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Little Dorrit (1857)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,454861,812 (3.99)334
When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mothers seamstress, and in the affairs of Amys father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr. Pancks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, "Little Dorrit" is one of the supreme works of Dickenss maturity.… (more)
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    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (FutureMrsJoshGroban)
    FutureMrsJoshGroban: They are both wonderful love stories, and they are both my favorite books by the respective authors.

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
A true delight, Dickens' second masterpiece, coming soon after Bleak House. The 19th of Dickens' 24 major works, and the 11th of his novels, Dorrit was written over a span of two years, and brings us into CD's final act, as he begins to lavish careful attention on his works and aims to realise his characters far more greatly, and tie his works together. Dorrit is more diffuse than Bleak House yet feels even more like a novel rather than a serialised work.

The lead characters, Amy Dorrit - a child of a debt-ridden family, whose essential goodness has created a community in the most unlikely of places - and Arthur Clennam, the soulful sailor uncovering his family's ill deeds, are like most of Dickens' lead characters to date: a bit vanilla. This alone is a step back from Bleak House although they continue to greatly reflect the world around them, and in this case their positive qualities form a part of the novel's plea for sanity and simplicity in an increasingly material world.

The novel excels in its portrayal of Victorian England's ludicrous class system, through the absolutely fantastic caricatures of the Meagles and the Merdles, and in examining the idiocy of a culture that refuses to allow the downtrodden any relief. The Marshalsea - a real debtors' prison in which Dickens' father spent time, which had closed down shortly before the novel was written - is vividly realised, and the delightful supporting characters, from Mrs. Plornish to the conflicted Pancks, from the babbling Flora Finching to the eternally hilarious Mr. F's Aunt, still provide much merriment and intrigue. And the groaning, heaving mass that is Clennam and Co is perhaps Dickens' most powerful individual symbol.

At the heart of the work is Mr. Dorrit, a portrait of pathos like many prior, but far more interesting and realistic than any Dickensian character we have yet seen. A really strong work (with an equally beautiful and faithful BBC adaptation) that I heartily recommend. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
Mil Nicholson is once again a marvelous narrator for this Dickens classic. I would strongly recommend her reading, even with the sometimes annoying "This is a Librivox recording..." at the start of every chapter. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
This took me two whole months to read. This is a shame, because it starts out pretty good. "Little Dorrit" is really Amy, a girl born in debtors' prison where her father has languished for over twenty years; one could bring one's wife and children along if one desired. All the stuff about how Dorrit came to the prison, and his life there, and Amy's life there, is fantastic stuff, that usual Dickens mixture of the comic and the real. Meanwhile, a man named Arthur Clennam has come home after decades overseas, now that his father is dead, and he soon meets Little Dorrit and aims to help her. His visit to the Circumlocution Office, a government department devoted to stopping the government from doing anything effective, is Dickens at his savage and comic best.

The problem is, every time the narrative moves away from Little Dorrit, it becomes bogged down in some of the dullest characters I can ever remember from a Dickens novel. Who cares about the Meagles or all the rest of them? And yet the novel just goes on and on and on.

Little Dorrit herself is one of Dickens's best psychological portraits: the chapter about her after her family has finally been released from prison and achieved riches once more is utterly devastating. Yet the novel keeps going and going after that point for hundreds of more pages, mostly neglecting its title character, and I lost all interest, even in characters like Clennam who had initially held my attention.
  Stevil2001 | Nov 5, 2022 |
The story of Arthur Clennam, his family, the Dorrits, a family forever stuck in debtor's prison and their various friends and acquaintances in English society. This is commentary on how the levels of society make life ridiculous and how the government at the time was, in Dickens' opinion, dysfunctional. Mostly it is about people, their circumstances and what happens when circumstances change. Long, but excellent. ( )
  Karlstar | Oct 11, 2022 |
UPDATE: 11/2020

I have upgraded my rating to 5-stars and feeling quite different toward both Amy Dorrit and the other characters of Little Dorrit this time around. I read the book very slowly (one chapter a day) with full discussions in the Dickensians group, and my appreciation of it rose daily. I'm afraid one read is just not enough for this complex and profound novel. My hat is always off to Mr. Dickens, one of the greatest writers of all time.


Dickens built his novel, Little Dorrit, around the life of inmates of the Marshalsea Prison, and drew from some very personal experiences to do so. I did not find these characters as compelling nor his plot as tight as usual, but still a worthy read and much enjoyed. Amy Dorrit (whose moniker of “Little Dorrit” aggravated me), is a bit too perfect, sweet and unselfish for my tastes; Arthur Clennam a bit too clueless about his own feelings and what was going on with others; and our major villain Rigaud a little too much like Snidely Whiplash, right down to the twisting of the moustache.

The loves and hates in this novel were also somewhat contrived. Of course, those emotions can be pretty arbitrary in real life. We’ve probably all known people who hate beyond the bounds of the offense they have endured and one person or another who has professed to love someone who was obviously a cad and below their worthiness. Mainly, however, I did not feel that the explanation for the mysteries at the heart of the novel really made good sense. So, not on a level with Great Expectations or Bleak House, but still...a bad Dickens is better than almost anyone else, it is the high expectations that cause the problem.

If you ever suffer from the idea that the problems of Charles Dickens’ world won’t have correlatives in our world, you ought to read Little Dorrit. Sprinkled amid the convoluted story of Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam is a diatribe on bureaucracy that felt far too familiar. Perhaps it is uniquely American (of course NOT) that people in government seem more interested in “not doing” than in “doing”, but I could so totally relate to the red tape approach to running off the petitioner, and I’m betting everyone else who has ever tried to deal with government can as well.

Hold up your hand if Mr. Rugg’s comments here ring true:

”If the money I have sacrificed had been all my own, Mr. Rugg,” sighed Mr. Clennam, “I should have cared far less.
“Indeed sir? said Mr. Rugg, rubbing his hands with a cheerful air. “You surprise me. That’s singular, sir. I have generally found, in my experience, that it’s their own money people are most particular about. I have seen people get rid of a good deal of other people’s money, and bear it very well; very well indeed.”

Oops, too many to count.

And, when I came across this passage, I could not help thinking of Bernie Madoff:

Numbers of men in every profession and trade would be blighted by his insolvency; old people who had been in easy circumstances all their lives would have no place of repentance for their trust in him but the workhouse; legions of women and children would have their whole future desolated by the hand of this mighty scoundrel. Every partaker of his magnificent feasts would be seen to have been a sharer in the plunder of innumerable homes, every servile worshipper of riches who had helped to set him on his pedestal, would have done better to worship the Devil point blank.

But what really struck me was that he was admired by one of the characters for pulling the deception off so universally, and I gasped because I had an acquaintance who actually made that statement about Madoff…"You have to admire him for his cleverness”, he said. NO, NO and NO. Would you not think people would have learned between 1855 and 2008? Apparently human nature thrives on the same errors repeated over centuries.

There is much that could be said about this novel and, like every Dickens I have read, it would make for a marvelous group read. If you want to know more and delve deeper, I strongly suggest that you take the time to read the review written by Bionic Jean, our resident Dickens guru, who never gets it wrong and always enlightens my reading.

I was afraid I was going to fail in my quest to read all of Dickens by culling two a year off my list. Thankfully, I have finished Little Dorrit just in time to satisfy this year. I read Hard Times as well. I have Martin Chuzzlewit, about which I know nothing, and The Old Curiosity Shop, a story I am very familiar with but have not ever read, slated for 2019. It would be lovely if I could up the ante and squeeze in a third! I must say I have enjoyed every single novel so far. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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It tripped my social conscience and infected me for the rest of my life.
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Jon Snow (Nov 19, 1999)

» Add other authors (77 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ferguson, AntonyReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Altick, Richard D.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablôt K.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Courtenay, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frith, W.P.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoffmann, Paul TheodorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holloway, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kolb, CarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKellen, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parfitt, JudyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preston, PeterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Small, HelenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trilling, LionelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wall, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.
Indiani, russi, cinesi, spagnoli, portoghesi, inglesi, francesi, genovesi, napoletani, veneziani, greci, turchi, tutti i discendenti dei costruttori della Torre di Babele convenuti a Marsiglia per i loro commerci cercavano l'ombra …
Il tanfo della prigione gravava su ogni cosa. L'aria imprigionata, la luce imprigionata, l'umidità imprigionata, gli uomini imprigionati, tutto era degradato dalla reclusione. I prigionieri erano pallidi e sparuti come il ferro coperto di ruggine, la pietra viscida, il legno putrido, l'aria viziata e la luce opaca.
L'altro sputò e si raschiò la gola. Subito dopo s'udì anche una serratura raschiarsi la gola e una porta sbatté.
«Guarda la luce del giorno! Giorno! Questa è la luce di otto giorni fa, di sei mesi fa, di sei anni fa, tanto è debole e scialba!»
Era semplicemente un fanfarone, uno sfacciato millantatore; ma quanto a questo, e non solo a questo, in tutte le parti del mondo la sfacciataggine nell'affermare una cosa vale più d'una prova tangibile della sua realtà.
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When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mothers seamstress, and in the affairs of Amys father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr. Pancks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, "Little Dorrit" is one of the supreme works of Dickenss maturity.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439963, 0141037393, 0141199377

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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