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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend (1865)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,480831,591 (4.17)2 / 388



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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Our Mutual Friend
Series: ----------
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1021
Format: Digital Edition


A rich dust collector dies and in his will he leaves his inheritance to his son (who he drove away years ago) and to his two faithful servants. A stipulation of the will reads that the son, John Harmon, must marry a young woman by the name of Bella Wilfer, or the entire inheritance will fall to the two servants, Mr and Mrs Boffin.

A body is fished from the harbor by a man who does such things and the while disfigured and sea eaten, the clothes and papers match the description of John Harmon. This leaves the entire fortune to the Boffins. This fisherman, a Mr Hexan, is accused by an associate of doing the deed and while no charges are brought, it brings a stain on Mr Hexan's two children, Lizze and Charlie.

A young man by the name of John Rokesmith approaches Mr Boffin and offers to be his secretary. Having no need of a secretary, Mr Boffin kindly rebuffs his offer but invites him over for lunch. Mr Boffin then gets rich, becomes overwhelmed by everything, is amazed when Rokesmith deals with every in a matter of minutes and hires him on the spot. The Boffins have also taken on Bella Wilfer since they feel bad that she didn't get any of the money and that her potential husband died. They bring her out to Society with them, where Bella claims she'll be mercenary and only marry for money.

Members of Society have their own things going on that while not directly affecting the Boffins, do impact them through Bella. Mr Boffin starts to turn miserly and upon learning that John Rokesmith made an offer of marriage to Bella, turns him out of the house. Bella is ashamed at Mr Boffin's behavior and begins to realize what a loyal man Rokesmith was to the Boffins and to her. She gives up all claim their money and goes back to her family. Rokesmith makes her an offer of marriage again and this time she accepts.

It turns out in the end that John Rokesmith is actually John Harmon and he and Bella inherit everything and are fabulously wealthy. The miserly Mr Boffin reveals it was all an act on his part to prove to Bella that money really isn't everything. The man who tried to murder Rokesmith/Harmon is found out but gets his just desserts through another agency.

There are approximately 3 other side storylines going on through it all and they tangentially touch on Rokesmith/Harmon. Maybe I'll go over them in another decade or so. Or perhaps not.

My Thoughts:

I had not realized that I hadn't read this since 2001. I was sure I had read it just before 2010 but nope, didn't happen. Second, while all the editions on Librarything show this as around the 500-600 page mark, my kindle showed it as just over 1000 pages and when I checked my hardcover copy, it was divided into 2 volumes. So this was a big book.

And that is probably my only complaint and the reason I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5. There was at least twice that I just said out loud “Come on Dickens, get to the point!”. Anyone who complains about bloat in this book is fully justified and I certainly won't argue with them. This was a 19 part serial and it shows.

Other than that issue, I enjoyed this tremendously. I have come to realize that I simply like Dickens' work. I enjoy his plots, I enjoy his characters, I even enjoy (in a limited sense) his meandering and descriptions. It all adds atmosphere and when I'm reading it I can't accidentally think I'm reading something by somebody elese. Dickens is Dickens. His books are shaped in such a way that they slot right into the space I have.

A lot of this book is about Deception, both justified and not. Dickens preaches at the society of his time unabashedly, especially about the Poor Laws and rips away the mask of what some levels of Society are telling themselves. It's a good reminder for me to not sit too smugly in my own little chair and cast stones indiscriminately.

There was a side story about a Jew and I was surprised at how graciously Dickens treated him as a character. He was kind and loving and not a Shylock. I think part of it is that Dickens had enough scorn to heap upon his own fellows without searching about for others to castigate.

To end, I really enjoyed this and wish I could write more about it but me and longer reviews just don't mix.

★★★★½ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Jun 10, 2019 |
I got to page 720 with 100 pages to go and had to quit. Some of the female characters were becoming so twee I couldn't take it any more. I can take the patronizing anti-anti-semitism with a grain of salt, but the infantilized women were just too much. blech. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled in a frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern marshes behind dark masts and yards, seemed filled with the ruins of a forest it had set on fire.

Seven months of nibbles, most of these clusters, all braced with serious efforts to remember characters, enlisting wikipedia and rereading, rather often, entire chapters. I'm glad I read such, though I felt most of the characters lived on plotlines like so many pigeons perched above the interstate. Maybe I am being greedy, but i wanted some tension between the molar and molecular, maybe like my instincts I prefer the argumentative quantity, a murder of crows assuming control on the deserted football pitch. Maybe I want more struggle and uncertainty. That said, Our Mutual Friend does have the example of Bradley Headstone; there is an example of actualized potential. Well, the plot certainly benefited. His plausibility should be left for the fore-mentioned crows. Such fare would be a diversion. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I am really not a Dickens fan. He is far too long-winded, and it gets old. Fast. This book could have been completed with half the length. ( )
  kat_the_bookcat | Feb 7, 2019 |
Fear death by water. Madame Sosostris's advice came way too late for the characters in this 1865 satire of upward mobility and the corrupting power of money, through which the River Thames flows in its stately and all-devouring way from Henley to Limehouse and beyond. (It's a fair bet that TS Eliot had Our Mutual Friend in mind when he wrote the line, given that one working title for The Waste Land is said to be He do the policemen in different voices, Betty Higden's account of her supposedly idiotic assistant Sloppy reading her the law reports from the newspaper). As well as those who meet a wet end, and the whole complex narrative opens with a corpse dragged from the murky river, baptism and moral redemption through near-drowning is a powerful theme for no fewer than three prominent characters. One of those believes that surviving such an experience renders him immune from drowning. I don't want to spoil things for would-be readers by saying more, except that this is Dickens and as ever the story is shot through with the tropes of myth, fairy-tale and even pantomine. The child is mother to the man, the Jewish moneylender is as kind and generous as his Christian master is grasping and ruthless, and the vacuous social climbers trample all over each other in their rush to get to the top. Sorry, I lied about the last example, that's just like real life in the 20th Century.

It's a rum old thing, is this. It's a somewhat different, somewhat more subdued Dickens than the author of Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. The indignation against social injustice is still there; he revisits his outrage at the treatment of the poor from Oliver Twist, the corrupting power of wealth from Great Expectations, the shortcomings of the education system from Nicholas Nickleby and Hard Times, and yet it's less gripping than any of those. That's not to diminish it; this may not be a book to stay up all night reading, but it's a book to be a companion on a long journey, complex and intricate in its detail and one that refuses to be rushed. It lacks the stature of Bleak House maybe, but that's a very high standard to match.

And so this one-time Dickens-loather takes a further step on her journey to fandom. I do find I prefer the darker, more labyrinthine later Dickens to the earlier and better-known stuff. ( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (66 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davies, E. SalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egg, AugustusCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenEditorsecondary 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
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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.
"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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:03 -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)

» see all 25 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434976, 0141199806

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