Anna Bear's Reviews > Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
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's review
Mar 08, 2011

it was amazing
Read in February, 2011

I actually listened to the BBC read version of this book while I was sick a couple of weeks ago. Although there is nothing quite like the feel and companionship of a physical book, in this case I have to say that nothing showcases Dickens like the audio version. BBC Radio 4 has an extensive selection of Dickens novels dramatized. They are so fantastic because they really capture the period with all the accompanying sound effects. If the text says that the Nicklebys were having tea, you'll hear the clamor of cups and the pouring of steaming water while they chat. Doors open, footsteps fade into the distance, sailors shout, a rope swings from a creaky beam and all other kinds of scene appropriate sounds are used. I really loved it. The voices the BBC chose are also so perfect for the Dickens characters.

The ONLY thing I found highly annoying and NOT true to the book was this terrible songish refrain of "Farewell and never think of me..." that would play between scenes and a few times at the end or during pivotal moments. Truly that was obnoxious and unnecessary.

Perhaps listening to a dramatized audiobook defeats the purpose of reading---some may argue it's more of a movie than a book. In this case, however, I found it to be appropriate and I would counter that it is even possibly the way Dickens intended his book to be. Dickens was known in his time to be a fantastic bard and was famous for his own semi-dramatized readings of his books. Also, the dramatization, unlike a movie, maintains the entire text of the book. This was a rather short novel and it still took me something like 8 hours to listen to it---approximately the same time I would take to read it to myself.

As to the book iteself: the characters were typically Dickens. Their personalities are varied and exaggerated somewhat even to the degree of being caricatures. But that is of course the point---to be critical of specific people or of types/ classes of people during that time of industrialization in Britain. Ralph Nickleby (uncle) somewhat resembles Ebeneezer Scrooge, but unlike Scrooge does not have the chance for redemption. This novel has all the charm and wit of A Christmas Carol without the completely happy ending. Also, maybe it was just me, but this novel had better flow than Great Expectations. It never dragged. The pace at which Dickens tells each characters story keeps even with one another among the chapters.
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