F.R.'s Reviews > Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
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's review
Feb 11, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 11 to 20, 2012

It’s many a year since I picked up this book, and reading it through it now I did find myself wondering whether this was a favourite of Samuel Beckett’s. After all it’s the novel with three large dust piles sat in a yard - which may, or may not, contain valuables - and a one legged, ‘literary’ man who scours through them. (It is certainly echoed in ‘Happy Days’). Furthermore there is a young/old, tiny and crippled maker of clothes for dolls, and a character with a death-like name who – as his homicidal rages increase – exhibits actual explosions of blood. (A touch David Cronenberg would no doubt enjoy). In short this is a great novel for Dickensian grotesques. Although this being pure and undistilled Dickens, we get the good and the bad. Yes, the grotesques are very entertaining, but beautiful young women are either angelic or haughty as hell. There are no other characteristics they can possibly exhibit.

The plot, in simple form, sees a dead body pulled from The Thames, and the consequences of that discovery having repercussions across nearly every strata of society.

‘Our Mutual Friend’ is a really clever and entertaining read, with lots of fantastic scenes. Other later Dickens’ novels, like ‘Great Expectation’ and ‘Bleak House’, I love with all my heart and wouldn’t hesitate to give them five stars. So, why am I more reluctant with this one? Well towards the end there is an extraordinary and breathtaking sleight of hand, one so audacious it pretty much counts as Deus ex machina. And it’s that ripping away of the carpet below much of what went before, which sours me a little on this novel. Undoubtedly this is a book jam packed with many superb scenes (and might just contain more murders than any other Dickens’ work), memorable moments and greater than life characters – so I would certainly recommend, although there are better.

And one can only assume – given its treatment of the dinner parties held by the upper echelons of society – that Dickens was treated with some wariness after publication each time he went to such a soiree.


Well I guess everything around the birthday celebrations has affected me. The fact that the British public has all dressed up in frock coats or bodices for Victorian street parties in every road up and down the land; the thousands of imitation Charles Dickenses who now wander across London quoting the great man’s work; and that our greatest living Dickens impersonator – Mister Simon Callow – has made it his mission to go around every residence in the UK and perform personally to every single citizen. I’ve greatly enjoyed that we’ve reopened the work houses and we all get turns to go there and refuse to give the urchins any more gruel; while I’m looking forward to those ghosts coming to visit tomorrow night – I’ve been meaning to mend the error of my ways for some time now.

It really has been an exciting and wonderfully literary six weeks. And so, I guess it’s time for me to do my bit and actually read some Dickens.
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02/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Alan (new)

Alan yes I'm waiting for Simon Callow to come knocking. My friend in my writer's group - Gaynor Arnold - went to the Westminster ceremony thingie because her book Girl in a Blue Dress is a novel about Dickens's wife.

message 2: by booklady (new)

booklady Yes, you need to actually read him ... there's nothing like it ... except having his work read aloud.

F.R. Simon Callow came around to my place last night for my big Dickens reading. It was most entertaining, although I think I would have enjoyed it more if he hadn't shown up at 3am and woken me up.

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