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The Old Curiosity Shop

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,402 Ratings  ·  646 Reviews
Giants, dwarfs, tricksters--here is the dark side of Dickens at its most powerful and bizarre.

The story of 'Little Nell' gripped the nation when it first appeared. Described as a 'tragedy of sorrows', it tells of Nell uprooted from a secure and innocent childhood and cast into a world where evil takes many shapes, the most fascinating of which is the stunted, lecherous Qui

Paperback, Penguin Classics Reprint Edition, 720 pages
Published 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published 1841)
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The Old Curiosity Shop was the most popular of Dickens's novels during his lifetime. Yet now there is perhaps no other novel by him which splits opinion so much. How can that be?

The simple answer is that tastes change. Just as with modern-day fantasy stories the reader has to suspend their disbelief, accepting the basic premise of the magical or dystopian world described, with Dickens one has to "go along with" his unique view of the world. Yes, he was writing about everyday characters and the h
Jason Koivu
Charles Dickens likes to beat the shit out of his main characters. It's like a form of domestic abuse!

Has he beaten the crap out of another character more than poor little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop? Certainly Pip and Oliver get theirs. But at least with them there's some sort of happy ending or comeuppance for the villains. Like Little Dorrit without the uplifting ending, Nell is flat out beat down. Time and again she is taken advantage of and there is no redemption, not in my eyes. Sure,
Henry Avila
In the slums of London, in the mid 1800's, on a dirty, lonely, and obscure street, a crumbling house still stands, The Old Curiosity Shop. Inside lives an old man (never named), and his pretty, young granddaughter, Nell Trent, in the back of the building. An older, lazy brother of Nell's, Frederick, is always coming to the house, trying to get some more cash ( he already has wasted, too much), from the grandfather, he needs for his drinking. The almost worthless merchandise the store, has, stran ...more
MJ Nicholls
Not too sentimental. Oscar Wilde was clearly in a bad mood. Boasts the evillest dwarf outside German folklore, the irrepressible Qulip. Cute kid (view spoiler) and her put-upon granddaddy (view spoiler) in King Lear and Cordelia metaphor. A crackerbox of eccentrics: the morally unsure Dick Swiveller, the ruthless Brasses (precursor of the legal vipers in Bleak House), the hero-in-waiting Kit. A rodomontade of freaks and carnies, from Mrs Jarley’s ...more
Jun 27, 2007 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Another masterful confection of pathos and comic genius, this time featuring such characters as the slacker Dick Swiveler and the cruel Daniel Quilp.

My generic comment about Charles Dickens:
First of all, although I am a partisan of Dickens' writing and have read and relished most his works, I concede to three flaws in his oeuvre that are not insignificant. First, while he seemed to develop an almost endless variety of male social types, his female characters are much less well developed. Second,
Barry Pierce
Dickens, how dare you end the novel like that! MY EMOTIONS YOU PIG-DOG! This was great, really great (obviously, it's Dickens for goodness sake). The story of Little Nell and her grandfather is tragic and beautiful, while Daniel Quilp is an incredibly dastardly Dickensian villain (he's no Bill Sikes though). Read this because it's Dickens and he's a fucking genius.
Sep 29, 2015 Mona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A Dickensian "Alice in Wonderland"

"Curiosity Shop" vs. "Alice

This novel, serialized in 1840 and 1841, and published as a book in 1841, reminds me in some respects of "Alice in Wonderland" (published in 1865).

Maybe it's that they're both British Victorian novels. Maybe it's the abundance of eccentric (and even lunatic) characters that seems to be the specialty of British novelists of the time. Maybe it's the original (and quite wonderfully demented) illustrations by George Cattermole and Habl
The book itself is okay--(a young girl and her grandfather flee London to escape an evil creditor)--but for me the real fun was reading a story that people got so excited about over 150 years ago. According to Wikipedia, "In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel .... Dickens fans were reported to storm the piers ...more
Jul 02, 2011 Duntay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am quite worried by this insipid-looking woman on the cover...

So far my favourite character is Whiskers the pony. I'm not sure if that bodes well.

I confess: I abandoned Little Nell. In a drawer, in a B&B in Tobermory. I did however finish the book, after lugging it about since March. I'm afraid my initial reservations were confirmed: Nell was insipid, and Whiskers the pony was ace. Especially as it is reported that his final act was to kick his doctor in his last illness. The doctor is nev
Nov 26, 2012 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
The Old Curiosity Shop seems the perfect title for this novel, even thought the titular shop hardly features beyond the first few chapters. It's a perfect curio, a ramshackle assortment of strange Dickensian characters and one never knows what one will find from one chapter to the next. There's no overarching plot or purpose, and the novel revolves around a bunch of characters, namely Daniel Quilp, Richard Swiveller, Little Nell and Kit Nubbles - for starters - all vaguely loosely connected, but ...more
Nov 26, 2015 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 18, 2014 Sergei rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There’s Little Nell, an orphan, and her grandfather says, “she shall be rich one of these days, and a fine lady.” They are devoted to one another, and as the story unfolds, we see that Nell is the most devoted. The girl cares for the old man, and when they leave the shop she leads him on their journey.
The narrative is full of picturesque and amazing characters, vivid images of city life and nature, with the villains plotting cunningly and the honest people coming to rescue, but not always in ti
Ayu Palar
Jul 16, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than a century ago, people were waiting on the docks at New York to ask a question to passengers from England ‘Is Nell dead?’. So influential Old Curiosity Shop to those readers’ lives! And how Little Nell has stolen many readers’ hearts! I adore the novel so much and I do think that Little Nell’s life is tragic, yet I didn’t shed any tear when I closed the last page of the book. There are other elements of the book that attract me more, especially the rich description that successfully bui ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"

"...and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told."

When I started this novel I got all excited, thinking it might be even better than Great Expectations, my favorite Dickens novel to date. What always happens to me with Charles Dickens, though, is that my interest starts to fade about 2/3 of the way through the book. He has many sub-plots going all at once, and he abandons some of them for so long in order to focus on just one. Often the one he favors is the one I'm least interested in,
Oct 16, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this strengthened my opinion that Charles Dickens was a genius at creating memorable characters, but not so skilled at creating plots. Who could ever forget the devilish dwarf Mr. Quilp, the brother and sister lawyers Samson and Sarah Brass, and the kind-hearted rogue Dick Swiveller. The curious thing about the Old Curiosity Shop is that the namesake venue ceases to be location of the story very early on, and the so-called main character Nell is not half as memorable as her supporting ca ...more
Julie Davis
Jan 27, 2016 Julie Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading the Penguin Classics edition and listening to the LibriVox recording by the always excellent Mil Nicholson. No one, I repeat no one, narrates voices better than she does.

I am strangely fascinated by the story and can easily see why it was so popular in its day. The poverty-stricken Nell and her grandfather escaping the evil Quilp has all the makings of The Fugitive. Everyone suspects that the grandfather is wealthy and it would be worth while to clap him into the insane asylum while
Feb 03, 2015 Milica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, books-i-own
Tačno je da je tu prodavnica. I da je stara. I da u njoj možete naći svakave retkosti. Isto tako je tačno da iz nje sve kreće i da njena sudbina jasno prikazuje sudbinu glavnih likova. Međutim, kako se vrlo lako uvidi nije poenta u tome da je prodavnica stara, već da prodaje starine, retke starine, pa samim tim je primereniji naslov, bar po mojoj proceni, „Prodavnica retkih starina“. Ne zvuči toliko pompezno kao pravi naslov, ali je ipak bliži istini. Za ovu priču i nije preterano, ako je uopšte ...more
Brian Robbins
Jun 18, 2012 Brian Robbins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another CD version to make driving more fun, and at 18 discs it promised hours and many miles of fun driving. We even had to go on a short driving holiday just to finish it!

Anton Lesser reads Dickens extremely well, even if his elderly women (thinking more of his reading of Pickwick Papers here) tend to become impersonations of Dame Edith Evans at her most theatrical. In this production his Quilp was outstanding.

I last read the book in 1987 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Returning to it was
Apr 19, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike most who will review this, this is the first Dickens novel that I've actually read (I don't think it counts that I skimmed A Tale of Two Cities and furiously read Cliffnotes before the exam in ninth grade). I found this book in The Galveston Bookshop when my husband and I drove down to see what all fuss over the Mardi Gras celebrations was about. We found the island as we expected: completely devastated by last year's hurricane. The Galveston Bookshop was musty and warm and smelled faintl ...more
Mar 30, 2012 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderfully enjoyable book. The classic Dickens formula is put to work: good vs. evil, hardship, the sad reality of real life, the journey, the secret, the bittersweet happy ending. All this equation performed amongst a myriad of extremely colorful characters and scenes so pictographic in description and prose that the landscape seems to pop up out of the book and play out in animation before the eyes. Dickens has such a way with his characters. They are always to the extreme. When the ...more
Mar 08, 2013 Tristram rated it it was ok
A Treacly Treat

Written between the spring of 1840 and the late autumn of 1841 for the weekly serial “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, Dickens’s “The Old Curiosity Shop” is utterly blemished by the constraints on a writer’s imagination such a serial publication demands, for the novel is extremely ill-composed, its plot comes out as threadbare and rather pointless, and some of the characters undergo rather improbable changes. In fact, had this been the first Dickens novel I had ever laid eyes on, I would
☽ Moon Rose ☯
In the beginning was the lonesome shop that creeped in the grimness of the dark like a long standing specter riveted on its haunted spot. It stood isolated and unnoticed amid the light and bustle of the night as it appeared like a stump of some neglected tombstone in a forgotten cemetery left to its own blight. In it were some of the old and curiosity things, of knickknacks, trinkets and stuff, of unwanted items left to rot in their own dust. From which dark corner, two unlikely souls emerged in ...more
J.M. Hushour
Jul 14, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a book club, would not have read it on my own, and in fact I found it a lot more engaging than I expected. Not surprising that this was written to be serialized, and a lot of it is very formulaic. I find that I am reminded of the little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead – when she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she was horrid. The very very good here is Nell, who is so good that she is described as an angel, and apparently is too good to ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Charly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, especially Dickens fans
Although this is one of Dickens' earlier works I am not sure it is as well known as some others. This was a bit atypical of him in one sense, in that he ties things up in the end a bit differently than in some of his books. Can't go beyond that without a spoiler. I suggest not reading the introduction before the piece if you have this edition.

As always his wit, humor, and masterful twists come into play as well as his wonderfully weird characters
Jul 29, 2015 Lydia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I do enjoy Dickens' storylines. They are like fairy tales for grown ups, sometimes really dark fairy tales but redemption always comes in the end.

Little Nell and her grandfather flee London in an attempt to get away from the latter's gambling debts. Through the book we come upon a bizarre medley of people who ultimately come together at the climax of the plot. All these different people are so vividly depicted,some of them made to be loved,some to be hated and some,like Mr Swiveller, stan
Duffy Pratt
Aug 29, 2014 Duffy Pratt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Daniel Quilp stands short in stature, but has a large spirit. A dwarf, he has endured the prejudice and the malign intentions of people who judge him solely on his appearance. For example, one character (Kit) says of Quilp that he is uglier than anyone you might pay to see in a circus freak show. Despite the relentless hostility towards him, Quilp, through his intelligence, his energy, and his large spirit, has managed to rise in the ranks of the business world. But even his success does nothing ...more
Ben Dutton
Feb 06, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Luke Harris
Jul 24, 2011 Luke Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Another great book by Dickens. Whereas Nicholas Nickleby contain a lot of narrative in a fairly short space, the Old Curiosity Shop is rather the opposite. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though if I were to pick fault it would be the seeming aimlessness of the narrative at times. But on the other hand, this book contains one of the most chilling and utterly brilliant pieces of description I have ever read, when the characters are on the road between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, of the effe ...more
Nov 28, 2013 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-authors

It's curious. Usually, I don't mind knowing how a book ends. I read for the pleasure of the telling, more than for the tale. But in this case, I wonder if knowing that (and here comes the spoiler--if you can really say that about a well-known book that's well past its hundredth birthday) Nell dies diminished the ending's emotional impact too much. In a way, I want it to be the fact that I went in knowing it was coming. But, sadly, I don't think that was the case.

It's curious. I just coul
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Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and sho ...more
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“It is a pleasant world we live in, sir, a very pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr. Richard, but if there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” 192 likes
“Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.” 13 likes
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