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Our Mutual Friend (1865)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,385961,662 (4.15)2 / 452
A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, "Our Mutual Friend" revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap's expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights "Noddy" Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes "the Golden Dustman." Charles Dickens's last complete novel, "Our Mutual Friend" encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, "Our Mutual Friend" is one of Dickens's most complex--and satisfying--novels.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
The whole time I was reading this, I felt like I was reading a book that had a prequel to it that I had Missed reading. This was Dicken's intention, as he relates in the postscript. It works well, to keep the reader trying to puzzle out the mystery. A master of characterization, Dickens will have you switching your loyalty back and forth between who you love, who you hate, and who you are holding off judgement, chapter by chapter. In the end, you'll be saying, "I should have known." I like how Dickens used his considerable platform to raise Society's awareness of the plight of those who would be ensnared by Poorhouse laws. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
If you have ever read Charles Dickens, you will know that his plot lines, characters, and literary devices are myriad, and for my thinking, Our Mutual Friend might employ more of those than any other of his novels that I have read. In the beginning, this made the thread a little harder to keep untangled, but in the end, it served his purposes beautifully.

There are, for your entertainment, two major love stories, a mysterious imposter, a murderer or two, a few men of nefarious occupation, a couple of red herrings and several mistreated, but eternally good, individuals. Jenny Wren is a marvelous character, along with the Jew, Riah, who helps to atone for the evil character of Fagin in Oliver Twist. Betty Higden is a superb example of the worthy poor, and the Boffins are an unforgettable couple. I was particularly interested in Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn, a part of the plot that was less easy to predict than some of the others. Both the love stories are captivating, and the ins and outs, and coincidental crossings, of each of the characters with the others is masterful. This is a later work, and the maturity of the writing and plot control are obvious.

Then there is just the irrefutable wisdom of Mr. Dickens:
And this is another spell against which the shedder of blood for ever strives in vain. There are fifty doors by which discovery may enter. With infinite pains and cunning, he double locks and bars forty-nine of them, and cannot see the fiftieth standing wide open.

Ah, Mr. Dickens, may it ever be so!

Not an unusual subject for Dickens, he deals with the plight of the poor and the inadequate methods of alleviating it, and he does it with deftness and just the right touch of sentiment.
For when we have got things to the pass that with an enormous treasure at disposal to relieve the poor, the best of the poor detest our mercies, hide their heads from us, and shame us by starving to death in the midst of us, it is a pass impossible of prosperity, impossible of continuance. It may not be so written in the Gospel according to Podsnappery, you may not find these words for the text of a sermon, in the Returns of the Board of Trade; but they have been the truth since the foundations of the universe were laid, and they will be the truth until the foundations of the universe are shaken by the Builder.

Does our modern society not still wrestle with how to help people pull themselves up without damaging their worth in their own eyes? Do we not still have a system that creates a class barrier and with the very assistance we offer sometimes assure that people will remain and always be aware that their class is not “our” class?

There are almost as many themes as there are characters. Money, its influence and its corrupting properties, is one, but as the Bible tells us it is the “love of money” that is “the root of all evil” and Dickens makes it clear that it is the fault in the people and not the wealth itself that is objectionable. There is the major theme of class division and the insensibility of choices made for no other reason than that a person is part of one class or the other. There is the significance of friendship and loyalty, the importance of truth and ethics, and the value of trust in relationships, including but not limited to marriage. There is betrayal, but there is also steadfastness and a desire on the part of so many of these characters to overcome the baseness of their worlds and rise above their conditions morally.

There were a few sections that plodded, but for the most part I was feeling sorry for the original audience who were forced to wait for the next installment to find out what was to happen and could not just plow ahead, as I found myself inclined to do.

The novel is quite long at over 800 pages, but I read over a three month span and enjoyed it immensely. I am making some progress toward my goal of reading ALL of Dickens’ works. Next up is Nicholas Nickleby, and if it is as pleasing for me as this one, I will be quite happy indeed.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
4 stars? for dickens? what gives....? Ok, so I loved reading this book and cherish many characters and scenes, but really it is a tad too sickly sentimental by the end for me. The happy resolution of the leading characters while acceptable does not need to be puffed up with the lovey gooey talk of every other sentence by Mr. Harmon (to Bella) and even the comic Mrs. Wilfer is too over the top. Yes, it is Dickens and we don't read it for subtlety, but this does seem overwrought and reaching too much of the time. Still... still... the driver and dour Mr. Headstone, so real and clear and the rollicking Rogue Riderhood ... they're a pair and a sport to read about. But to have 2 characters (the dollmaker and Bella) both make it a point of dealing with their fathers as their children is ... at least one too much, correct? ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
Vastly disappointing. I have read most of Dickens' novels and found all of them engrossing from first to last (five stars). Until this. Our Mutual Friend is much verbosity about mostly vapid characters, for the first 40% of the novel, whereupon I gave up. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
This won't overtake Bleak House or Great Expectations as my all-time favourite Dickens novels but still loved it. It's packed with more marvellous characters and a wonderful plot that builds slowly to a breathless climax that you don't want to leave until you are sure that the unpleasant characters have received their just desserts (which they do) and the good (and indeed the two characters who become greatly improved) receive their reward (which they do). I adored the last chapter which was a wonderful dig at the snobs and heartless social climbers that Dickens clearly came across on a frequent basis. In homage to that chapter I would like to shake Dickens metaphorically by the hand and tell him a job well done. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (163 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davies, E. SalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dickens, Charles, Jr.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egg, AugustusCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fildes, LukeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, J. HillisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, MarcusIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, MartinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LynnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werner, HoniCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitfield, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wynne, DeborahIntroductionsecondary 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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A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, "Our Mutual Friend" revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap's expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights "Noddy" Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes "the Golden Dustman." Charles Dickens's last complete novel, "Our Mutual Friend" encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, "Our Mutual Friend" is one of Dickens's most complex--and satisfying--novels.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434976, 0141199806

 

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