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Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics) by Charles…

Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics) (edition 2003)

by Charles Dickens, Philip Horne (Contributor)

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14,729148135 (3.84)637
Title:Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Charles Dickens
Other authors:Philip Horne (Contributor)
Info:Penguin Classics (2003), Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:1001, Film, England

Work details

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

  1. 85
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Leishai)
  2. 10
    Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (swampygirl)
  3. 21
    Jack Dawkins by Charlton Daines (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Unauthorised sequel about the life of the Artful Dodger as an adult when he returns to England.
  4. 10
    The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (derelicious)
  5. 11
    The Adventures of Nathaniel Swubble: The Story of a Parish Boy's Childhood by Lilian Margaret Spencer (millylitre)
  6. 12
    The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Another look at Victorian corruption and crime. More comprehensive and more sinister.

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Outside of a failed attempt at the Pickwick Papers a decade or so ago, I believe this is the first Dickens I have read as an adult. Is that possible? I should be sent to the workhouse myself for that. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Jun 24, 2016 |
Cover: Fitting
Rating Up 4 dismal stars
Overall: An interesting read
Characters: Well written
Plot: Follow young Oliver into the dark, back-alleys of London
Page Turner: Yes, for some
Series Cont.? N/a
Recommend Yes
Favorite Character: the Artful Dodger

SUMMARY (50 word or so)

This book is... not for everyone. But I enjoyed it, and highly recommend it for fans of classics, or Dickens fans. It's a dark tale of how the orphaned Oliver makes and name for himself, and finds himself amidst a gang of thieves, and a small group of friends.

To see my full review, and other books news, check out my blog post.

( )
  Shadow494 | Jun 20, 2016 |
This was the first time I'd read this book. I grew up with the film and was amazed at how different the story is in the book. I loved it. There's a reason that this story is a classic. ( )
  BuffyBarber | Jun 5, 2016 |
Well, I finally finished re-reading Oliver Twist. Also known as, how much bad stuff can happen to one poor orphan boy? It took me a while to finish reading, not because of the story itself, but simply because of other time issues. I enjoyed the story and the ideas. I love Dickens' writing style, I just wish I'd been able to read more of it at a time during one sitting. Now that I've re-read this one, I'd like to re-read more of his work.
( )
  jguidry | May 31, 2016 |
Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist

Penguin Popular Classics, Paperback [1994].

12mo. 511 pp.

First published in Bentley's Miscellany, February 1837 – April 1839.
First published in book form, 1838.
Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.


(Here Be Dragons, e.g. spoilers!)

This novel is a triumph of substance over style. Verbose and convoluted, with erratic punctuation and somewhat pretentious vocabulary, it would be foolish to pretend it is well-written. It is not. This is to be expected, of course. Dickens was only 25-26 years old when he wrote it, and even the born writer is after all human. And we all know what manner of writing and publication flourished in those ancient times and how it affected novelists. That said, the prose is quite readable and sometimes contains powerful passages. Consider, for example, these Hamletian reflections on sleep and death:

Gradually, he fell into that deep tranquil sleep which ease from recent suffering alone imparts; that calm and peaceful rest which it is pain to wake from. Who, if this were death, would be roused again to all the struggles and turmoils of life; to all its cares for the present; its anxieties for the future; more than all, its weary recollections of the past!

The story is almost relentlessly grim. The only comic relief, such as it is, comes from the savage satire of the cruel hypocrites who cross Oliver’s way, be they beadles, undertakers or criminals. When Dickens aims at the sadistic system of raising orphans, he is a little too crude (“What a novel illustration of the tender laws of England! They let the paupers go to sleep!”), but when his targets are the sadists themselves, he is rather effective. Isn’t it wonderful to read that Mr Fang, the police magistrate, made “a comical effort to look humane” or to see the phrase “affectation of humanity” attached to Fagin? Dickens seems to find it hard to resist making fun of his characters, even in scenes which are presumably serious, but now and then, for a sentence or two, he can surprise with some profound insight into human nature or a fascinating contemporary touch. Two of my favourite examples are the essence of being funny and what must be one of the first references to photography in fiction:

But, making Oliver cry, Noah attempted to be more facetious still; and in his attempt, did what many sometimes do to this day, when they want to be funny. He got rather personal.

The man that invented the machine for taking likenesses might have known that would never succeed; it's a deal too honest. A deal,' said the old lady, laughing very heartily at her own acuteness.

Oliver begins as a rather shadowy figure. After his first nine years, of which we are told next to nothing, he emerges as a weepy and pathetic boy. So he remains until the end. This is because he is very passive: a lot happens to him, but he seldom does anything. We are not often told how persons and events affect him, either. Indeed, several times he quite disappears from the pages for many chapters on end. “Humiliation is the shortest path to a man’s heart”, said a character invented one hundred years after the death of Dickens.[1] This is certainly true. Not the least remarkable thing about Oliver Twist, a Christ-like figure of apparently incorruptible virtue, is that he endures a great deal of humiliation without turning into a monster of depravity.

The large cast of other characters is what makes this book an enduring classic. There is little complexity and no subtlety in them. What they do have in abundance, however, are individuality, variety and vitality. Of course, the characters also have a great deal of atrocious melodrama in them – people burst in tears and fall to their knees rather easily in this novel – but this is the necessary evil that must be endured.

The picture of the Victorian underworld that Dickens presents here is neither as comprehensive nor as haunting as Michael Crichton’s in The Great Train Robbery (1975). Nevertheless, it is from those “drunken men and women [who] were positively wallowing in filth” that the most memorable characters emerge. As usual, the good guys are less interesting than the bad ones. Nothing titillates the presumably respectable reader more than reading about disreputable characters. The trio of villains, uneven as they are, is one of the chief assets of the novel. Only Fagin, however, is assured of villainous immortality. The back cover of this edition describes him as “satanic”. This is a nice summary of smart, amoral, manipulative and dangerous. Bill Sikes is just brutal and cruel, sometimes impressively so, but rather too dumb and crude to be of lasting interest. Monks would have made a great villain, but Dickens never did more than sketch him. Mr Bumble, that giant heap of callous pomposity with a “waterproof” heart (impervious to tears, that is), could have been an excellent villain, too. But he is much too funny for that.

Nancy is a poignant, almost tragic, study of innate goodness tarnished for good by the lack of social opportunities. She is by far the most complex and compelling character in the whole book. This is because she is the only one who tries to bridge the two worlds. The fact that she fails only makes her more affecting. Why does she refuse to save herself when she has, to use a cliché, a once-in-a-lifetime chance? Well, she is clearly in love with Bill Sikes, for one thing. What’s more, she hopes to reform and transform him. Now, love is a notoriously unreliable guide to people. It is her love, no doubt, that makes Nancy misjudge Bill so badly. It is unjust to blame her, though. She is neither the first nor the last woman who falls for the wrong man – or vice versa. The fact remains that virtually all of her scenes – her impulsive defence of Oliver, her clandestine meeting with Rose, her refusal of Fagin’s advances (if that’s the word), her final confrontation with Sikes – are the most memorable and emotionally involving scenes in the novel as far as I’m concerned. It is in these moments (and a few others, e.g. Fagin’s last night in jail or Oliver’s meeting with Dick before his flight) that I am convinced there is something special in Dickens, something that far too many novelists have never possessed.

The fact remains that the four greatest novelists the world has ever known, Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoi and Dostoievsky, wrote their respective languages very indifferently. It proves that if you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and if you have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.[2]

This is true of Oliver Twist, my first encounter with Dickens (better late than never). I would be reading him again. For one thing, I am curious if he improves his style in the later novels. More importantly, I would like to know how his social satire and characterisation would develop – I hope they would. In terms of pure storytelling, there is little room for improvement. Only very occasionally is the padding a little too obvious: for the most part it is impeccable. If you happen to think somewhere in the middle that this or that chapter is irrelevant, the chances are that in the end you would be wrong. Apart from the sheer virtuosity of the narrative, “that perhaps you must be a novelist thoroughly to appreciate”[3], I take from this novel to my subconscious Nancy and Fagin, two unforgettable characters for very different reasons. Not bad for a lad of 26, is it?

[1] Andrew Wyke in Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth (1970).
[2] W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook (1949), “1941”.
[3] W. Somerset Maugham, Books and You (1940), chapter 1. ( )
3 vote Waldstein | Apr 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
Oliver Twist, a meek, mild young boy, is born in the workhouse and spends his early years there until, finding the audacity to ask for more food, he is made to leave. Apprenticed to an undertaker by Mr Bumble, Oliver runs away in desperation and falls in with Fagin and his gang of thieves where he begins his new life in the criminal underworld.

Under the tutelage of the satanic Fagin, the brutal Bill Sikes and the wily Artful Dodger, Oliver learns to survive, although he is destined not to stay with Fagin but to find his own place in the world.

With its terrifying evocation of the hypocrisy of the wealthy and the depths to which poverty pushes the human spirit, Oliver Twist is both a fascinating examination of evil and a poignant moving novel for all times.
added by letonia | editPenguin Popular Classics

» Add other authors (177 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cruikshank, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fairclough, PeterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ghiuselev, IassenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heilig, Matthias R.abridged bysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoppé, E.O.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horne, PhillipEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
House, HumphryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, IrvingIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Comte, EdwardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leopoldo de Verneuil, EnriqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Méndez Herrera, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahoneij, J.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margolyes, MiriamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oddera, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slater, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, AngusIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
Please, sir, I want some more.
If the law supposes that, the law is a ass-- a idiot.
What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It's quite enough that we let 'em have live bodies.
"We have none of us long to wait for Death. Patience, patience! He'll be here soon enough for us all."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439742, Paperback)

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters—the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:01 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Scathing in its indictment of a cruel society and pervaded by a sense of threat and mystery, this novel is peopled with some of the most famous characters in literature. Elements of the Gothic Romance jostle with those of the Newgate novel and popular melodrama forging a style entirely Dickens'.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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8 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439742, 0140439447, 0451529715, 0141031719, 0141322438, 0141192496, 0141198885, 1409311252

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