I had been wanting to get a D H Lawrence book out to read over Christmas (for some reason I’ve linked him in my mind to winter – although I realise I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover some time in April or May this year), and found a glut of them in the library a few weeks ago but was deterred by having limited time and (somewhat embarrassingly) by all of the self service machines being out of order and not wanting to speak to anyone. The next time I went back almost of all them had gone, except two I’d read and a large hardback of the Rainbow which would have hindered my commute, so (again in a rush) I reluctantly turned to “D” for Dickens, who has so far been hit and miss for me.
I’ve never found Dickens to be in short supply in any library (perhaps not a good sign ? why aren’t they on loan) and I remember one optimistic summer when I thought I’d read my way through all 10 of his books on the list before going back to university – and then realised how long they were. I enjoyed a Christmas Carol but found A Tale of Two Cities incredibly tedious (and had to take two attempts at reading it) and liked Great Expectations, after the first 200 pages. So you can see why the prospect of 370 pages of Oliver Twist might not exactly fill me with joy, especially over Christmas when opportunity for distraction (napping) is abundant.
Anyway I’m happy to say that this was in no way the case – I couldn’t put it down to the extent that I forwent a pre-dinner hungover nap on Christmas day to finish it off. Also happily, having seen the film (albeit many years ago) didn’t spoil it for me at all – in some ways it actually added more suspense, because from my distant memory of the film I had the impression that Oliver spent most of his time with Fagin and co – I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this is not so much the case (but it kept me worrying that he was soon to be snatched away again). Instead, Fagin, Nancy and Bill Sykes (not so much the Artful Dodger) are central characters in their own rights, with storylines running parallel (obviously overlapping) with Oliver’s – something that I don’t remember from the film (although I may be wrong). This has been my favourite Dickens book so far, and although I think I’ll still be approaching my next effort with some trepidation, I do now have more of a glimmer of hope that I can believe the hype and the next book may be just as good.