Reading the Chunksters discussion

23 views
By Gaslight > By Gaslight - Week 2 (January 22), Chapters 4-6, South Africa

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) It is time for the new discussion thread, and what a promising and engaging part it was. Page-wise, this week's part of the novel is possibly the heaviest when it comes to our schedule, but I do not think it would have been justifiable to split the part called "South Africa" into two parts to make it more readable.

1. In addition to two narratives, now we also have a digression/ flashback of sorts. It also takes place not the USA and not in the UK, but in South Africa. Is this flashback different from the two narrative plot lines that we have been previously dealing with in style and in tone?

2. This part is also full of sensual detailed that signal modern writing and that we are, in fact, reading a novel that was written last year. Do you think these descriptions go well with the Victorian flow of the novel?

3. Now we have two Charlottes in the novel - the Charlotte that Foole met in South Africa and another one, whose body was in morgue, dismembered, and her legs are still missing, and the mystery of her body is the one that is haunting William Pinkerton. Do you find this duality gruesome, eerie, noir or darkly ironic?

4. I really enjoyed the verbal interaction ( I cannot call it a conversation) between William Pinkerton and Blackmore. It was as if William used Blackmore's insipid remarks to help us understand what conclusions he came up with.
Is it me or Dickens has been haunting me all these chapters? First, I thought that Molly was someone like Oliver Twist or other members of the gang. Today, when William Pinkerton mentioned that larks and the empty birdcage, I immediately thought of The Bleak House and the slightly nutty lady who had the documents for the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case, but she also had the birdcage full of birds, but one day she let them all go.

Did you feel something similar in a more general sense? Did the novel remind you of other Victorian or post-modern Victorian novels?

As usual, these are just fire starters, and you can comment in any form, shape, or manner you find appropriate.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments I keep wondering if the head (and torso) is really Charlotte's or some elaborate ruse. More later.


message 3: by Linda (new)

Linda | 1319 comments I enjoyed the flashback to South Africa as it allowed us to get to know Foole and Charlotte for who they really were/are. I was not expecting Foole to have a thieving character, it actually kind of took me by surprise. But I thought the action of the heists were really fun, and I had to remind myself of the time period we were in because the "sexy scenes" did not fit with the typical Victorian novels I have have read. However, I didn't NOT like them. :) It certainly makes for an interesting blend of "old" and "new" writing.

Ah...Dickens! Well, for some reason I did not immediately think of Molly as an Oliver Twist type character when we met her in the first section, and I somehow missed the empty birdcage reference (Miss Flite and her birds!) in this section. But now you've encouraged me to keep an eye out for more possible Dickens "haunts". :)

Xan - I agree with you. After witnessing the realistic acting and elaborate plans that Charlotte took part in in South Africa, the thought certainly crossed my mind that the dead woman might not be (I'm leaning towards a strong no) the Charlotte that is missing. Of course the next question being, if this is correct, is where is she and what is she up to now?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments An important chapter, chapter 4 is. (My best Yoda impression.) But first, I must be getting old because I was confused for too long before realizing Japheth Fludd and Foole were in cahoots, staging their fight on board the ship to divert passengers’ attention so Molly could ply her trade.

Talk about names — Japheth Fludd, now there’s a biblical name, even if it doesn’t appear in the bible.

I’m impressed with Price’s character development, and especially the relationships he builds between characters. Take the one between Foole and Molly. It’s complicated, and I fear possibly doomed because though he cares for her he keeps using her.

Does Foole rescue Molly from her plight because he wishes to save her from an awful future, or does he purchase her because she’s the best pickpocket he knows, or does he do it, as I believe, for both reasons?

I’m not sure anything is as it appears in this story, but up to this point it looks to me as if Foole truly cares for Molly, possibly like an older brother or uncle or, dare I say it, like a father might care for her. Yet he keeps using her as a pickpocket. That’s a conflict. And Molly looks up to Foole but also feels insecure about the relationship. I might be reading too much into it, but I thought Molly worried about Foole’s interest in Charlotte because she saw Charlotte as a threat to replace her. So, if push comes to shove, how much is Foole willing to risk for Molly?

Foole retrieves the head of the doll Molly abandoned and returns it to her during a touching scene on the train. But why just the head? Why not the body too? Both were easily retrievable by Foole. Is this some sort of weird symbolism: that Foole cares about Molly but is not totally committed to her?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Is everyone in this story an anti-hero?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Linda, I hope so. Charlotte is fascinating, and it seems to she should be alive and mucking up the works.


message 7: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Jan 24, 2017 04:49AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Ah, Blackmore and Pinkerton. I thought the play on bird names was strangely out of place, almost as if Abbott and Costello appeared out of nowhere and performed "Who's On First."

There are many references to birds (freedom) and their cages (imprisonment) in Bleak House, and Dickens is the master. People don't speak about his descriptive prose the way they do about his satire, exaggeration, and grotesquerie, but I could see Dickens writing those back alley passages in chapter 1.

I most be more of a Victorian novel lover than i thought. I jumped into this immediately following Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters, another wonderful book.

PS: How old is Molly?


message 8: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (tnbooklover) | 149 comments I've been trying to work Molly's age out since the beginning. I'm thinking 11 or 12 (close to puberty but not quite) however in someways she seems much older. Her jealousy of Charlotte is almost like a lovers jealousy.


message 9: by Linda (new)

Linda | 1319 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "But first, I must be getting old because I was confused for too long before realizing Japheth Fludd and Foole were in cahoots, staging their fight on board the ship to divert passengers’ attention so Molly could ply her trade."

Oh, I was slow to catch on to this also! I kept rewinding to figure out what was going on.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments I had to rewind several times too, Linda.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Amanda wrote: "I've been trying to work Molly's age out since the beginning. I'm thinking 11 or 12 (close to puberty but not quite) however in someways she seems much older. Her jealousy of Charlotte is almost li..."

Well, I thought I posted this before, but let me try again. I'm thinking 10 or 11 myself, so we're close. But I wasn't thinking jealous lover or any jealousy of the carnal kind. I was thinking of a daughter whose only parent has been her father, and then he begins to show interest in another woman closer to his age. That kind of jealousy.

Hope I didn't post this to another group. LOL!!!


message 12: by Linda (new)

Linda | 1319 comments That's what I though, Xan. More of a possible "mother" coming into play, which would take attention away from Molly.

Names - Since I'm listening to this I sometimes have a hard time with the names since I can't see them spelled. "Japheth Fludd" spelling surprised me when I saw it posted here. Of course I had "Flood" written in my mind.

BTW - I'm getting ahead of the group by quite a bit as I can't stop listening! This morning I realized that I'm on chapter 14 already, so I'll need to be cautious of posting in the upcoming threads.


message 13: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Linda wrote: "Ah...Dickens! Well, for some reason I did not immediately think of Molly as an Oliver Twist type character when we met her in the first section, and I somehow missed the empty birdcage reference (Miss Flite and her birds!) in this section. But now you've encouraged me to keep an eye out for more possible Dickens "haunts". :)"

I think it might be unavoidable because Dickens is such a massive figure that defined this period. Even if the author did not mean to do it, Dickens somehow shapes our vision, and we find clues when there are none, or when they truly exist, but they are Freudian and unintentional.


message 14: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I most be more of a Victorian novel lover than i thought. I jumped into this immediately following Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters, another wonderful book."

Fingersmith is so wonderfully sumptuous ... and again , Dickensian orphans ...


message 15: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Amanda wrote: "I've been trying to work Molly's age out since the beginning. I'm thinking 11 or 12 (close to puberty but not quite) however in someways she seems much older. Her jealousy of Charlotte is almost li..."

Her age is very nondescript or, to be precise, elusive. Can it be intentional?


message 16: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Feb 04, 2017 11:33AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Concerning the age of Molly: there is the passage where she "sashayed into view, a cinder bucket looped over one wrist shirttails untucked, her hands on her hips and a sultry swagger to her backside." Not just a swagger but a sultry swagger. But there are also several passages that reinforce the notion she is a child.

And there's more.

Adam trusts her with the sapphire and ruby pendant transactions, quite a responsibility for a 10 year old. Then again there is "Charlotte bloody Reckitt and her weepy bloody letter" and Molly glares at Foole insisting she shall accompany him to Utterson's, and Foole acquiesces despite the danger. Then she acts the young girl again in front of Rose, who is also jealous of Charlotte. There may be several Molly's.

But what really set me back was learning Chalotte too had been rescued from a workhouse by a thief and con-artist, a man whom she considers her uncle but not by blood, someone who she would do anything for. And Charlotte and Molly grow into first rate crooks. I'm thinking this is not coincidence. I'll say no more about my speculations for now.

Lastly, I have never heard of Steven Price before, but I really like the way he tells a story.


message 17: by Linda (new)

Linda | 1319 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Adam trusts her with the sapphire and ruby pendant transactions, quite a responsibility for a 10 year old."

Oh, I vaguely remember that passage now. OK then, I didn't think her actual age was mentioned anywhere. I had her pegged for around 12 or so.

Lastly, I have never heard of Steven Price before, but I really like the way he tells a story.

Me too. I've never heard of him either but also like his storytelling. He has very atmospheric descriptions, and I like the dialogue of the characters. Some funny quips thrown in there now and then too.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Hi, Linda!

The dialog and prose descriptions are excellent. The descriptions create vivid images in my mind.


message 19: by Linda (new)

Linda | 1319 comments Hi Xan! :)

If I were to read this again, I would like to count up the number of times the phrase "Charlotte bloody Reckitt" were uttered! ha ha.


message 20: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 41 comments Molly is such a fascinating character and could have appeared in any Dickens novel. She is a parallel to Charlotte and I think that both are an interesting experience for Foole in terms of women/females.

The scene where Foole and the housekeeper, Mrs. Sykes are in the pantry and Molly struts by was really odd. I do hope there is more about Molly's past and thoughts. The doll's head that Foole retrieved is eerie in light of the head of the woman who has been found with no body.

I am having to read carefully and sometimes re-reading to understand all the moving parts. Loving it though!


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Oh, good catch Michelle -- the bit about the two heads. Yes, what is Molly's story?


message 22: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Yes, totally agree with Xan - a good catch. Whether it is intentional or unintentional remains to be seen, but that gem was eerie and even otherworldly.


message 23: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I keep wondering if the head (and torso) is really Charlotte's or some elaborate ruse. More later."

I am wondering the same thing at this point in the novel. Some things that came to light in this section make me think she and her uncle wouldn't be above faking her death in such a way.


message 24: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) I don't have much else to add to the discussion of this section, but I agree with what others said above - Molly could have been straight from Dickens, seems jealous of Charlotte but in what way exactly it is hard to tell, hard to pin down her age. The sex scenes fit well here, although clearly departing from an actual victorian novel... The robbery scenes were wonderful. And everything has been delightfully set up for Foole to be tricked out of the diamonds he helped to steal!


message 25: by Zulfiya (last edited Mar 21, 2017 09:05PM) (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Deana wrote: "The sex scenes fit well here, although clearly departing from an actual victorian novel... The robbery scenes were wonderful. And everything has been delightfully set up for Foole to be tricked out of the diamonds he helped to steal! .."


What I like about this novel is the fact that one immediately understands that it is a Victorian novel, but we also understand that it was written by our contemporary. A Victorian novel with twists ...


message 26: by Pip (new)

Pip | 2 comments I'm very late to the party, but catching up quickly! It took me a while to get into the book, but the story has me gripped now - so many threads to follow, and I'm wondering how many of them are going to meet in the same place.

Interesting the comments here about Molly; I definitely read her as an "old young" person, virtually a child but who is much older, harder and wiser than her years. In some ways she reminded me of (Jenny?) the strange little character in Our Mutual Friend. Now I can't remember if she was an old-young person or a young-old person...

I'm also curious about the whole chopped-up body business. As Zulfiya said in the previous section, this was a real and highly publicised case. What has me puzzled is that the real murder happened in the 1830s, yet in the book I think we're at the end of the nineteenth century. It's odd because the details are exactly the same, down to the precise places where the different bits were found. You can find more information on the grisly case here http://eastlondonhistory.com/2010/11/... , although depending on how closely our novel is going to follow the original mystery and investigation, there could be spoilers I suppose.

One final point for now: although I'm enjoying the writing and style generally, I've been finding the lack of speech marks rather annoying. Has anyone else found this? It's not always a problem, but at times it's difficult to know who is speaking - or in fact whether someone is speaking or not!!


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 214 comments Hi Pip!

I've gotten used to the absence of quotation marks and don't notice anymore.


message 28: by Pip (new)

Pip | 2 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Hi Pip!

I've gotten used to the absence of quotation marks and don't notice anymore."


Hello there, Xan!

I've mostly got used to it now, although occasionally someone is speaking and I read the next sentence as if it's still their voice, only to have to go back and reread because it's gone back to narrative ;-)

I wonder what his reason is for writing this way. Has anyone read anything else by him? Is it a stylistic idiosyncrasy, or has he just done it for this novel? What do people feel the narrative gains from writing in this way?


message 29: by Pip (new)

Pip | 2 comments (PS - maybe you've already discussed this in later threads - if so, just tell me to hang on. I'll get there eventually!!)


message 30: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 41 comments It's great that you mentioned it Pip, I noticed the absence too and eventually got used to it. I too had to do a re-read a few times. I think it did help with the flow once I got used to it.


message 31: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) I also noticed initially, but have gotten used to it. Most of the time, I can tell when someone is speaking and when not, but it does occasionally get mixed up.

Interestingly, there are a few times where I believe it is impossible to tell whether the person said something out loud, or is just thinking it in their head. Maybe that's intentional on the author's part.


back to top