make Nicholas the assistant headmaster at a notoriously abusive school in northern England and to make his beautiful sister a seamstress and part-time hostess at his own parties. There she is subjected to innuendo and to the drunken intentions of men whose accounts help keep Ralph a wealthy man.

This early novel is pure melodrama, with the good characters being unbelievably good, and the evil being unbelievably bad. The multiple adventures of Nicholas through a variety of settings, both in the city and in the countryside, create a broad picture of life in England in the 1830s. Nicholas's job as assistant headmaster exposes him to the horrors of so-called boarding schools for young boys, which were essentially warehouses for young children where they were forced into physical labor, kept malnourished, and beaten regularly. These abuses, based on Dickens's personal observations, so horrified his readers that major reforms of these schools eventually resulted. When Nicholas, in frustration, finally beats headmaster Wackford Squeers for his abuse of the children, Nicholas and Smike, a crippled boy who has been the headmaster's slave, escape together.

Their interlude with a traveling theatrical company, led by friendly Vincent Crummles, gives Nicholas much needed emotional support and provides Smike with a temporary home--until Nicholas is called to return to England to rescue his sister from unwanted attentions fostered by her uncle. Eventually Nicholas works in London for the saintly Cheeryble brothers and meets Madeline Bray, the love of his life.

Long recognized as one of Dickens's best novels for its wide assortment of characters, the novel mixes delightful humor with the pathos. The complex plot employs coincidence and miraculous interventions to save the day for the good characters while well-deserved disasters befall the evil ones. Dickens's vibrant descriptions bring people, places, and scenes fully to life, and the realistically described social conditions provide a clear vision of life's travails.

Despite its great length, the novel is a fast read--and fun--but it is soap opera-like in its ups and downs, and the main characters are not fully developed. One knows little about Nicholas except what one "sees"--that he has a kind heart and acts on it--but we know little about his inner life. (David Copperfield and Pip in Great Expectations are still ten and twenty years away.) Sentimental and occasionally bathetic, the novel involves the reader in the social abuses, some of which were improved as a direct result of this book's publication. Mary Whipple
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on 12 July 2017
Great cast of characters in one of his best loved novels. I would recommend this title to anyone, whether they be a Dickens reader already, or have yet to discover this master story teller's work.
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on 24 July 2017
The book is great, I would give that five stars, but it was left outside as we weren't in when it arrived and the rain got through the packaging and damaged the hardback cover
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on 12 July 2014
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on 14 February 2013
It's free and you can read it on your phone - there really is no excuse not to read this classic.
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on 8 January 2008
Nicholas Nickleby follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the titular character. There have been other tales in a similar vein but none tell a tale quite the way Dickens does. His characters are larger than life. Wackford Squeers and Uncle Ralph Nickleby are antagonists you love to hate, one can't help pitying Smike and Noggs and the well-meaning Mrs Nickleby torments the reader whenever she opens her mouth.

Dickens rarely abandons his satirical style. I particularly enjoyed his depictions of the Crummles' drama troupe. The scene in which Nicholas gives Squeers a bit of his own medicine is one of the best in literature. There are moments of tragedy in the tale and these are told skillfully.

Some complain of his detailed descriptive style but I find the way he sets a scene pure genius. This is epitomised in his description of the house of Arthur Gride. His furniture tells more about him than any personal description ever could.

This is a book I will read again and again.

One of the difficulties I have had with Dickens' longer novels is finding a well-made edition that didn't look like I was carrying a dictionary around with me. Like the other books in the Collector's Library this book features clear type on high quality blue-white paper and an excellent sewn binding. The charming small size brings to mind the 'pocket editions' from various publishers before the advent of the cheap pulp paperback. Nicholas Nickleby is an amazing two and a half inches thick so it won't go in my coat pocket but it still is a very handy size that is very easy to carry around. The gold edging to the pages, red cloth covered boards and silky ribbon marker are deluxe features of the Collector's library editions. I like the sturdy laminated dustwrappers as well.

Definitely my favourite editon of Nicholas Nickleby.
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on 10 January 2016
To try and describe the plot, a well off family is left destitute after the father dies leaving his two children with little choice but to go out and make their way in the world in order to support their mother. A villainous uncle called Ralph arranges for the young man Nicholas to be placed as a teacher in a school run by the tyrannical headmaster Wackford Squeers, the horrible treatment and cruelty Nicholas witnesses leads him to snap and he is sacked from the school after assaulting Squeers and thrashing him in front of the boys. Nicholas quickly flees, though not before making a handful of new young friends, one of whom escapes with him.

Meanwhile his pretty younger sister Kate is sent to work in a dress making business while she continues to live with her comically naive and highly flappable mother. Kate's sweet nature makes her the favourite of her employer but also the envy of some of the other women she works with. When her employer losses control of the business, Kate too finds herself without a job. To make matters worse one evening she is made by her Uncle to attend a party, she arrives to find she is the only woman present and things instantly get worse as the men start to aggressively flirt with her leading to her fleeing home in tears. The siblings reunite and a confrontation takes place with Uncle Ralph who decries their ingratitude to him. The Siblings declare they will from now on make their own way without him and cut their ties.

The second part of the books takes a slightly more serious side. The feeble companion who traveled with Nicholas from the school feels as though he is being pursued by a shadow from his past, both Nicolas and Kate fall in love with a suitable match and a diabolical plot is uncovered in which a pretty destitute girl is close to being forced into marriage with a vile creepy associate of Uncle Ralph who himself is also plotting revenge against his nephew. The mother continues to provide the comic relief as the fat bumbling character who herself becomes involved in a comical little love affair she misunderstands. I couldn't but help but wonder if the unflattering portrayal of the mother was based on Dicken's own wife who he had grown fed up with.

The novel's protagonist Nicholas is well written, a young, caring, sensitive but hot headed young man who is forced to step up and provide for his mother and sister. The ending of the book does follow a weakness in trend in the writing of Dickens where a wealthy benevolent gentlemen or two arrive on the scene and are able to solve many of the financial problems our characters endure. Any happiness our characters are granted at the end feels well earned considering the difficulties they go through during the book. Within the gritty and unjust world we read about humour still appears in unexpected places, often through the absurdity of the situation or the dry wit of the narrator.

To compare with other books, unlike Great Expecations Nicholas Nickleby is written in the third person, there are of course lots of characters, but unlike Our Mutual Friend, these characters are introduced slowly through the novel and routinely interact with each other across the novel.
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