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The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Old Curiosity Shop

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I keep trying to get people to tell me which is Dickens' best, so I won't have to read all the others. But no one helps much. Some group on the Internet said it was Bleak House, but I think that is the least favorite of the five I've read in the past year.

Based on the five books I've read so far, it appears that Dickens' stories are all pretty much the same. There's always orphans, much benighted, but stout hearted, moral and persistent. There's usually some kind of deformed villain, a ne'er-do-well sponger, a kindly old gentleman or two, an eccentric spinster, and likely a few other character types. Oh yeah, many, but not all, lawyers are conniving and grasping.

Anyway, The Old Curiosity Shop has all this in spades. It's the story of Little Nell and her grandfather, more-or-less. Also the story of Kit. There's lots of pathos, but, what's rather fun, lots of Dickens' wry humorous portrayal of the frailties of humanity. Dickens blathers incessantly, but it's such entertaining blather that one can never tire of it. I wonder why it took me so many decades to discover Dickens?
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Old Curiosity Shop
Series: ----------
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 632
Format: Digital Edition


Little Nell's Grandfather runs a Curiosity Shop and everyone, including her older brother and a money lending dwarf, think he is rich as Croessus. Unfortunately, he's also a secret gambler and ends up spending every penny they have on gaming, trying to win big so Nell can live in luxury for the rest of her life.

The help, a young man by the name of Kit, is dismissed, the brother plots to marry Nell to his friend because he is still convinced the Grandfather is rich (just miserly) and the dwarf causes trouble because of his evil nature.

Nell and Grandfather take to the road and meet various characters, some good, some bad and are saved from privation and death by working at a little church in some tiny town. The Grandfather's younger brother returns from faraway parts, very well off and begins searching for his brother and Grand-niece.

The dwarf plots rot and ruin for everyone and Kit finds a kindly couple to work for and settles down pretty well. Everyone caroums off of each other and does the thing called life and at the end Nell dies, Kit marries happily, Nell's brother is killed in France by bad company and the dwarf drowns and his poor wife finally marries happily.

My Thoughts:

This felt like Dickens used Nell as the white ball in a game of billiards. It is the focus of each player but what it does is defined by how it interacts with all the other billiards. Nobody cares about the white ball very much. In the same way Nell 's importance to this story was more how she drove interactions with the other characters.

I liked all the various stories. They were great Dickens' stories but the ties that bound everything together felt a bit weak. I almost wished that there had been more of the Marchioness (another young girl who ends up marrying and helping reform another side character) and not so much Nell. Nell was not a strong person and as such didn't have the personality to drive this story forward.

Don't get me wrong, this was still a good, fun, interesting story. But it didn't have quite that “pop” that I found in some of my other reads by Dickens. Could also be that coming after the Pickwick Papers didn't do this any favors for me either.

Overall, I enjoyed this but didn't find much to say about it and nothing made me sit up and go “Awesomesauce”. Definitely on the lower end of the Dickens Ladder.

★★★★☆ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Nov 14, 2018 |
The Old Curiosity Shop - Dickens' 5th book and 4th novel - is an odd fish, isn't it? Give or take Martin Chuzzlewit, it's perhaps the most confusing of his "Big Fifteen". It's been fifteen years since I first read it as a boy, and I still don't know where I stand. This is Dickens at his most Victorian, most sentimental. The long march of Nell and her Grandfather captured the public imagination in 1840 in a way that people of our era will never truly understand. At the same time, this is a world peopled with characters perhaps not as truly electric as those in Nicholas Nickleby but a little bit more real. The characters here are still, for the most part, symbols and cardboard stands, but by now, Dickens is a master at the novel's structure. The poignancy of Nell, and of the "Marchioness", and the rabid charisma of Mister Quilp, perhaps guaranteed Dickens his celebrity that would keep him in the trade for another 30 years.

I'm not sure if this is really worth 4-stars. Characters like Mrs. Quilp threaten to show signs of a personality and then fade back into the wallpaper. Predictable moment is heaped on predictable moment, glued together with endless apostrophising and moralising. This is perhaps the most dated of Dickens' serious novels. Yet it's still a compelling read, filled with rich descriptions of character and place, with a sense of social seriousness that anchors the novel far stronger than most of its contemporaries. I may never truly understand the "Little Nell mania" of the 1840s, but I can at least appreciate the man behind it. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
“The ties that bind the wealthy and the proud to home may be forged on earth, but those which link the poor man to his humble hearth are of truer metal and bear the stamp of Heaven.”

The novel opens with orphan Nell Trent living alone with her aged grandfather, who runs the curiosity shop of the title. Nell has an older brother, Fred, but he is a drunken spendthrift whom the grandfather endeavours to keep apart from Nell. Fred believes that his grandfather is rich and a miser who is saving all his money to benefit Nell but in reality the grandfather is an inveterate gambler who hoping to provide a fortune for the little girl in doing so only manages to gamble all of his money away. To finance his addiction the old man borrows money recklessly.

One of the old man’s creditors is an ugly, misshapen, dwarf named Quilp. Quilp plots to ruin the old man and someday marry Little Nell, who is only fourteen years old. Discovering the old man’s passion for gambling Quilp takes over the old curiosity shop and all its possessions in lieu of debt. As a consequence Nell and her grandfather abscond during the night and tramp to western England.

Despite being almost penniless, the two of them make various friends along their way. Initially travelling with a Punch-and-Judy troupe before then being befriended by the owner of a travelling waxworks, a Mrs Jarley, where Nell is given a job and is able to earn a little money. However, the grandfather’s passion for gambling, for a while abated returns and causes them to leave their benefactor. At last they are taken under the wing of a schoolmaster who is on his way to fill a new post in a remote village. With the schoolmaster’s assistance, the girl and her grandfather are established as caretakers of a church.

Shortly after Nell and her grandfather's disappearance, a strange, Single Gentleman appears and begins hunting for them. He is obviously wealthy but as no one knows his true identity his motives are questioned. However, soon convinces Kit, the only friend Nell had back in London. that he wants to aid the two runaways rather than do them harm, they team up and try to track them down. Their search is hampered when Quilp, with an irrational hatred of anyone honest, decides with his lawyer's assistance to ruin Kit and get him transported to the colonies by framing him for a crime that he did not commit. Eventually Kit's innocence is proved and the runaways are located but it all ultimately proves to be in vain.

Throughout the book there is a plethora of diverse minor characters all beautifully drawn and all with a message to tell and whilst, as with all of Dicken's books, there is a harsh social commentary on the times even as the most troubling episodes are unfolding it is difficult for the reader not to read it with a smile rather than a tear. As one would expect this is a wonderfully well crafted novel making it easy to understand why it has lasted the passage of time despite the changes in tastes and attitudes and even today continues to rightly make the author new friends. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 24, 2018 |
My first venture into Dickens. I've always shied away from him because he was paid by the word - I thought there would be a lot of "filler". Silly me! His characters come to life in the most wonderful way. I actually didn't care for Nell (way too much crying) or her grandfather but the rest of the characters more than made up for them. I'm looking forward to my next Dickens novel! ( )
  Kuglar | Mar 28, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (61 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andrews, MalcolmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cattermole, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Easson, AngusEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frank ReynoldsIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frith, W. P.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maclise, DanielIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, NormanPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, NormanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sharp, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wicklow, Earl ofIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, SamuelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Although I am an old man, night is generally my time for walking.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140437428, Paperback)

The sound of Little Nell clattering hurriedly over cobblestones immediately sets the stage by bringing to mind the narrow and dangerous streets of Victorian London. No fewer than 20 performers are called upon to conjure up the Dickensian world of wanderers, ne'er-do-wells, con artists, and kind Samaritans--and each performance is excellent. Tom Courtenay plays the sadistic Quilp, "the ugliest dwarf that could be seen anywhere for a penny" with magnificent sarcastic glee, and Teresa Gallagher's silvery, childlike voice is ideally suited for the role of the angelic Little Nell.

Nell is on her way home to the dusty shop where she and her grandfather live a rather mysterious life. The old man disappears every night--visiting gambling dens with the naive hope of winning a fortune. Instead he sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Enter Daniel Quilp, moneylender, who becomes furious upon learning that the grandfather is a pauper and will never be able to repay his tremendous debt. Quilp seizes the curiosity shop and begins making lecherous overtures to Nell, so she and her grandfather steal away one morning to seek their fortunes elsewhere. But the demonic dwarf is never far behind.

Sound effects are employed judiciously and serve mainly as a springboard for the listener's imagination. The sound of a crying baby is enough to convey the image of crowded lodgings and genteel Victorian poverty, while raucous laughter and high-pitched squawks evoke the barely controlled chaos of an outdoor Punch and Judy show. The dramatization pares Dickens's weighty novel down to two and one-half hours, but does so skillfully, retaining Dickens's wit, marvelous dialogue, and delightful characterizations. (Running time: 155 minutes, 2 cassettes) --Elizabeth Laskey

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The sensational bestselling story of Little Nell, the beautiful child thrown into a shadowy, terrifying world, seems to belong less to the history of the Victorian novel than to folklore, fairy tale, or myth. The sorrows of Nell and her grandfather are offset by Dickens's creation of a dazzling contemporary world inhabited by some of his most brilliantly drawn characters-the eloquent ne'er-do-well Dick Swiveller; the hungry maid known as the "Marchioness"; the mannish lawyer Sally Brass; Quilp's brow-beaten mother-in-law; and Quilp himself, the lustful, vengeful dwarf, whose demonic energy makes a vivid counterpoint to Nell's purity.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140437428, 014119958X

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