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Little Dorrit

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#1 17th September 2006, 10:32 PM

Phoebus

 

I'm going to start reading Little Dorritt in about six weeks. Is anyone interested in reading it with me?

 

Phoebus

 

Post Script: Have just realised that I've already asked this in another post but never got around to starting it with anyone...

 

#2 19th September 2006, 07:01 PM

Barblue

 

I am on a Dickens trip at the moment. After getting involved with the Great Expectations thread I feel totally immersed in it. Added to this my local reading group has decided to read Hard Times over the next few weeks. I have also promised myself I will go back to The Old Curiosity Shop if only to look at Nell following some comments made by David recently.

 

I have never read Little Dorritt but would love to. Provided I can find the time in a few weeks, I will start to read it and watch for any further comments on this thread.

 

#3 21st September 2006, 06:41 PM

Phoebus

 

Thank you Barblue. I'll look forward to reading this with you. Let me know when you're thinking of starting it about two weeks before and I'll try and pace myself to finish the books that I'll be reading in time. PM as well just to make sure that I see your post.

 

All the best,

 

Phoebus

 

#4 1st November 2006, 07:57 AM

Barblue

 

You know Phoebus, I really do intend to read Little Dorrit just as soon as I can, but somehow a lot of other books have got in the way lately. I have two reading group reads, one of which is Middlemarch - slightly time consuming - and also some other reads I have committed myself to for various reasons. It looks, at this moment in time, as if I will be making Little Dorrit a New Year's Resolution. Not sure if you want to wait that long, but I thought it only fair to let you know my situation. Many apologies for my tardiness. Barblue

 

#5 5th November 2006, 12:10 PM

Phoebus

You know Phoebus, I really do intend to read Little Dorrit just as soon as I can, but somehow a lot of other books have got in the way lately. I have two reading group reads, one of which is Middlemarch - slightly time consuming - and also some other reads I have committed myself to for various reasons. It looks, at this moment in time, as if I will be making Little Dorrit a New Year's Resolution. Not sure if you want to wait that long, but I thought it only fair to let you know my situation. Many apologies for my tardiness. Barblue

No worries Barblue. I've lot of other reads to ge through. Ready when you are !

 

Phoebus

 

#6 5th January 2007, 08:13 PM

Phoebus

 

I've been moving house in the last couple of weeks so haven't had much time for reading and posting. I started Little Dorrit on New Year's Day and having read a couple hundred pages, I'm loving it. I'll keep you all informed.

 

Phoebus

 

#7 5th January 2007, 08:45 PM

Mungus

 

Well done, Phoebus. There seems to be a general groundswell of good vibes towards Dickens on the forum at the moment so I'm sure someone will join you soon, especially if you are able to tempt us with an effusive review.

 

#8 Yesterday, 07:46 PM

Barblue

 

Phoebus, I am so sorry that I have not joined you on this exercise. I will try and start it this week, but can't promise anything. Great to know that you are enjoying it though and like Mungus I will be delighted to hear more of your comments in due course.

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At long last I have got to the end of Little Dorrit. I don't mean that it was a trial, on the contrary. It's just that so many other things got in the way of my finishing this book as quickly as I would have liked.

 

I am still digesting the full flavour of the book. Initially my thoughts are that I have enjoyed an immense romp through a myriad of diverse characters, been taken down some very dark alleyways, exposed to deviousness of huge proportions, suffered some extreme deprivations and been hugely entertained all the way.

 

I still cannot get over the amount of humour that Dickens manages to put into his work. This novel is no excpetion. Descriptions of place, descriptions of characters, whether sinister or not, are also handled with a light touch of humour that lifts them off the page.

 

From the title of the novel, this is presumed to be Amy Dorrit's story. Yet there is, as ever with Dickens, so much more to be told. The Clennam's story, The Merkle's story, The Meagles' story and so many other minor players that fill the stage and paint a glorious collage of life. Yes, they are interwoven around Amy Dorrit, yet she does not dominate the story but seems to haunt it as an essence of goodness.

 

I have to admit to feeling somewhat let-down by the ending. I am loathe to use the word 'contrived' because of past dicussions on that Dickens subject, but felt the end rushed up on me somewhat. It was very neat and tidy as regards Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam and tidied up the lives of a few other characters on the way, but there are so many that are not mentioned and about whom the reader, well this reader, is left wondering.

 

Having just read the restored thread, I am not sure whether you are still with us Phoebus or whether you have in fact finished reading Little Dorrit and commented upon it. My apologies for taking so long, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.

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Restored Thread

Phoebus. I started Little Dorrit on New Year's Day and having read a couple hundred pages, I'm loving it. I'll keep you all informed.

Now that you are back with us Phoebus, and if you have the time, I would love to know what you thought of Little Dorrit. My thoughts have not changed from the initial comments I made in February - although it took me some time, I absolutely loved it.

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Little Dorrit turned out to be one of 2007's more mixed reading experiences. I eventually finished it (having eventually started it something like thirty-five years after being given it... must be a record...) feeling that I hadn't done it full justice, and that perhaps I needed to have read a little more slowly and painstakingly towards the end - or that perhaps I should have followed a recurrent intuition and given up around page 200...

 

I'd remembered hearing that William Dorrit, imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtors' prison in London, tended by the titular Little Dorrit, his daughter Amy, was the main character of the novel. But what I discovered is that there isn't one obviously main character, but legions of characters, often introduced independently of one another, with the result that the reader has to be very careful if he is to keep track of who is who and where is where. Not to mention the hows and the whys of it all, given that the whole novel is built around a number of mysteries, often involving various skeletons in divers cupboards.

 

The infamous Circumlocution Office functions as a metaphor for a fundamentally corrupt society that allows various ne'er-do-wells to do very well indeed. Social success breeds arrogance, snobbery and ignorance in a typically Dickensian way (cf. the character of Mr Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend). Dickens often presents this in humorous fashion:

That illustrious man and great national ornament, Mr. Merdle, continued his shining course. It began to be widely understood that one who had done society the admirable service of making so much money out of it, could not be suffered to remain a commoner. A baronetcy was spoken of with confidence; a peerage was frequently mentioned. Rumour had it that Mr. Merdle had set his golden face against a baronetcy; that he had plainly intimated to Lord Decimus that a baronetcy was not enough for him; that he had said, "No: a Peerage, or plain Merdle." This was reported to have plunged Lord Decimus as nigh to his noble chain in a slough of doubts as so lofty a person could be sunk.

Such an extract, however, is concise when compared with so much else. The novel overall is just so damn verbose. And the hairpin bends, the numerous abrupt changes of situation and character, in the end become too much.

 

I remember feeling exactly the same way about Our Mutual Friend, though not about Bleak House. I get the feeling that Dickens is much, much more readable, when, as in David Copperfield or Great Expectations, the plot is more firmly centred around one obviously main character, the only other novel I really want to get round to is Nicholas Nickleby.

 

Does this match anybody else's experience of Dickens? That he is, frankly, rather uneven, and that in some cases the wading on becomes just a bit too laborious?

 

***/*****

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I tend to agree with you jfp about the novel being verbose. I, for one, can hardly make head nor tail of what Flora is saying half the time! I also found that it didn't really gain momentum until about halfway through. I think everything gets far more interesting then.

 

I was intrigued by the idea of the Circumlocution Office - obviously a fancier term for the 'Give-people-the-run-around' Office, much like the court of chancery in Bleak House, which was a form of secular purgatory. I was also fascinated by Dickens' analysis of the ability of money to confer status on people and how having money could sweep things under the carpet.

 

Mrs Merdle's reaction to Fanny both before and after the Dorrits' ascension to wealth is a case in point, as is Mr Merdle's ability to fool everyone, though his Chief Butler did always know what he was.

 

I'm still not sure what to make of the enigmatic Miss Wade. You do feel sort of drawn to her, but in an uncomfortable way. I did rather like Mr Pancks, despite his bluster, and Little Dorrit was charming, though I did want her to give her father a good shake once or twice and not be quite so dutiful towards him. Mr Dorrit was rather an infuriating character, but I did feel pity for him. His circumstances made him what he was and, like most people I suppose, he made the most of them, if not quite the best.

 

I felt very sorry for Amy, who really did make the very best she could out of her circumstances. I found her most interesting in the second book

 

when she struggled to fit herself into her new life of wealth. She seemed more weighed down then than before and I think it was because she really missed being of use.

 

Like Barblue, I also found that the end rushed to meet me.

 

I really wanted Clennam to love Amy instead of the spoilt Pet, but I'm not sure the way he came to the realisation that he did love her after all quite rang true. There were hints all the way through, but I'm not sure about it. There were echoes of Mr Jarndyce and Esther from Bleak House in there, especially the way he always referred to her as his child.

 

It didn't grab me instantly as Bleak House did, but I do think, after all, that it's just as good a story.

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