Friday, March 16, 2007

Our Mutual Friend

My "love affair" with the writings of Charles Dickens was definitely not "love at first sight"! In high school, when I HAD to read A Tale of Two Cities, I hated it. (It's still not my favorite, although I appreciate the theme very much.) When my oldest child was a baby, I checked out books from the library to read while nursing...and decided that Dickens was a socialist and I didn't like him. Probably about ten years later, I decided to read a Dickens' book again. I don't remember which one it was, probably David Copperfield, but I do remember that I liked it. Not bad. Good characterizations. And he effected great social change by his writings. I read another one. And another one. His writing got better with each reading. I was hooked. Learning to like Dickens' writing was, for me, a slow ponderous process (like his writing; like my writing).

Even if you haven't read Dickens' books, you've probably heard of A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, and David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. And I'm sure everyone is familiar with A Christmas Carol in some form. But when I discovered Our Mutual Friend, I had never heard of it. It quickly became my favorite!

As usual, there are multiple plots and subplots, and a whole parade of characters who all inevitably come to know each other or to have an effect on each other. As usual, his characters are larger than life. There are the same dark places, the same sinister types of people. There are those "bad characters" who are rushing slowly toward what you would expect them to "achieve". (Yes, I said "rushing slowly".) As usual, there are those characters who are shallow, as well as those who are selfish.

So why is this book any different? Through it all there are a great number of characters who are refreshingly gallant; primary characters who are already "good", but who grow -- and, best of all, who come to happy...I won't say endings but "continuings" at the end of the book. While this book does show some ponderously melancholy examples of the darkest side of human nature, it is also - in contrast - the "happiest" Dickens' book I have read.

If you can read a book in parts, if you can devote some hours on the weekend, or give up a few evenings, head on over to your library or bookstore... And when you're all done, please come back and let me know what you think.

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