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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
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Our Mutual Friend (original 1865; edition 1998)

by Charles Dickens

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3,540561,494 (4.18)2 / 329
Member:christina_reads
Title:Our Mutual Friend
Authors:Charles Dickens
Info:Penguin Classics (1998), Edition: New Ed, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, British, classics, 19th century

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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1865)

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English (53)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Moody, dense look at Dickens's London characters. The city and river as wonderful characters. ( )
  jimnicol | Sep 26, 2014 |
Very difficult to get into and several extraneous characters who did little to move the plot forward. But the many threads came together nicely and happy endings were in store for most. As this was the last completed novel of Dickens, it struck me that he was yearning for a happy ending for himself at that point in his life. ( )
  AliceAnna | Aug 13, 2014 |
2007, Naxos Audiobooks, Read by David Timson

In the opening chapters of Our Mutual Friend, a body is fished from the Thames and wrongly identified as that of John Harmon, a young man recently returned to London to claim his inheritance. According to the terms of his father’s will, John is required to marry Bella Wilfer, a beautiful mercenary girl whom he has never met, in order to inherit his enormous fortune. Fearing (no doubt correctly) that Miss Wilfer would marry him solely for his money, John takes advantage of the misidentification and assumes the alias, John Rokesmith. Can he get the lovely Bella fall in love with him without the lure of his great wealth? In the meantime, Harmon’s inheritance passes to the working-class Boffins, a decision which has wide-ranging consequences for various corners of London society.
The parallel love story of another young couple has much in common with that of John and Bella: handsome society lawyer Eugene Wrayburn falls in love with Lizzie Hexam, the daughter of a corpse robber. Eugene, previously world-weary, comes alive when he meets Lizze for the first time. Of course, such a marriage is impossible. Isn’t it?

Our Mutual Friend, Dickens’ last complete novel, is replete with his usual social criticism: mainly the power of money to impact people’s lives for good or ill, mostly the latter. Expect a Dickens-size cast of eclectic characters, including various villains, the pair of young couples aforementioned, and a pint-size doll’s dressmaker who will completely win your heart.

Recommended: Highly! Particularly, of course, for lovers of the classics. This audio narration performance by David Timson is extraordinary! ( )
5 vote lit_chick | Jul 14, 2014 |
I know when I settle in with a Dickens story that I'm in for a treat. Our Mutual Friend, though not Dickens' best, is certainly no exception. I listened to this on audiobook read by David Timson and it was simply excellent. Missing wills, secret plots, cruel extortions, hidden identities, forbidden romances, nighttime murders, complicated family relationships, and the relentless pursuit of gain all appear in this novel, Dickens' last full work that was completed in 1865.

The gist of the story is this (beware of spoilers). An old miser dies estranged from his son John, who must travel back to England from abroad to claim his inheritance. The fortune comes with a condition, however; John must marry a young woman, Bella Wilfer, whom he has never met. When the young man is apparently murdered en route, the money goes to the miser's faithful servants, the lovable Boffins. Gaffer Hexam, a riverman whose occupation is to drag the Thames for bodies and whatever valuables he can scavenge, finds the body and is accused by a disgruntled former partner, Rogue Riderhood, of committing the actual murder. Hexam's children Charley and Lizzie are drawn into the story, along with a host of other characters too numerous to describe in detail: Mr Venus, Silas Wegg, Bradley Headstone, Jenny Wren, Eugene Wrayburn, Mortimer Lightwood, Reginald Wilfer, the Lammles... goodness, my head spins with all the distinct characters, backstories, and interweaving threads that go into this novel.

I did have to look up what all the "dustpiles" were that made up old John Harmon's vast fortune. It turns out that the dustpiles were actually piles of rubbish he collected as a private contractor, which people would pay to dig through in the hopes of finding something valuable. Whatever was left would be sold as raw materials for various industries like soapmaking, road building,and paper manufacturing (source: http://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/novels/our-mutual-friend/). Apparently several enterprising souls had become quite wealthy by this means. That bit of info makes the whole novel so much clearer. I was unsure if Dickens was using "dustpiles" figuratively to represent money/vanity, but the piles had such a literal and physical presence that I concluded there had to be something tangible and valuable about this "dust" that I just didn't understand.

The character studies on how money can corrupt people were fascinating (of course it was wonderful when one of my favorite characters turned out not to be corrupted by wealth after all!). Bella Wilfer's transformation was masterful. She moves from being a self-confessed mercenary, out to marry for money, to becoming the joyful wife of a poor man. Eugene Wrayburn's transformation is less convincing, but as I was really hoping he would change in the way that he did, I won't argue.

Critics have made much of the theme of rebirth from water, pointing to John Harmon and Eugene Wrayburn as prime examples. That may well be, but there are other times when being drawn from the water signifies death rather than rebirth, as with Jesse Hexam and the many bodies he pulled from the Thames. I don't think it's wise to make too many generalizations about Dickens' themes; the man's mind and creativity are too multi-faceted and complicated for us to ever really pin him down.

Although "unabridged" appeared prominently on the cover of this audiobook, I think it must be a lie. I was reading the Wikipedia description of the book and there are all kinds of events and characters I don't remember in the least (like Mr Riah, the sympathetic Jew, or the repentance of Sophronia Lammle in the scheme to marry Georgiana Podsnap to the deceptive Mr Fledgeby, Lavinia Wilfer's suitor George Sampson, and many others. And Pleasant Riderhood marries Mr Venus?! I have totally been gypped). I did think it was a bit short for a Dickens novel at only nine CDs. I will need to reread a truly unabridged print version eventually.

I thoroughly enjoyed Our Mutual Friend and recommend it to anyone not as familiar with Dickens' lesser-known works. You won't regret time spent in the world of this novel. ( )
1 vote wisewoman | Jun 19, 2014 |
The Boffins inherit the money, but John is not really dead... now my favorite Dickens. ( )
  sherribrari | Jun 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (67 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davies, E. SalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egg, AugustusCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, J. HillisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, MarcusIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary 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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375761144, Paperback)

Our Mutual Friend was the last novel Charles Dickens completed and is, arguably, his darkest and most complex. The basic plot is vintage Dickens: an inheritance up for grabs, a murder, a rocky romance or two, plenty of skullduggery, and a host of unforgettable secondary characters. But in this final outing the author's heroes are more flawed, his villains more sympathetic, and the story as a whole more harrowing and less sentimental. The mood is set in the opening scene in which a riverman, Gaffer Hexam, and his daughter Lizzie troll the Thames searching for drowned men whose pockets Gaffer will rifle before turning the body over to the authorities. On this particular night Gaffer finds a corpse that is later identified as that of John Harmon, who was returning from abroad to claim a large fortune when he was apparently murdered and thrown into the river.

Harmon's death is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the novel. It seems the fortune was left to the young man on the condition that he marry a girl he'd never met, Bella Wilfer. His death, however, brings a new heir onto the scene, Nicodemus Boffin, the kind-hearted but low-born assistant to Harmon's father. Boffin and his wife adopt young Bella, who is determined to marry money, and also hire a mysterious young secretary, John Rokesmith, who takes an uncommon interest in their ward. Not content with just one plot, Dickens throws in a secondary love story featuring the riverman's daughter, Lizzie Hexam; a dissolute young upper-class lawyer, Eugene Wrayburn; and his rival, the headmaster Bradley Headstone. Dark as the novel is, Dickens is careful to leaven it with secondary characters who are as funny as they are menacing--blackmailing Silas Wegg and his accomplice Mr. Venus, the avaricious Lammles, and self-centered Charlie Hexam. Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens's most satisfying novels, and a fitting denouement to his prolific career. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:19 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

John Harmon returns to England as his father's heir. Believed drowned under suspicious circumstances--a situation convenient to his wish for anonymity--John evaluates Bella Wilfer whom he must marry to secure his inheritance. The story is filled with colorful Victorian characters and incidents -- the faded aristocrats and parvenus gathered at the Veneering's dinner table, Betty Higden and her terror of the workhouse and the greedy plottings of Silas Wegg. A comprehensive and penetrating account of Victorian society stiffled by materialism.… (more)

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Twelve editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434976, 0141199806

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