Before we begin, I am pleased to announce that the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Special Extended Edition is available for review by email. Reviews include casting, accuracy, and violence, as well as an overarching rating of the entire series, and you can receive one simply by sending in a request to the link on the sidebar.
And now, on to our book review. Today I have decided to do one last novel by Dickens, in celebration of his bicentennial. (Never fear, Dickens' fans, for we shall be seeing more of him in the course of the month.)
So I present to you Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit.
If Little Dorrit were not so long, this actually might be the book I recommend first to new readers of his. It's just as good as Great Expectations, and the two are equal in my mind, though Great Expectations has the teensiest edge on Little Dorrit. Being the first one I ever read, it's only right that it should be so. I read Little Dorrit for the first time in 2011, and hoped to revisit it in December of this year. Alas, that will not be the case, as I have five and a half books in the queue that take priority. But thankfully I can relive the dream in memory, and there's always the hope of next year.
I remember buying it from Barnes and Nobles, and carefully tucking it alongside The Count of Monte Cristo for a weekend trip. (That's the kind of idealist I am.) Of course I started with Little Dorrit first, and though the first few pages were interminably dull, I knew that I would soon be swept up in the excitment.
Page after page, for the entire weekend, I ate up the story of a loving woman and a lonely father. The Count of Monte Cristo got left behind in the dust, amidst the drama of devious Blandois and the bitterness of old Mrs. Clennam.
This is a book that does a bibliophile proud. I promise you all the heartbreak and happiness, suspense and characterization that your book-loving heart can hold.
Arthur Clennam is returning home after 20 years abroad with his father. They've managed the China branch of the family's silk export business, while Mrs. Clennam and her servant Flintwich kept up the English branch at home. He's 40 years old, and it's time to do something really worthwhile with his life. He tells his mother that his father is dead, and gives her an old watch, in which is a piece of silk, stitched with the letters "Do Not Forget". His mother wants nothing more to do with him when he leaves the family business, but he dearly wants to know what it was that his father charged him to put right. Haunted with the suspicion that the House of Clennam has wronged someone, he begs his mother to tell him, but she refuses. Then, in the corner, he sees a tiny little woman sitting at her sewing. Her name is Amy Dorrit.
Through the little twists and turns of an investigation, he learns that Amy was born in the Marshalsea debtors prison, where she has lived some twenty odd years of her existence, due to her father's debts. She works out to provide for her father, her sister Fanny, and her indolent brother Tip, but it would distress Mr. Dorrit to know, so she conceals the fact from the man known as the "Father of the Marshalsea". Arthur Clennam wonders if it is her that his family business has wronged, and he turns some thought to it amidst the happiness of falling in love with Pet Meagles.
But never in his wildest dreams would he have dreamt what his meddling would unleash about Little Dorrit, the House of Clennam, or himself.
Arthur Clennam is my favorite character, with Little Dorrit and Pancks making a close second; the Chiverys and Plornishes tied for third place. And if one is allowed to like a villain, as doing his job very well, then I liked Blandois immensely.
Little Dorrit contains language, common to most Dickens' novels.
It's about 900 pages, so it's a commitment, but I think you'll find it an easy one to follow through on.
Little Dorrit is Dicken's keen satire on government, and contains such myriads of government employees as Tite Barnacle, Tite Barnicle Jr. and Barnacles ad infinitum.
To give you a sample of their prowess, I quote as follows:
Arthur Clennam is asking a Barnacle how he can find out information concerning William Dorrit's debts.
'Why, you'll—you'll ask till they tell you. Then you'll memorialise that Department (according to regular forms which you'll find out) for leave to memorialise this Department. If you get it (which you may after a time), that memorial must be entered in that Department, sent to be registered in this Department, sent back to be signed by that Department, sent back to be countersigned by this Department, and then it will begin to be regularly before that Department. You'll find out when the business passes through each of these stages by asking at both Departments till they tell you...
When the business is regularly before that Department, whatever it is,' pursued this bright young Barnacle, 'then you can watch it from time to time through that Department. When it comes regularly before this Department, then you must watch it from time to time through this Department. We shall have to refer it right and left; and when we refer it anywhere, then you'll have to look it up. When it comes back to us at any time, then you had better look US up. When it sticks anywhere, you'll have to try to give it a jog. When you write to another Department about it, and then to this Department about it, and don't hear anything satisfactory about it, why then you had better—keep on writing.'
Dickens satire is a bit too true for comfort on occasion. Never fear: Arthur's former sweetheart Flora offers a diversion in the form of long conversations in incomplete sentences, without punctuation. You may have to read it once or twice, but I assure you that you shall find infinite cause for amusement.
A brilliant story, told in a brilliant manner. A score once again for my favorite author.
I have seen Little Dorrit twice now, and am the happy owner of this 4 DVD set, due to a nice little Black Friday deal in 2011. 14 episodes, two of which are an hour each, this movie adaptation truly captures the spirit of Dickens' masterpiece, not to mention giving Matthew Macfadyen a role that does him justice. I met Andy Serkis as Blandois before I ever heard of Gollum or Screwtape, and I think I'll always picture him as a sneering villain singing his eerie little French tune. If you would like a comprehensive review, which due to the nature of the movie I recommend, then I would be happy to provide one by email: casting, accuracy, language, and violence. I can give an unconditional recommendation to both trailers, however, which I have included below for your viewing pleasure. The first one is a bit grainy, but it provides a better view of the story itself.