Drood ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 725
Words: 281K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

The book is a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life told from the viewpoint of Dickens’ friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. The title comes from Dickens’ unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The novel’s complex plot mixes fiction with biographical facts from the lives of Dickens, Collins, and other literary and historical figures of the Victorian era, complicated even further by the narrator’s constant use of opium and opium derivatives such as laudanum, rendering him an unreliable narrator.

Collins narrates the story of how Dickens met a strange fellow named Drood at a railroad accident. Dickens is convinced that Drood is some sort of evil incarnate while Collins is pretty sure Dickens is just being Dickens.

As time passes however, Collins is no longer so sure that Dickens was wrong. Dragged along by Dickens in his quest to find Drood and uncover the mystery of who he is and what his goals are, Collins becomes a pawn of the mysterious Drood. Drood is King of the Underworld and a practitioner of dark arts lost since the times of the Pharoahs. At the same time Collins is also wooed by one Inspector Fields, a former head of Scotland Yard who is convinced that Drood has killed over 300 people and plans on some sort of supernatural takeover of London.

Caught up in his own literary world, Collins must contend with Drood, Fields, the success of Dickens and his own increasing use of drugs such as laudanum, opium and morphine to combat the pain and hallucinations brought about by syphilis and the scarab beetle put into his brain by Drood to control him. With the death of Dickens, Collins is sure that Drood will leave him alone, even though Dickens revealed to him that everything that had gone on before was a combination of mesmerism, hypnotic suggestion and drugs, all as an experiment on Dickens part and making use of Collins.

Collins knows better though and even though he outlives Dickens by many years, the shade of Drood haunts him to the end.

My Thoughts:

I went into this completely blind. I was hoping for a completion of Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was not that book. This was the syphilitic hallucinatory ramblings of an opium and morphine addict.

There were times that the narrator would talk for a whole chapter and then at the beginning of the next chapter you realized that the entire thing had happened in his head, or in his opium dreams or was just a wish fulfillment on his part. It was disturbing to say the least and by the end of the book I was having bad dreams. I didn’t realize it, but this WAS horror and it affected me as such. Not your gruesome 80’s slasher kind of horror, but the invisible dread that hovers over your soul kind of horror. While I’ve read some of Simmons SF, I’d never sampled his horror offerings. After this, I won’t be trying out anything else by him.

With all of that, this was fantastically written, kept me glued to the pages and even though an unreliable narrator tends to send me into the screaming heeby jeeby rants I never once thought of stopping. Simmons kept me reading page after page like he had inserted a magic beetle of his own into MY brain. And that was disturbing to me too.

I think that some familiarity with Wilkie Collins’ works, at least his Moonstone, would help a lot. Since this is a fictionalized account, I’m not sure that too much knowledge would actually help as the confusion between fiction and reality would make this even more of a psychedelic read. Unless you LIKE having your mind messed with, then by all means, dive into this head first and see what happens.

As a completion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood this was a complete failure. As a standalone horror story, it was a complete success. I shall try my hand again at finding another “ending” to the Mystery. I have my eye on one by David Madden but considering it was never released as an ebook, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a hold of it. If you’ve heard of any other books or authors who tried to complete the Mystery, let me know please.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission


Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 249
Words: 94.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den.[4] The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and also his uncle. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud, which had been previously arranged by their respective fathers. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.

Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon Rev. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns’ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s having a violent temper. Rev. Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.

Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.

Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal. They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweler to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewelery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‘Edwin’; she says he is fortunate it is not ‘Ned,’ for ‘Ned’ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‘Ned’ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.

The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and forcibly bring him back to the city. Rev. Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him, stating that he will produce Neville anytime his presence is required. That night, Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin may be dead. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and shirt pin.

A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Lieutenant Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Lt. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A white-haired and -whiskered stranger calling himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.

Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists, telling her that if she gives him no hope he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.

The next day Rev. Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Lt. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.

Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time, she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called “Princess Puffer.” The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.

Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was how it was unfinished and no matter how much I thought, it would never BE finished. Not a very good mindset to get as much enjoyment from the story, that’s for sure.

This was so on track for being awesome. The characters were everything I wanted in a Dickens novel. The good guys were good, the bad guy was REALLY bad and the girls were brave and fearless. The latecomers were manly and proud and I was really looking forward to seeing them developed.

This had all of the ingredients I could have asked for. Dickens just left them on the counter in the mixing bowl without cooking them. And unfortunately, it wasn’t cookie dough so I couldn’t take a chance and eat it raw.

I will say that this has gotten me interested in other authors who have tried to finish the story. If any of you have a good suggestion, please let me know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quote: Drood

I had some vague idea that this book, Drood by Dan Simmons, was going to be some sort of finishing up of the incomplete Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. The following quote quickly disabused me of that idea!

Wilkie Collins is the narrator here (and for the entire book), the famous author of The Moonstone.

I privately approached Frederick Chapman of the publishers Chapman and Hall and suggested to him that I could complete The Mystery of Edwin Drood for them if they so chose. I let them know that while no notes for the remainder of the book were in existence—and it was true that none of Dickens’s usual marginal notes and outlines on blue paper have ever come to light for the unfinished portions of Drood—Dickens had taken me (and me alone) into his confidence before the end. I—and I alone—could finish the writing of the entire second half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood for only a nominal fee and equal credit as author (just as the co-authorship of our earlier collaborations had been registered).

Chapman’s response totally surprised me. The publisher was furious. He let me know that no man in England, no matter how gifted the writer might be or might think he was—and he implied that he did not think me all that gifted—could ever fill the shoes of Charles Dickens, even if I had a hundred completed outlines in my pocket. “Better that the world never knows who killed Edwin Drood—or indeed, if Edwin Drood is dead,” he wrote me, “—than a lesser mind pick up the Master’s fallen pen.”

I thought that last metaphor very garbled and grotesque indeed.

It is a good thing this is a fictional account or I’d be mighty pissed at that arrogant ass hat of a publisher. No author is above their works. The book is the thing, the author a secondary concern. If only Wilkie Collins HAD finished The Mystery of Edwin Drood! I’d be a much happier camper right now. Instead, now I’m just seeing red because of an imaginary conversation!

Currently Reading & Quote: The Mystery of Edwin Drood


Some remote fragment of Main Line to somewhere else, there was, which was going to ruin the Money Market if it failed, and Church and State if it succeeded, and (of course), the Constitution, whether or no;
~Chapter VI, Philanthropy in Minor Canon Corner.

It is good to be reminded that civil evils have always been going on. Does not negate the fact the evils ARE evil and ARE happening but ultimately God is in control, in the Past, Today and in the Future. I’m pretty sure Dickens, with his rabid hatred of the ecclesiastical, never thought he’d stir up a thought like that in a reader of his, hahahahaha!

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 Movie)

I reviewed the story/book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens back in ’13 and it is the basis for this movie. If you don’t know the basic premise of the story, please go read that or look it up on Wikipedia. This review will assume that the reader knows the basic plot to ACC.

First off, besides the Muppets, Michael Caine has the starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge. If a movie has Michael Caine in it, you know it’s going to be a good movie. While fringe nut job yobs might try to present evidence to the contrary, I simply ask my readers, who are you going to trust? Me, or some fringe nut job yob?
Michael Caine = you know you are getting a good movie.

On to the slightly more serious.

The singing. Muppets movies always have singing, whether the audience wants it or not. I’ve resigned myself to this fact and tried to not let it unduly influence me. Of course, just because Michael Caine is a good actor doesn’t mean he’s a good singer. He does take part in one song and I have to admit, he’s not terrible but I think things might have had a bit more glitz if they’d dubbed him over with Michael Jackson, who was still arguably the Prince of Pop in ’92. The message conveyed by the songs are as trite and shallow as you’d expect from a Disney production but really, if you read Dickens’ book, he’s not really that much deeper.
Oh yes, the Missing Song. In the theatres, there is an extra song that was subsequently cut out from all dvd/bluray releases. I personally didn’t miss it but if you’re a completionist, it is supposed to be included in the next “upgrade” to this movie. 4K I believe. Simply one more way for Disney to bend you over and make you think you like it. The picture below shows the type of propaganda Disney promulgates.

On to the good stuff.

If you are a fan of the Muppets and their zaniness, then this is a no-brainer to watch, even if Dickens isn’t your cup of tea. Between Fozziwig (a cute play on Fozzi’s name being used for that character) and his Rubber Chicken Factory to Gonzo playing Charles Dickens (and being distracted by every chicken that walks by) to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy playing Bob & Mrs Cratchett, you get your fill. While a knowledge of the Muppets isn’t essential, knowing them as The Muppets gives an added dimension to the fun. An example would the single scene where Sam the Eagle is sending a young Scrooge off to his first place of business as an apprentice and rhapsodizes about the the beauty of business. Sam ends it with “…and that is the American Way!”. Gonzo whispers in his ear and Sam immediately says “…and that is the British Way!”. Which is really funny if you know that Sam is the proto-American Super Patriot as a Muppet.

The story proceeds at a rapid pace and almost feels like Scrooge changes for the sake of changing. However, this is in keeping with the original book and shouldn’t surprise anyone. Throw in that this movie was made for a juvenile audience and the pacing is perfectly in line with what out of touch Hollywood Directors think is appropriate for your child. Just don’t expect a deeply thoughtful, insightful and deeply philosophical movie and you should be just fine. You’re in this for the singing, dancing and laughs.

This gets a big fat thumbs up from me.

A Tale of Two Cities ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 368
Words: 136.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1775, a man flags down the nightly mail-coach on its route from London to Dover. The man is Jerry Cruncher, an employee of Tellson’s Bank in London; he carries a message for Jarvis Lorry, a passenger and one of the bank’s managers. Lorry sends Jerry back to deliver a cryptic response to the bank: “Recalled to Life.” The message refers to Alexandre Manette, a French physician who has been released from the Bastille after an 18-year imprisonment. Once Lorry arrives in Dover, he meets Dr. Manette’s daughter Lucie and her governess, Miss Pross. Lucie has believed her father to be dead, and faints at the news that he is alive; Lorry takes her to France to reunite with her father.

In the Paris neighbourhood of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Dr. Manette has been given lodgings by his former servant Ernest Defarge and his wife Therese, owners of a wine shop. Lorry and Lucie find him in a small garret, where he spends much of his time making shoes – a skill he learned in prison – which he uses to distract himself from his thoughts and which has become an obsession for him. He does not recognise Lucie at first but does eventually see the resemblance to her mother through her blue eyes and long golden hair, a strand of which he found on his sleeve when he was imprisoned. Lorry and Lucie take him back to England.

Book the Second: The Golden Thread

In 1780, French émigré Charles Darnay is on trial for treason against the British Crown. The key witnesses against him are two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, who claim that Darnay gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Under cross-examination by Mr. Stryver, the barrister defending Darnay, Barsad claims that he would recognise Darnay anywhere. Stryver points out his colleague, Sydney Carton, who bears a strong resemblance to Darnay, and Barsad admits that the two men look nearly identical. With Barsad’s eyewitness testimony now discredited, Darnay is acquitted.

In Paris, the hated and abusive Marquis St. Evrémonde orders his carriage driven recklessly fast through the crowded streets, hitting and killing the child of Gaspard in Saint Antoine. The Marquis throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Defarge, having observed the incident, comes forth to comfort the distraught father, saying the child would be worse off alive. This piece of wisdom pleases the Marquis, who throws a coin to Defarge also. As the Marquis departs, a coin is flung back into his carriage.

Arriving at his country château, the Marquis meets his nephew and heir, Darnay. Out of disgust with his aristocratic family, the nephew has shed his real surname (St. Evrémonde) and anglicised his mother’s maiden name, D’Aulnais, to Darnay.[6] The following passage records the Marquis’ principles of aristocratic superiority:

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,” observed the Marquis, “will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof,” looking up to it, “shuts out the sky.”[7]

That night, Gaspard, who followed the Marquis to his château by riding on the underside of the carriage, stabs and kills him in his sleep. Gaspard leaves a note on the knife saying, “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES.”[8] After nearly a year on the run, he is caught and hanged above the village well.

In London, Darnay asks for Dr. Manette’s permission to wed Lucie, but Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to “embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you”.[9] Stryver considers proposing marriage to Lucie, but Lorry talks him out of the idea.

On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage to Dr. Manette, a detail he had been asked to withhold until that day. In consequence, Dr. Manette reverts to his obsessive shoemaking after the couple leave for their honeymoon. He returns to sanity before their return, and the whole incident is kept secret from Lucie. Lorry and Miss Pross destroy the shoemaking bench and tools, which Dr. Manette had brought with him from Paris.

As time passes in England, Lucie and Charles begin to raise a family, a son (who dies in childhood) and a daughter, little Lucie. Lorry finds a second home and a sort of family with the Darnays. Stryver marries a rich widow with three children and becomes even more insufferable as his ambitions begin to be realised. Carton, even though he seldom visits, is accepted as a close friend of the family and becomes a special favourite of little Lucie.

In July 1789, the Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny. Defarge enters Dr. Manette’s former cell, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower,”[10] and searches it thoroughly. Throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed, and the St. Evrémonde château is burned to the ground.

In 1792, Lorry decides to travel to Paris to collect important documents from the Tellson’s branch in that city and place them in safekeeping against the chaos of the French Revolution. Darnay intercepts a letter written by Gabelle, one of his uncle’s servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.

Book the Third: The Track of a Storm

Shortly after Darnay arrives in Paris, he is denounced for being an emigrated aristocrat from France and jailed in La Force Prison.[11] Dr. Manette, Lucie, little Lucie, Jerry, and Miss Pross travel to Paris and meet Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, and Darnay is finally tried.

Dr Manette, viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay’s behalf at his trial. Darnay is released, only to be arrested again later that day. A new trial begins the following day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and a third individual who is soon revealed as Dr Manette. He had written an account of his imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and hidden it in his cell; Defarge found it while searching the cell during the storming of the Bastille.

While running errands with Jerry, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother Solomon, but he does not want to be recognised in public. Carton suddenly steps forward from the shadows and identifies Solomon as Barsad, one of the spies who tried to frame Darnay for treason at his trial in 1780. Jerry remembers that he has seen Solomon with Cly, the other key witness at the trial, and that Cly had faked his death to escape England. By threatening to denounce Solomon to the revolutionary tribunal as a Briton, Carton blackmails him into helping with a plan.

At the tribunal, Defarge identifies Darnay as the nephew of the dead Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads Dr Manette’s letter. Defarge had learned Darnay’s lineage from Solomon during the latter’s visit to the wine shop several years earlier. The letter describes Dr Manette’s imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and uncle for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. Darnay’s uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he had kidnapped and raped; despite Dr. Manette’s attempt to save her, she died. The uncle killed her husband by working him to death, and her father died from a heart attack upon being informed of what had happened. Before he died defending the family honour, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. The Evrémonde brothers imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet. He concludes his letter by condemning the Evrémondes, “them and their descendants, to the last of their race.”[12] Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.

Carton wanders into the Defarges’ wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have both Lucie and little Lucie condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes.[13] At night, when Dr. Manette returns, shattered after spending the day in many failed attempts to save Darnay’s life, he falls into an obsessive search for his shoemaking implements. Carton urges Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father, and Little Lucie, asking them to leave as soon as he joins.

Shortly before the executions are to begin, Solomon sneaks Carton into the prison for a visit with Darnay. The two men trade clothes, and Carton drugs Darnay and has Solomon carry him out. Carton has decided to be executed in his place, taking advantage of their similar appearances, and has given his own identification papers to Lorry to present on Darnay’s behalf. Following Carton’s earlier instructions, the family and Lorry flee to England with Darnay, who gradually regains consciousness during the journey.

Meanwhile, Madame Defarge, armed with a dagger and pistol, goes to the Manette residence, hoping to apprehend Lucie and little Lucie and bring them in for execution. However, the family is already gone and Miss Pross stays behind to confront and delay Madame Defarge. As the two women struggle, Madame Defarge’s pistol discharges, killing her and causing Miss Pross to go permanently deaf from noise and shock.

As Carton waits to board the tumbril that will take him to his execution, he is approached by another prisoner, a seamstress who had been incarcerated with Darnay. She mistakes Carton for him, but realises the truth upon seeing him at close range. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him and he agrees. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, Carton comforts her, telling her that their ends will be quick and that the worries of their lives will not follow them into “the better land where … [they] will be mercifully sheltered.” He is guillotined immediately after the seamstress, a final prophetic thought running through his mind.

My Thoughts:

When I read this back in 2014, I was looking more at Sydney Carton and his story of redemption of a wasted life. I was impressed beyond words. This time around, I wanted to focus more on Charles Darnay, the french noble who renounced his family name and their degenerative lifestyle.

What a difference that made and sadly, not for the better. I’m still giving this 5 stars because it is a great story, but Darnay is no hero and really, if his part could have been even smaller it would have been better. He starts out with potential, defying his cruel uncle and giving up all of his inheritance and even his name to move to England to make an honest living working. Considering that the working man was below even a slave in the French Aristocracy’s view, Darnay was making a huge sacrifice.

Unfortunately, but true to form, Darnay still acts like an Aristocrat. When he receives the letter from the bailiff of his former estates, he takes it as his responsibility to free the man, even though Darnay had renounced his estates and had nothing to do with what was going on. He acted like an aristocrat when he chose to not talk about this to his wife or his father-in-law and skipped off to France. He acted like an aristocrat while in prison and just letting things happen. By the end, I was pretty disgusted with Ol’ Charley and if it weren’t for sympathy for his wife, I’d have told Sydney to let him die and scarper off to safer climes.

Lucie, Darnay’s wife IS a sympathetic character as is her father, the former Bastille prisoner. Dickens did an admirable job of painting them in a light that was gentle and soft but without making them weak and ineffectual.

Finally, we come to Madame Defarge. What a monstrously evil woman. Her bloodlust to kill Darnay and any that surround him was made all the more reprehensible by her backstory. While revenge against Darnay’s uncle is more than understandable, Madame Defarge perverts even that bit of possible sympathy by the audience by trying to kill Lucie and her daughter and Lucie’s father, all because they are associated with Darnay. Dickens shows in no uncertain terms that hatred cannot be reasoned with. You cannot talk someone out of hate, you cannot educate someone out of hate. Hate like that can only be changed supernaturally, by the power of God. It’s just not within us humans to be able to fix something so fundamentally broke within us.

This is exactly why I like Dickens so much. Every time I read his books I get something different. And I still enjoy the book too 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First Line Friday: A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Folks, that is ONE sentence AND the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens needs to be classified as the 8th Wonder of the World as far as I’m concerned!

Dombey and Son ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dombey and Son
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 876
Words: 357.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story concerns Paul Dombey, the wealthy owner of the shipping company of the book’s title, whose dream is to have a son to continue his business. The book begins when his son is born and Dombey’s wife dies shortly after giving birth. Following the advice of Mrs. Louisa Chick, his sister, Dombey employs a wet nurse named Mrs. Richards (Toodle). Dombey already has a six-year-old daughter Florence, but, bitter at her not having been the desired boy, he neglects her continually. One day, Mrs. Richards, Florence, and her maid, Susan Nipper, secretly pay a visit to Mrs. Richard’s house in Staggs’s Gardens so that Mrs. Richards can see her children. During this trip, Florence becomes separated from them and is kidnapped for a short time by Good Mrs. Brown, before being returned to the streets. She makes her way to Dombey and Son’s offices in the City and there is found and brought home by Walter Gay, an employee of Mr. Dombey, who first introduces her to his uncle, the navigation instrument maker Solomon Gills, at his shop The Wooden Midshipman.

The child, named Paul after his father, is a weak and sickly child, who does not socialise normally with others; adults call him “old fashioned”. He is intensely fond of his sister Florence, who is deliberately neglected by her father as a supposedly irrelevant distraction. Paul is sent to the seaside at Brighton for his health, where he and Florence lodge with the ancient and acidic Mrs. Pipchin. Finding his health beginning to improve there, Mr. Dombey keeps him at Brighton and has him educated there at Dr. and Mrs. Blimber’s school, where he and the other boys undergo both an intense and arduous education under the tutelage of Mr. Feeder, B.A. and Cornelia Blimber. It is here that Paul is befriended by a fellow pupil, the amiable but weak-minded Mr. Toots.

Here, Paul’s health declines even further in this ‘great hothouse’ and he finally dies, still only six years old. Dombey pushes his daughter away from him after the death of his son, while she futilely tries to earn his love. In the meantime, young Walter sent off to fill a junior position in the firm’s counting house in Barbados through the manipulations of Mr Dombey’s confidential manager, Mr James Carker, ‘with his white teeth’, who sees him as a potential rival through his association with Florence. His boat is reported lost and he is presumed drowned. Walter’s uncle leaves to go in search of Walter, leaving his great friend Captain Edward Cuttle in charge of The Midshipman. Meanwhile, Florence is now left alone with few friends to keep her company.

Dombey goes to Leamington Spa with a new friend, Major Joseph B. Bagstock. The Major deliberately sets out to befriend Dombey to spite his neighbour in Princess’s Place, Miss Tox, who has turned cold towards him owing to her hopes – through her close friendship with Mrs Chick – of marrying Mr. Dombey. At the spa, Dombey is introduced via the Major to Mrs. Skewton and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Edith Granger. Mr. Dombey, on the lookout for a new wife since his son’s death, considers Edith a suitable match due to her accomplishments and family connections; he is encouraged by both the Major and her avaricious mother, but obviously feels no affection for her. After they return to London, Dombey remarries, effectively ‘buying’ the beautiful but haughty Edith as she and her mother are in a poor financial state. The marriage is loveless; his wife despises Dombey for his overbearing pride and herself for being shallow and worthless. Her love for Florence initially prevents her from leaving, but finally she conspires with Mr. Carker to ruin Dombey’s public image by running away together to Dijon. They do so after her final argument with Dombey in which he once again attempts to subdue her to his will. When he discovers that she has left him, he blames Florence for siding with her stepmother, striking her on the breast in his anger. Florence is forced to run away from home. Highly distraught, she finally makes her way to The Midshipman where she lodges with Captain Cuttle as he attempts to restore her to health. They are visited frequently by Mr. Toots and his prizefighter companion, the Chicken, since Mr. Toots has been desperately in love with Florence since their time together in Brighton.

Dombey sets out to find his wife. He is helped by Mrs. Brown and her daughter, Alice, who, as it turns out, was a former lover of Mr. Carker. After being transported as a convict for criminal activities, which Mr. Carker had involved her in, she is seeking her revenge against him now that she has returned to England. Going to Mrs. Brown’s house, Dombey overhears the conversation between Rob the Grinder – who is in the employment of Mr. Carker – and the old woman as to the couple’s whereabouts and sets off in pursuit. In the meantime, in Dijon, Mrs. Dombey informs Carker that she sees him in no better a light than she sees Dombey, that she will not stay with him, and she flees their apartment. Distraught, with both his financial and personal hopes lost, Carker flees from his former employer’s pursuit. He seeks refuge back in England, but being greatly overwrought, accidentally falls under a train and is killed.

After Carker’s death, it is discovered that he had been running the firm far beyond its means. This information is gleaned by Carker’s brother and sister, John and Harriet, from Mr. Morfin, the assistant manager at Dombey and Son, who sets out to help John Carker. He often overheard the conversations between the two brothers in which James, the younger, often abused John, the older, who was just a lowly clerk and who is sacked by Dombey because of his filial relationship to the former manager. As his nearest relations, John and Harriet inherit all Carker’s ill-gotten gains, to which they feel they have no right. Consequently, they surreptitiously give the proceeds to Mr. Dombey, through Mr. Morphin, who is instructed to let Dombey believe that they are merely something forgotten from the general wreck of his fortunes. Meanwhile, back at The Midshipman, Walter reappears, having been saved by a passing ship after floating adrift with two other sailors on some wreckage. After some time, he and Florence are finally reunited – not as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but as lovers, and they marry prior to sailing for China on Walter’s new ship. This is also the time when Sol Gills returns to The Midshipman. As he relates to his friends, he received news whilst in Barbados that a homeward-bound China trader had picked up Walter and so had returned to England immediately. He said he had sent letters whilst in the Caribbean to his friend Ned Cuttle c/o Mrs MacStinger at Cuttle’s former lodgings, and the bemused Captain recounts how he fled the place, thus never receiving them.

Florence and Walter depart and Sol Gills is entrusted with a letter, written by Walter to her father, pleading for him to be reconciled towards them both. A year passes and Alice Brown has slowly been dying despite the tender care of Harriet Carker. One night Alice’s mother reveals that Alice herself is the illegitimate cousin of Edith Dombey (which accounts for their similarity in appearance when they both meet). In a chapter entitled ‘Retribution’, Dombey and Son goes bankrupt. Dombey retires to two rooms in his house and all its contents are put up for sale. Mrs. Pipchin, for some time the housekeeper, dismisses all the servants and she herself returns to Brighton, to be replaced by Mrs. Richards. Dombey spends his days sunk in gloom, seeing no-one and thinking only of his daughter:

He thought of her as she had been that night when he and his bride came home. He thought of her as she had been in all the home events of the abandoned house. He thought, now, that of all around him, she alone had never changed. His boy had faded into dust, his proud wife had sunk into a polluted creature, his flatterer and friend had been transformed into the worst of villains, his riches had melted away, the very walls that sheltered him looked on him as a stranger; she alone had turned the same, mild gentle look upon him always. Yes, to the latest and the last. She had never changed to him – nor had he ever changed to her – and she was lost.

However, one day Florence returns to the house with her baby son, Paul, and is lovingly reunited with her father.

Dombey accompanies his daughter to her and Walter’s house where he slowly starts to decline, cared for by Florence and also Susan Nipper, now Mrs. Toots. They receive a visit from Edith’s Cousin Feenix who takes Florence to Edith for one final time – Feenix sought Edith out in France and she returned to England under his protection. Edith gives Florence a letter, asking Dombey to forgive her her crime before her departure to the South of Italy with her elderly relative. As she says to Florence, ‘I will try, then to forgive him his share of the blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!’

The final chapter (LXII) sees Dombey now a white-haired old man ‘whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track’. Sol Gills and Ned Cuttle are now partners at The Midshipman, a source of great pride to the latter, and Mr and Mrs Toots announce the birth of their third daughter. Walter is doing well in business, having been appointed to a position of great confidence and trust, and Dombey is the proud grandfather of both a grandson and granddaughter whom he dotes on. The book ends with the highly moving lines:

‘Dear grandpapa, why do you cry when you kiss me?
He only answers, ‘Little Florence! Little Florence!’ and smooths away the curls that shade her earnest eyes.

My Thoughts:

This was a book about Luciferian Pride and just how destructive and ruinous such pride is.

While I enjoyed this tremendously while reading, it took me over 2 weeks to get through simply because the subject matter was so tough. Dickens does an admirable job of showing how Florence just wants her father to love her and how he does everything but that.

Even with the semi-happy ending, this was a book simply drenched in meloncholia. While Florence had a greater capacity than I to persevere, she was no bright eyed Pollyana with a song on her lips. She was greatly affected by her father’s treatment.

I also found that I wanted to throttle Captain Cuttle, another of the characters that I mentioned in my currently reading post earlier this month. He was so kind and gentle and at the same time he simply made everything worse. Everything. Even near the end when he finds out that Walter is back in England, he spends the whole day reminding Florence that Walter is drowned and dead:
 ‘Poor Wal’r, aye, aye. Drownded, ain’t he?’ 
I just wanted to throttle him even while laughing at his antics.

This is the book I’ll think of when someone mentions Dickens and run-on sentences and bloviated writing. It was quite noticeable and this is coming from me, who’s been re-reading Dickens for almost the last 3 years, so you know it was “bad”. I suspect that is another reason I took so long reading this. You couldn’t read this quickly or you’d lose yourself in his maze of words and have no clue what he was talking about by the end of a paragraph. This was definitely a book calling for comprehensive reading.

Overall, another great entry but not one I’d recommend to anyone new to Dickens. Save this for once you’ve had some experience. In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk!

★★★★★

First Line Friday: Dombey and Son


Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.

Yes, that is the opening sentence/paragraph to Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens and it is ONE sentence. I’m loving this book already!

Little Dorrit ★★★★★

littledorrit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Little Dorrit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 839
Words: 340K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It is a message, but the implacable Mrs Clennam, who now uses a wheelchair, refuses to tell him what it means. The two become estranged.

In London, William Dorrit, imprisoned as a debtor, has been a resident of Marshalsea debtors’ prison for over twenty years. He has three children: Edward, Fanny and Amy. The youngest daughter, Amy, was born in the prison and is affectionately known as Little Dorrit. Their mother died when Amy was eight years old. Fanny lives outside the prison with William’s older brother, Frederick. The adult children are free to pass in and out of the prison as they please. Little Dorrit, devoted to her father, supports them both through her sewing. To the honour of her father, who is embarrassed to acknowledge his financial position, Little Dorrit avoids mentioning her work outside the prison or his inability to leave. Mr Dorrit assumes the role of Father of the Marshalsea, and is held in great respect by its inhabitants, as if he had chosen to live there.

After Arthur tells his mother that he will not continue in the family business, Mrs Clennam chooses her clerk Jeremiah Flintwinch as her partner. When Arthur learns that Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress, showing unusual kindness, he wonders whether the young girl might be connected with the mystery of the watch. Arthur follows the girl to the Marshalsea. He tries in vain to enquire about William Dorrit’s debt in the Circumlocution Office, assuming the role of benefactor towards Little Dorrit, her father, and her brother. While at the Circumlocution Office he meets the successful inventor Daniel Doyce. Doyce wants a partner and man of business at his factory and Clennam agrees to fill that role. Little Dorrit falls in love with Arthur, but Arthur fails to recognise Little Dorrit’s feelings.

Arthur is reacquainted with his former fiancée Flora Finching, the reason he was sent away to China, who is now an unattractive widow, and accompanied by the aunt of her late husband. Her father Mr Casby owns many rental properties, and his rent collector is Mr Pancks. The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.

The now wealthy Dorrits decide that they should tour Europe as a newly respectable rich family. They travel over the Alps and take up residence for a time in Venice, and finally in Rome, displaying pride over their new-found wealth and position, unwilling to tell their past to new friends. Little Dorrit finds it difficult to adjust to their wealth and new social position, and slowly comes to appreciate the new places and new sights. Fanny adjusts rapidly to the ways of society, and is sought by the same young man, Edmund Sparkler, who pursued her in her poverty in London, but with a new start that is acceptable to his mother. In Rome, at a party, Mr Dorrit falls ill, and dies at their lodgings. His distraught brother Frederick dies that same night. Little Dorrit, left alone, returns to London to stay with newly married Fanny and her husband, the dim-witted Edmund Sparkler.

The financial house of Merdle, Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, ends with Merdle’s suicide; the collapse of his bank and investment businesses takes with it the savings of the Dorrits, the firm of Doyce and Clennam, Arthur Clennam, and Pancks. Clennam is now imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill. When Little Dorrit arrives in London, she slowly nurses him back to health.

Cavalletto finds the villain Rigaud hiding in London as Blandois, and brings him to Arthur Clennam. Held in the prison, he sends this undesirable man to his mother, who has advertised to find him. As Blandois he tries to blackmail Mrs Clennam with his full knowledge of her past. Mrs Clennam had insisted on bringing up little Arthur and denying his biological mother the right to see him. Mrs Clennam feels this is her right to punish others, because they hurt her. Arthur’s biological mother died about the same time as Arthur went off to China, but lived out of England with Flintwinch’s twin brother. Mr Clennam’s wealthy uncle, stung by remorse, had left a bequest to Arthur’s biological mother and to the youngest daughter of her patron, or if no daughter, the youngest child of his brother. The patron was Frederick Dorrit, the kind musician who had taught and befriended Arthur’s biological mother, and the beneficiary is his niece, Amy Dorrit. Blandois left a copy of the papers he obtained from Jeremiah’s brother at the Marshalsea for Little Dorrit.

Mrs Clennam knows of this inheritance and fails to tell Little Dorrit, or to tell Arthur about his biological mother. Unwilling to yield to blackmail and with some remorse, the rigid woman rises from her chair and totters out of her house to reveal the secret to Little Dorrit at the Marshalsea. Mrs Clennam begs her forgiveness, which the kind-hearted girl freely grants. Returning to home, Mrs Clennam falls in the street, never to recover the use of her speech or limbs, as the house of Clennam literally collapses before her eyes, killing Rigaud. Affery was outdoors seeking her mistress, and Jeremiah had escaped London before the collapse with as much money as he could find. Rather than hurt him, Little Dorrit chooses not to reveal any of this to Arthur; when he is well, she asks him to burn the papers.

Mr Meagles seeks the original papers, stopping to ask Miss Wade. She has them but denies it; Tattycoram slips back to London with the papers and presents them to Mr Meagles, who gives them to Little Dorrit. Mr Meagles then seeks out Arthur’s business partner Daniel Doyce from abroad. He returns a wealthy and successful man, who arranges to clear all debts for Arthur’s release. Arthur is released from the prison with his fortunes revived, his position secure with Doyce, and his health restored. Arthur and Little Dorrit marry.

Little Dorrit contains numerous sub-plots. One concerns Arthur Clennam’s friends, the kind-hearted Meagles family, who are upset when their daughter Pet marries the artist Henry Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade is ruled by her anger, and she was a jilted sweetheart of Gowan. Another subplot concerns the Italian man John Baptist Cavalletto who was the cellmate of Rigaud in Marseilles, though jailed for a minor crime. He makes his way to London, meets up by chance with Clennam, who stands security for him as he builds up his business in wood carving and gains acceptance among the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Cavalletto repays this aid by searching for Blandois/Rigaud when Arthur wants him found. This action brings about the revelation of the secrets kept by Mrs Clennam.

The other major subplot is the satire of British bureaucracy, named as the Circumlocution Office, where the expertise is how not to do it.

My Thoughts:

All I can say is thank goodness for wikipedia and the hardy souls who have already put up indepth synopses. I don’t know that I’d even try to do a synopsis on my own anymore for books by Dickens, as he has so many variegated plots and threads running at the same time. Daunting.

Back in ’08 when I had reviewed this for the first time, I called it the most enjoyable Dickens’ I had read to date. You know what? That statement still stands 12 years later. I’m also giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag to remind me at years end.

There are some things that people need to know going into this. First and foremost, this is VERY florid. In fact, there is a character named Flora who Dickens writes as she speaks, ie, almost no punctuation and paragraph long sentences. It was HARD to read her stuff, as her mind went all over and Dickens gave full vent to that. I have to admit that I ended up skipping a lot of what she said. I don’t feel that I missed much by skimming. And Dickens is just wordy so it’s everywhere. Prepare yourself mentally to just drink in the words and you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting Dickens to get right to the point, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Characters are Dickens strong point and Little Dorrit is filled to the brim with Character. This time around there aren’t any real villainous characters, it’s more about small minded things between characters. Clennam, the main character and what goes on between him and his estranged mother. Little Dorrit and how her family treats her before and after their succession to riches. Clennam and Little Dorrit, as Clennam slowly comes to realize that Little Dorrit loves him and that being 40 doesn’t mean he’s an old man ready to die. Plus lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other character interactions, all of it engrossing.

I read this while on vacation and that set the perfect pace for me. Read until I wanted to do something else, then toddle off and do that for 5-10 minutes, then come back for another hour or so. It was a low key read and and slotted perfectly into how our vacation was going. I suspect any Dickens I read during that time would have gotten the same treatment and the same praise. But still, this was a fantastic book.

★★★★★