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Barnaby Rudge (Penguin Classics) (original 1841; edition 2003)
by Charles Dickens (Author), Gordon W. Spence (Editor), Gordon W. Spence (Introduction)
Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1841)
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It was no good I had to give up. I tried, I really tried but it seems that there is a reason BR is the least known of Dickens. It's really, really boring. I got half way via audiobook and had lost will to live. I then tried via text and got to about page 450, trying to do a chapter a day. But even that was a chore - so I am DNFing. I just couldn't take it anymore. ( )
I must admit, I really enjoyed Barnaby Rudge. Dickens' 6th book, and 5th novel, it is perhaps the least read of his "Big Fifteen" and not unfairly, but that's only because the rest of them are so vibrant! Barnaby Rudge is a bit of an anomaly, in that it has its origins in history, but it's still very Dickensian, and fits neatly into its place just after The Old Curiosity Shop, which also features a naive young thing running away with their guardian from an unforgiving society. Published in 1841, Rudge is the last book in a rapid writing frenzy that must have overtaken Dickens. It's certainly true that these early novels feel less thorough, less thematically unified than the later works (but perhaps that's because Dickens was thinking almost solely of serialisation, and not so much about ultimate publication), but it also means that they can be more surprising. One doesn't feel so often (as one does even with the best of the later books) that Dickens is making you wait forever just to get to the secrets he has kept hidden from you.
Despite being the title character (and one of my personal favourites), Barnaby himself is not really the lead in this book; it feels like a real ensemble piece, being marvelously unpredictable in terms of which characters will join which side of the riots. The riot setpieces themselves, and how easily Barnaby is swept up in them (perhaps reflecting on how so many others were swept up, in some cases unwillingly and in some cases just due to the Trump-esque mob mentality), are particularly moving. What works here is Dickens' incredible skill at description; every home and street feels truly lived in, even if none of the characters in this novel - even the irrepressible Dolly Varden - have any real internal life. To be honest, I feel as if the first half of the novel is a bit repetitive, while the second half spends so much historical time on the one situation that the book could easily be a two- or three-hour miniseries rather than the kind of lengthy soap opera which could be spun from Little Dorrit. Anyhow, if only the BBC would give us a modern Barnaby Rudge, perhaps the book would be more widely read! In truth, I'd place this fairly low down the Dickens totem pole, lower than Dombey and Son, perhaps equal to The Old Curiosity Shop, but I find it interesting to see Dickens applying his skill to history, which gives him a chance to further investigate why men do what they do, a question he will plunge into with great fervour later in his career. By the time Rudge was done, Dickens was off to America, and the next phase of his remarkable career.
This is said to be one of the two historical novels written by Dickens; the first being A Tale of Two Cities. While I love A Tale of Two Cities, I didn't really love Barnaby Rudge. It could be I was not familiar with the Gordon Riots of 1780 and did not pick up on nuances that may have been contained within the book. There were so many characters that by half way through the book, I was lost! I continued to read, hoping to just make it though chapter by chapter, understanding just a chapter at a time and not necessarily the entire book! I hate to read that way. But, 8 months later, I'm finished! The character of Barnaby Rudge, the village idiot, is not central to the story, but just a way to advance the plot. He also carries a raven, and Poe (according to reading) modeled his The Raven after this particular one. Other than being ravens, I did not see any more connections. Can't really recommend this one! 637 pages
Historical novel that takes place at the time of the Gordon Riots, when Protestants who hated Catholics so much, wanted them all dead and their property destroyed.
The character of Barnaby Rudge stole my heart; he's not the only one, though. Dickens knows how to create characters that we grow to love, and anguish for, and are uplifted by when things come out alright for them. The author certainly didn't skimp on any of that, in this work.
The Gordon Riots: the beginning of Anarchy in the UK! Dickens' "other" historical novel and actually much better than the other one. I have to admit I mainly read this because of my interest in the Gordon Riots. The usual cast of characters and tangled histories set against the backdrop of the 1780 anti-Catholic riots in England.
Actually a much better novel than its reputation. Marred by a weak sympathetic happy ending that could have been much more profound if it had been allowed to play out as it should have, but Dickens was still somewhat of a sop to the masses at this point so he took the easy way with his audience.
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Everyman's Library (76)
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New Century Library Works of Charles Dickens (Volume 6)
Penguin English Library, 2012 series (2012-08)
The World's Classics (286)
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Dickens's first historical novel is set in 1780s England at the time of the Gordon Riots. In a case of mistaken identification, Barnaby Rudge, a pale half-wit with long red hair who dresses all in green and carries a large raven on his back, is arrested as the leader of a mob of anti-Catholic rioters. He is condemned to death on the gallows, but an upright locksmith named Gabriel Varden comes to his aid. Dickens provides another memorable cast of characters, including the dull-witted, tyrannical John Willet, Dennis the Hangman, and Hugh the savage ostler.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)823.8Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Victorian period 1837-1900
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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.
Editions: 0140437282, 0141199695