Everyman's Reviews > Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
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Oct 03, 2009

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bookshelves: british-classics
Read in October, 2009

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 work that I kept reading in the expectation that things must improve, but they never did.

I never managed to get a good sense of the character of Dombey or understand why he acted in such self-destructive ways. My experience of highly successful businessmen is that they are almost universally much better judges of character than Dombey turned out to be. His marriage to Edith Granger was unjustified by any aspect of his character, especially since he didn’t have the excuse of love or even affection blinding his judgment, as there was none of that on either side of the marriage. His treatment of Florence was inexplicable even for Victorian England.

Florence herself was sappy and insipid. I longed to find a single mention of any possible hint of reality in her, but never did. Reading about her was like eating an endless bowl of undiluted sugar.

The backgrounds were less interesting and less finely drawn than in most Dickens novels. London didn’t come alive in nearly the way it does in Bleak House, for example, and there was no location of great interest, such as the Marshelsea in Little Dorrit or the marshes or Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations.

As is typical of Dickens, there were plenty of well drawn minor characters. I particularly enjoyed Captain Cuttle (from whom the phrase “when found, make a note on” apparently comes), Solomon Gills, and Susan Nipper, and appreciated the humor in Mr. Toots and Cousin Feenix.

I have read many of Dickens’s works multiple times, and will read many of them again in future, but Dombey and Son will not be among my choices for rereading. However, it does merit three stars, because even a weak Dickens is still a Dickens.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Diane (new)

Diane I agree with you. I have an old copy
from maybe 1900, one that was cheaply
produced for the masses so as well as
being a lesser Dickens the small
print made it hard to get through.
Not a book I would recommend if the
person had not read Dickens before.
I agree Florence was insipid and
another of Dicken's "too perfect"
heroines but I just loved Mr. Toots,
he brought a tear to my eye he was
so nice and whimsical.


message 2: by Armin (new)

Armin Hennig Started it enthusiastically in 1990 and gave up after 150 Pages or so, it was still a good intention to start sometimes anew and finish it, but I think I will rather read Bleak House for the first time.


message 3: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael I am decided to love DOMBEY & SON, hope Mr. Dickens will allow me to keep this feeling all through the book.


Jean Good to get a different point of view on this, Everyman. A shame that ultimately it didn't "speak" to you though.


Jerry M Even if I liked Dombey better than you, I appreciate your opinions. I mostly agree with you, but I guess I enjoyed the good more than you hated the bad.


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