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Dombey and Son

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  6,260 ratings  ·  323 reviews
Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens’s story of a powerful man whose callous neglect of his family triggers his professional and personal downfall, showcases the author’s gift for vivid characterization and unfailingly realistic description. As Jonathan Lethem contends in his Introduction, Dickens’s “genius . . . is at one with the genius of the form of the novel itself: Dicken...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1848)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I'm ashamed to admit that until I read this book, I hadn't read a lot of Dickens. I skimmed Great Expectations when I was in 9th grade, but only because I was forced, and I read A Christmas Carol for work once (long story, but I was working for an educational publishing company and we were doing a dumbed-down version). After finishing Dombey and Son, I'm afraid I don't have anything especially intelligent to add to the reams and reams that has been written about Dickens, except that I'm excited...more
Christopher H.
Dombey and Son is one of Dickens' best! This novel, in my opinion, rivals Little Dorrit. The main protagonist, Florence Dombey is an amazing woman, full of strength and character which guides her through some incredibly miserable years. Some of the characters that Dickens develops during the course of this novel are some of the most heinously evil or sad, or full of goodness and love, or are just plain funny. There's a powerful message about the influence of "wealth", not just money, on the indi...more
MJ Nicholls
A big bloated behemoth Dickens. An instructive homily on pride and behaving like a coldblooded douche towards your daughter because she isn’t a son. Once Dombey’s son dies (not a plot spoiler, it happens early on), the novel seems to collapse, start again. Britain was in mourning for Paul Dombey’s demise, and this grief is reflected in the sluggish pace that follows. Wonderful, wrenchingly excruciating scenes between Dombey, whose hauteur builds to pitches of teeth-grinding stubbornness, and his...more
Sherwood Smith
Apr 12, 2013 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fiction
Reading Dickens always reminds me that there was no such thing as an editor as we understand the function of an editor now. Dickens did carefully plot out his books — we have the evidence not only in letters but of his actual outline of how carefully this one was worked out. We can see through his letters where he deviated and where he stuck to the plot.

This is the first of his books that features a heroine rather than a hero at the center of the story. Florence, an unwanted daughter, is beneat...more
I always love Dickens. This is my sixth by him. I am always left a little breathless by the wit with which he sketches his characters. This book certainly had its unforgettable characters, my favorites were Cap'n Cuttle, Walter Gay, Mr. Toots and Susan, and for villain, the sheer toothiness of Mr. Carker is downright awful.

I found the book a bit slow in its first half though the gradual build of Florence and little Paul's relationship, especially down at the sea was pivotal to the whole story an...more
Mar 09, 2012 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
This is a great mid-period Dickens written just about at the point where his optimism about human beings and his zest to improve the conditions of all the hapless grovellers is at the tipping point of being transformed by a horrible realisation that the corruption of the ruling classes, the venality of the middle classes and the ground-down-and-outness of the labouring men and women meant that only a root and branch revolution would do, reform would simply fail, be watered down by the circumlocu...more
Dickens as feminist? Not by 21st century definitions, perhaps, but by the standards of his own time, definitely. In this book, he very clearly perceives, and shows to the reader, the wrongness of a father discounting the value of his daughter simply because she is not a son, as well as various other indications of the wrongness of the discriminations visited upon women in his Victorian England, and the innate strength of many of his female characters in dealing with what their life forces them t...more
Jan 10, 2013 Julianne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Absolutely
How the mighty fall. This book is literary genius, of course, and written by the master, Dickens. Beware your friends that serve too well with too bright and many teeth. Don't put all your eggs in one basket you might drop that basket. This book really brings to light all the mistakes that man can make in a broad spectrum but put them all into one man, Mr. Dombey. The lessons within the book are too numerous to mention; the plight of the poor who actually have so much contrasted against the plig...more
This was my first reading of Dombey and Son, and I found it to be one of Dickens’s less successful novels. I know some rank it highly. But I found the plot mostly uninteresting and even more dependent than is usual for Dickens on unlikely events and coincidences, and much of the writing turgid and uninspired. The first third of the book managed to engage me as the situations developed, but after that I increasingly read more out of duty than out of pleasure. I have enjoyed so much of Dickens’s w...more
Ben Dutton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hugh Coverly
Not one of Dickens's better novels. It is generally neglected, and there are good reasons why.

None of the central characters are compelling enough to grab readers and keep them interested in their eventual fate. The novel drags until about chapter 40 or so when the pace picks up considerably after Edith Dombey runs off with James Carker, and when Florence Dombey flees from home after her father beats her. Not many readers will hold out this long, I suspect.

The only central character I followed...more
Anna  Matsuyama
My copy:Dombey and Son doesn't have notes at the end of the book, which I've found useful and interesting bonus material in Penguin Classic books.

Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation published in monthly parts from 1 October 1846 to 1 April 1848 and in one volume in 1848.

Favourite character: James Carker (the manager) and honorable mention to Miss Tox, Mrs Pipchin, Susan Nipper, Robin Toodle
Favourite couples: Miss Nipper/Mr Toots, Mr Carker/Mrs Dombey...more
Tony Talbot
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
I think I've had my fill of Dickens for at least a couple of years. This is one of his earlier works and not quite up to what I've liked in the past. Or maybe it's that I've been enjoying the French writers so much, who are less confined in their treatment of male/female relationships.

There is a good plot in this, but the characterizations are sorely lacking. Goody-two shoes ingenue, blacker-than-black villain, and caricatures - who were not as funny as they should have been - make up the cast....more
Nov 14, 2011 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People seeking a return to classic novels' quality
Recommended to Pat by: Newsweek magazine
As an English major, I had read (and enjoyed) virtually all of Dickens' biggees in high school and college. But why would I pick him up 35 years later? Well, last year, Newsweek listed "Dombey and Son" on its summer must-read list because of its sympathetic treatment of women. I downloaded it into my Nook months ago and finally started reading it on a monthlong overseas trip. First, I had forgotten how downright FUNNY Dickens can be. The droll turns of phrases reveal themselve...more
Well over 1,000 pages in the book-format, Dombey and Son is Dickens’ longest novel. The son in the title is actually a daughter, which is what originally piqued my interest. There are two strong women in Dombey and Son---Florence, the daughter Dombey barely acknowledges and will not love, and Edith, his much-deserved cold and proud second wife. The stories of old man Dombey and the two women plus the various other intertwining stories and characters make for the kind of reading you would expect...more
Resonate. Alas.

*shakes fist at urchin adolescence*
Duffy Pratt
This one is 800+ pages, and has about 300 pages of material in it. Worse, it almost feels like Dickens stepped back, analyzed his previous stuff, and decided that the problem with all of it was that there was too much fun. So he deliberately went out of his way to excise the fun, and accentuate the grim. Of course, being Dickens, he couldn't get rid of all the fun, and there are still some very charming moments here. But they are fairly few, and spread out sparsely over the course of what otherw...more
This was the best book choice for Christmas holidays. I immensly enjoyed it. What I liked best was that the main character was in the gray area. Not entirely bad or good. Of course Mr Dombey is a very proud and snob man and can't show a trace of feeling to anyone but at least as we find out in the end he has some. I liked that in the end he learns his lesson and becomes a better person. It makes me feel that there is hope for eveyone. Florence is an angel on earth. Her faith and persevereance ar...more
I haven't read Dickens since Great Expectations in ninth grade, which I hated greatly. Thus I did not relish the idea of reading this monster of a novel for my Victorian Novel class. I was surprised to find myself enjoying it from the very first sentence: Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitu...more
Even though I had read many of Dickens' classics (Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and Martin Chuzzelwit) I had never heard of this book by Charles Dickens. I was looking for an engrossing tale to listen to on my Ipod and could not have come up with a better one. I downloaded it from audible and have to say that the narrator, David Timson, was fantastic--his ability to create unique voices for each of the odd characters (and in classic Dickens styl...more
Dombey & Son comes from mid-period Dickens, before he wrote his epic books on society like Bleak House and Little Dorrit. There are some parts where he tries to make the points about wealth and poverty across London, but none of it is as searing as in the later books. A lot of it is subsumed by following a buch of characters who are - oddly for Dickens - not very vibrant. There are a few of his stand out grotesques in this novel, certainly none that have lingered in the public imagination.

Dec 26, 2011 K. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K. by:
One of the more sad Dickens books. Read first 1999. That line was what I remembered.

NOW? One of my brothers-in-law makes fun of me that all I read is Dickens. Which isn't true, but every time I revisit him I wonder why I do read anyone else! I completely devoured the first half of the book via audio while sewing Christmas presents. Done sewing? No reason or opportunity (I read paper easier than listen with kids around) to listen anymore (despite the fact that the narrator, David Timson, was abs...more
Contains none of Dickens' most famous characters and yet is one of his best novels. Thackeray, whose Vanity Fair appeared in installments at about the same time as Dombey and Son, said of it, "There's no writing against such power as this--one has no chance!" He was referring to the extraordinary scenes told from the viewpoint of children, for which Dickens was lauded, for the poignance with which he drew Florence Dombey, for his amazing Edith Granger, possibly the most fully realized female cha...more
I have been reading through Dickens' great works, and this was the 10th book in my list. I mention that because at this point his writing is comfortable and familiar to me, and I think it enhanced my reading of this book. And at the end of book 10, I can say that while there are plot points I predicted (like the villain's "sort-of-accidental death" in which nobody can be blamed but nature and himself, which is a frequent occurance in his novels), it was never predictable, and I was still surpris...more
Dombey and Son is 814 pages in my 1907 Everyman edition. By the time you get to the end, it’s the epic scale that impresses most: the panoramic view of London life and the huge cast of characters, each with their own story, seamlessly interwoven.

At several points in the last few hundred pages, I thought it could have finished. But Dickens was right: there were more reconciliations required and more justice to be dispensed in order to leave everyone happy, dead, or deservedly miserable.

No scene...more
I enjoyed Dombey and Son a lot, but I also found the writing inconsistent, for Dickens. Sometimes I felt more like a was reading someone else, maybe Trollope. This is partly because the book is sliced into sections, both by of a shift in focus on characters, and a shift in location. For instance, the section featuring Mrs. "Cleopatra" Skewton, her daughter, Mr. Dombey, Carker, and J.B. in a holiday location, reads very differently from the earlier section on Florence and Paul at Mrs. Pipchin's b...more
Thom Swennes
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens is a unique story for this well read and better known writer. This statement is made in reference to the social class of the main character Paul Dombey. Almost all of the novels by Charles Dickens have to do with the middle classes and poor but Dombey and Son stretch Dickens literary horizons and put the highest level of Victorian society under the looking glass. Until the first quarter of the 20th Century, the social position of women was drastically different...more
I quite enjoyed this, but I do see why it's one of Dicken's lesser-known works. IT IS SOOOO LONG. Usually I'm a very fast reader - Dickens usually takes me 3-4 days, tops - but I had this one checked out from the library for TWO MONTHS. It just went ON and ON and ON. This was one time I actually wished I had an abridged version.

Despite my complaints on the length, I did like it. There was a certain plot twist where something sad was implied to have happened and I actually thought it DID happen,...more
The older I get the more I love Dickens' work. This one is rich, like most of his work. Read it in small servings and savor the incredible detailed and thoughtful prose. Watch for stand alone lines that beg to be written down for further pondering. The usual complicated twists of plot, a long list of multi faceted characters and beautiful journeys of forgiveness, redemption and hope make it classic Dickens. Almost every character could be a novel in and of themselves. Can stand alone or be studi...more
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A prolific 19th Century author of short stories, plays, novellas, novels, fiction and non-fiction; during his lifetime Dickens became known the world over for his remarkable characters, his mastery of prose in the telling of their lives, and his depictions of the social classes, morals and values of his times. Some considered him the spokesman for the poor, for he definitely brought much awarenes...more
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“If I dropped a tear upon your hand, may it wither it up! If I spoke a gentle word in your hearing, may it deafen you! If I touched you with my lips, may the touch be poison to you! A curse upon this roof that gave me shelter! Sorrow and shame upon your head! Ruin upon all belonging to you!” 21 likes
“The two commonest mistakes in judgement ... are, the confounding of shyness with arrogance - a very common mistake indeed - and the not understanding that an obstinate nature exists in a perpetual struggle with itself.” 7 likes
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