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Our Mutual Friend (1865)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,813851,620 (4.16)2 / 406
A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, "Our Mutual Friend" revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap's expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights "Noddy" Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes "the Golden Dustman." Charles Dickens's last complete novel, "Our Mutual Friend" encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, "Our Mutual Friend" is one of Dickens's most complex--and satisfying--novels.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Really hard to read ( )
  farrhon | Sep 3, 2020 |
"There's ever so many people in the river" - Bob Gliddery

A majestic, dark, swirling novel, this. I'm not quite sure it's a Dickensian masterpiece on the level of Great Expectations or Bleak House, nor perhaps is it as dear to my heart as Little Dorrit. Nevertheless, it slots nicely into fourth place for me. Dickens' last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend is a thematically unified treatise on money, death, transformation, and the ways in which humans can never truly know one another. As expected, the novel bursts with memorable characters: the lowlife Rogue Riderhood, the even worse Silas Wegg and his Decline and Fall of the Rooshan Roman Empire, the giddy Boffins and the scheming Lammles, the doll's dressmaker Jenny Wren and the determined septuagenarian Betty Higden, the tormented Bradley Headstone and the great, interminable Mrs. Wilfer. They are all characters at the service of two richly symbolic legacies: the death of John Harmon, Sr, and his fortune founded (quite literally) on piles of dust, and that of Gaffer Hexam, the "waterside character", fisher of dead bodies from the Thames, whose life and death on that swirling, copper river seems to embody Dickens' thoughts on life, regardless of one's "station".

Being a Dickens acolyte sometimes means accepting that his main characters are going to endure external transformations, not internal ones. No shades of Tolstoy here, thankyou very much. And while John Rokesmith is little more than a tormented plaything of the fates, we at least get some satisfying development in the determined, put-upon Lizzie Hexam, the gruff and sometimes pseudo-villainous Eugene Wrayburn, and that devastating creature, the mercenary Bella Wilfer. Readers' tolerance will vary as to how convincing any of the character's transformations are, and the practice of publishing the novel in 20 serialised parts of the same length means that sometimes one feels like Dickens has cut short important moments, while other character moments seem to go on for a few too many pages.

Nevertheless, there's little to complain about here. Like most artists in their old age, Dickens' work is a lot more richer here than in the early novels like Nicholas Nickleby although at the same time, his situations have lost some of their carefree pizzazz and even his grotesques are - in order to be more shaded-in - less outright comical. But CD's tongue remains firmly lodged in his cheek here, particularly in his dealings with the Lammles and Mr. Wilfer's thoughts on his home life. The symbolism at play in this book, exemplified by those mounds of dust on which fortunes depend, are particularly interesting given that, just months after the book was completed, Britain would face a financial scandal that would bring down many. Best of all, Dickens' descriptive powers have never been better. The night walks of Wrayburn, and Headstone, and Riderhood along the country river compete with a sequence of death and resurrection in a low-end pub, a children's hospital of great sorrow and compassion, the "bran' new" dinner parties of the Veneerings, and - most unforgettable of all - the darkened rooms of London's most prolific and talented anatomist (to judge from his own opinions), Mr. Venus. As the smile on Venus' alligator seems to say, "All of this was quite familiar knowledge down in the depths of the slime, ages ago."

Delightful, although I don't think I'd recommend it to newcomers to Dickens. It's a more rarefied example of his work that probably tastes better once the palate has grown accustomed. ( )
1 vote therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
The Oxford India-paper Dickens ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 20, 2020 |
Four parts, two vols., in one ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
Against the evils of money and society, and the plight of the poor. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (165 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davies, E. SalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dickens, Charles, Jr.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egg, AugustusCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, J. HillisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, MarcusIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, MartinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LynnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werner, HoniCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitfield, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wynne, DeborahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is inscribed by its author to Sir James Emerson Tennent as a memorial of friendship
First words
In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.
Quotations
"Why not possible, deary, when so many things are possible?" ~Mrs. Boffin
"You could draw me to fire. You could draw me to water. You could draw me to the gallows. You could draw me to any death." ~Bradley Headstone
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, "Our Mutual Friend" revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap's expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights "Noddy" Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes "the Golden Dustman." Charles Dickens's last complete novel, "Our Mutual Friend" encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, "Our Mutual Friend" is one of Dickens's most complex--and satisfying--novels.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434976, 0141199806

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