Velma's Reviews > The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
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's review
Feb 24, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, fiction, 2012-reads, setting-culture-uk, boxall-1001-books, i-like-big-books-and-i-cannot-lie, brit-lit, victoriana
Recommended for: fans of human foibles
Read from February 24 to March 06, 2012 — I own a copy

Holy crap, if I had known how funny Dickens is, I wouldn't have put off reading him for so long. Now, I'm not sure why I did.

While I read that Nicholas Nickleby isn't Dickens' best or most-respected work, I enjoyed the dickens out of it (sorry). Farcical melodrama at it's most amusing, I say. Sure, the characters are pretty cliche, aptonymical caricatures of various personality traits writ large, but who is better at rendering human motivations and clothing them in astonishingly recognizable portraits than Dickens? His mastery of dialects is particularly impressive; I could all but hear the voices in my head as I read them.

My Penguin edition also included a most informative introduction (which I of course read after finishing the story: spoilers!). In it, Michael Slater offered a context for the work, both in a historical sense--describing the real-life conditions and characters that inspired it--as well as by way of placing Nicholas in the larger body of Dickens' oeuvre. Maybe the absurd yet familiar characters, the embodiment of aspects of the human condition still recognizable to modern readers, are the reason Nicholas Nickleby is still read, despite disinterest from academics and critics.

I was curious just why Dickens is still taught, and read 200 years after his birthday, so I did a little Google-fu and found one high school literature teacher who proffers this explanation, provided by one of his students: "We need to read Dickens's novels," she wrote, "because they tell us, in the grandest way possible, why we are what we are."

I couldn't say it better myself.

(If you want to read the piece, "Why are we still reading Dickens?" by Jon Michael Varese in The Guardian Online, you can find it at:
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Reading Progress

02/25/2012 page 76
8.0% "Funny!"
02/25/2012 page 90
9.0% "This is for @vtknitboy."
02/26/2012 page 162
17.0% "What a delightful surprise this is."
02/26/2012 page 204
21.0% "I think I'm a new Dickens convert."
02/28/2012 page 233
24.0% "Sick yesterday; didn't read much."
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