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Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby (1836)

by Charles Dickens

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4,93266928 (3.95)240
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    The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Both books are early Dickens' novels and written in an episodic, picaresque style. Although Nicholas Nickleby is more plot-driven than The Pickwick Papers and contains some darker themes, both works are fundamentally happy Dickens novels and readers who enjoy one would probably enjoy the other.… (more)

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I enjoy Dickens very much and fin some of his novels have had a deep impact on me. Nicholas Nickleby is a typical Dickens novel--memorable names, poor family survives adversity to prosper, and commentary on social evils (a certain class of for-profit schools and usury) and it was enjoyable to read. Somehow, it felt to me a bit below-par for Dickens. I was very conscious of the "plot machinery" creaking along toward the entirely predictable denouement, something not true of most of the other Dickens novels I have read. ( )
  nmele | Sep 20, 2017 |
I found the plot of Nicholas Nickleby hard to follow at times, but in the end felt that it was a book I might enjoy watching a film adaptation of. As writing, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, "Oliver Twist." Dickens tries to mix some of the same social criticism of the former work into this book (and apparently had quite an effect on the general population at the time, much to the detriment of the Yorkshire schools portrayed in this book), but with a greater focus on comedy. I was disappointed that he reverts back to such shallow portrayals of women after doing such an outstanding job of writing Nancy in "Oliver Twist," but to his credit I would say that I could imagine Kate as a living breathing character (and one who was far stronger than he seemed to be willing to portray her). Dickens also goes for the twist ending again here, but the melodrama seems forced. I would concur with critics who say that this book suffered from the time constraints on the author as he sought to hastily complete one overlapping manuscript after another. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Jul 17, 2017 |
Not my favorite of Dickens. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Although it is the third of Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby is perhaps the first to feel more than prototypically Dickensian. It dances between comedy and tragedy, with a protagonist who is more than a little autobiographical and a secondary cast who are, to a man, larger than life. That Nicholas briefly spends time caught up in the inner workings of a theatre troupe is remarkably apt, because the tone of the entire book is decidedly theatrical, and it’s unsurprising to learn that it widely became the target of plagiarism for stage adaptation before it was even completed -- a practice which prompts Dickens to use Nicholas as his mouthpiece to launch a vitriolic rant at just such a plagiaristic dinner guest in the latter pages of the book.

Much as The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist before it engaged the social issues of the day in the form of, respectively, debtor’s prisons and the New Poor Law’s workhouses, Nicholas Nickleby opens by sending Nicholas to one of the infamous Yorkshire boarding schools where boys lived in conditions such as five to a bed, all sharing a towel, in rooms with sewage and effluvium in their midst. Unlike his first two novels, where Dickens was at his strongest when tackling society’s injustices, these are some of the weaker chapters in the book, perhaps because he doesn’t let himself be angry enough. During Nicholas’s time in Yorkshire, I expected to see more of the scathing sarcasm with which Dickens described Oliver Twist’s workhouses levelled at the boarding schools, and not so much of Nicholas dodging the unrequited affections of the unfortunately named Miss Fanny Squeers.

From the moment Nicholas engages with the theatre troupe, the plot becomes background noise for a good few hundred pages. What takes centre stage are Dickens’s small insights into people, into personhood, as he piles more and more into his madcap dramatis personae. Take Miss La Creevy, the little miniature painter, whose scenes bear minimal importance to the overall direction of the story but the utmost to the heart of the novel, for the grace and good-humoured patience with which she is shown to bear her loneliness, the ways in which she is shown to have drawn positivity from being her own source of company, and the ken of humanity she demonstrates in return when she is the first to recognise the changes in Smike and the most astute at bringing him out into the world.

This, writ large, is the beauty of the book. Dickens’s characters can be melodramatic, they can be caricatures, they can be unabashedly, unapologetically over the top, and that’s here too, in the form of Lord Frederick and Sir Mulberry, Kate’s contemptible harassers, but they are rarely just that. They’re also Smike and Newman Noggs and the Cheeryble brothers -- each a different facet of humanity’s capacity for warmth.

Kate’s chapters do disrupt the flow occasionally, because she borders on being another of Dickens’s repetitive illustrations of his one ideal of womanhood, but she’s not quite as tediously angelic as, say, Rose Maylie, a fate from which she is largely preserved by her hilarious relationship with her and Nicholas’s mother. Mrs. Nickleby would be too exasperating to be true if not for the fact that everyone has a relative of her ilk in their family tree somewhere, and the universality of having sat through a family dinner with one renders her exceedingly amusing.

Ultimately, the resolution is served by the fact that Dickens doesn’t strive to tie things up in as perfectly a happy bow as in Oliver Twist, but allows some bittersweetness to linger. It’s hard not to be heartbroken for Smike, but in an odd way, the heart breaks a little for Ralph Nickleby, ostensibly one of the black hats of the piece, also. He had the seeds of a better man within him, and so many opportunities where, had he simply allowed them to grow, he could’ve joined in the happy ending. Kate stood as his bridge to reconciliation with his fatherly instincts, with Nicholas and, through him, Smike, but every time he chose to protect his standing instead of the young woman appealing to his shrivelled sense of family, he took a step closer to that ending. He is one of Dickens’s more nuanced villains, and his final mental break is exceedingly well written. It’s a shame that more focus is given to the rescue of Madeline and all her entitlements, suspenseful though that plot can be, than to a more natural integration of Ralph’s downfall than having all the bad news unceremoniously dumped in his lap in the Cheerybles’ office.

Nicholas Nickleby can be a long and scattered book. It’s perhaps one of the best early examples of Dickens’s powerful descriptive prose, but he has yet to touch the heights of A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. It is, however, unfairly subject to oversight, and there’s a lot here that is well worth your time.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
2 vote Snumpus | Aug 10, 2016 |
A very, very long time ago, when he was just a wee lad, Arukiyomi attempted to read this and didn’t get too far. This time, I listened to this via librivox.org and can easily say that Mil Nicholson does one of the best narrations there that I’ve heard in many years of enduring librivox recordings.

Now that I have finished it, I can easily forgive myself for bailing halfway through. This is not Dickens’ best and the story and characters aren’t sustained in any memorable way as the novel gets into its latter half.

For a start, the novel isn’t about the life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby and not least because it ends when, presumably, Nicholas has many decades yet to live. Dickens starts out well enough with Nicholas featuring prominently as the novel opens with him accepting a job at the, now infamous, Dotheboys Hall boarding school as a result of having to support his family his father’s death.

The scenes at Dotheboys are very memorable which is a shame for the rest of the novel because, once he leaves in dramatic style, the rest of the novel pales into a series of limp events and characters that lack the development of Dickens’ later and more famous novels. Dickens doesn’t help matters by tying every loose end up nicely as the novel concludes, and there are also some long drawn out death scenes which are overly melodramatic.

If you’re ploughing through the 1001 list or you feel like you should be reading all of Dickens’ works then this is worth a read. Otherwise, I’d give it a miss and head straight for novels built upon this like A Christmas Carol or his outstanding bildungsroman, David Copperfield. ( )
  arukiyomi | Jun 5, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (149 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, MarkContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, Christina F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nicholson, MilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorndike, Dame SybilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140435123, Paperback)

When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father’s death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world.

Nicholas’s adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray a extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys; the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas; and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummle, and their daughter, the ‘infant phenomenon’. Like many of Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterized by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, revealing Dickens’s comic genius at its most unerring.

Mark Ford’s introduction compares Nicholas Nickleby to eighteenth-century picaresque novels, and examines Dickens’s criticism of the ‘Yorkshire Schools’, his social satire and use of language. This edition also includes the original illustrations by ‘Phiz’, a chronology and a list for further reading.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -0400)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140435123, 0141199814

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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