Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Recommended for: Ages 13 to Adult (reading and interest level, mostly)

A novel of serendipity, of fortunes won and lost, and of the spectre of imprisonment that hangs over all aspects of Victorian society

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. 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 Panks, 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 Dickens's maturity. 
I'll just admit upfront, the main reason I chose Little Dorrit was because of the cast of the newest miniseries, primarily Arthur Darvill, Freema Agyeman, and Andy Serkis. I did know already that I love Dickens, so that was one factor in choosing to listen to this while sewing, if smaller than the cast influence. However, I was not prepared to love it as much as I do. It is my favorite Dickens book so far, it is just that good. I love it, and I can't wait to see the miniseries. I hear it's excellent.

Writing: 5/5

Dickens is a master of the English language. Sure, it's a little difficult to understand at times, but I guess people used to be smarter. But still, it really did pull me into the story. I was in the Marshalsea. I was with Arthur Clennam. I experienced what Amy Dorrit experienced. And I gotta say, I got really mad at the Dorrits when they were belittling Arthur. How dare they! But that's how invested Dickens made me in this story. Plus I loved the way the parts where Arthur was determined not to fall in love with Pet Meagles were written. It made me laugh.

Setting: 5/5

Dickens wrote about the world in which he lived, so I assume it was historically accurate. Little Dorrit focuses on debtor's prison, specifically the Marshalsea prison. It's rather different from what I expected out of a prison, it's not just a bunch of cells. They actually have rooms they stay in, and they have lots of visitors, it's just the actual prisoners of the Marshalsea obviously can't leave, and they do have a certain time every day when they lock the gates so no one can come in or out. As far as the settings outside of the Marshalsea go, they're pretty much the same as any other Victorian novel. I do quite love it.

Plot: 5/5

Dickens is a master. The plot is so complex, so many different storylines that come together in the end. I admit, I'm still a little confused about the ending, but, well, I'm confused about the ending of every Dickens book. Little Dorrit is a lot easier to follow than Bleak House, though. The story follows the Dorrit family and Arthur Clennam, primarily, but there are also plotlines involving characters such as Henry Gowan, the Meagles family, Miss Wade, etc. And there's Blandois, or Rigaud, whichever name he's using at the time. I don't want to spoil the twists and turns, but there are so many, and it certainly kept me interested. Be prepared for suicide and blackmail and secrets brought to light.

Character Development: 5/5

Arthur and Amy are my favorites. Arthur's my favorite Dickens guy character for sure. He's not as irresponsible as Pip Pirrip, nor as ridiculously immature as Richard Carstone. I still like him better than John Jarndyce and Allan Woodcourt, and there's no comparison whatsoever to Ebeneezer Scrooge. He's one of my favorite characters from the classics, yes, I like him far better than Mr. Darcy. He ranks below Sir Percy, though. Arthur is pretty awesome. He's so good and kind and thoughtful. He's so helpful and so determined to make things right. He'd far rather take the blame for poor business decisions than let his partner have anything at all to do with it. And I like his name too. Amy, better known as Little Dorrit, is also very sweet and kind. I love her very much as well, and I feel sorry for her for having to deal with her family, though she never complains and always thinks the best of them. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that her brother Tip is such a jerk loser. I can't bear to think of Rory Williams being such a guy. As is the case with all of Dickens' books, Little Dorrit is full of colorful characters. Affery Flintwinch, who's always having strange "dreams" who is so scared. Jeremiah, her husband, who is kind of scary. Mrs. Clennam who hasn't left her room in 15 years. John Chivery who is always composing a new epitaph for his tombstone (Alonzo from Doctor Who!). Spoiled Pet Meagles. Mentally handicapped Maggy. Talkative Flora Finching. Father of the Marshalsea William Dorrit. There are so many, all so unique.

Read Little Dorrit. Just do it. It's my favorite Dickens so far because it's just. so. good. You must meet Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit. Learn about debtor's prison. And prepare yourself for an intricate, amazing story by one of the best classic authors ever.

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