Old Curiosity Shop – A Curious Book

December 5, 2012 at 4:09 am (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

the-old-curiosity-shop-movie-poster-1976-1010384193Title: The Old Curiosity Shop

Author: Charles Dickens

Length: The Reader’s Digest version is 523 pages

Chosen for the Half Price Books Humble Book Club for the December discussion to get in the spirit of winter without the over kill of A Christmas Carol, I was incredibly excited about finally getting to this particular Dickens title. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my great expectations (pun intended) and failed to become my new favorite Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby still reigns supreme in my eyes.

With a villainous dwarf, a troupe of dancing dogs, and then some, The Old Curiosity Shop was less about a cozy antique shop (which is what I wanted) and more of a Don Quixote style adventure occurs within a Les Miserables themed tale of woes for an old man/ young girl  runaway team.  Spectacular! Spectacular! from The Moulin Rouge comes to mind: bright colors, forced marriages, evil characters who resemble carnies… it was a bit much for me, but allegorical novels usually are.

Nell was too perfect and met too tragic an end.  Quilp was too disturbing, too evil.  Who makes their wife stand in a corner all night and not move for the sheer pleasure of mental torment?  Not to mention, he’s a dwarf! Give him a good, hard kick and go on your merry way if he’s evil!

Master Humphreys ClockDespite my lack of love for this novel, I think it a great selection for a book club.  There was so much to talk about, so many things worth speculating.  First, the merits of reading it as it was initially released, which was in serial.  I think reading Dickens’ work in weekly installments instead of all at once as a novel brings back a level of magic to his stories that was lost after they were printed and bound in one volume.  Second, at the book club meeting, we had a lengthy discussion of the use of names and archetypes.  Third, the ties to Master Humphrey’s Clock, Dickens’ Wife’s Sister, and a number of other seemingly random connections that bring new light to the book.

The most interesting to me currently is that of Master Humphrey’s Clock, because I own the book and have not yet read it.  Master Humphrey’s Clock was a periodical of short stories about the ‘curiosity shop’ I actually wanted to read about when I began the story of Little Nell.  Master Humphrey is actually the narrator of the first few chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop and then steps out of the picture.

There aren’t many members in our little book club at Half Price Books, and it seems to be on the verge of becoming a gentleman’s [book] club run by a non-gentleman [I’m a lady], but the meetings are open to anyone and everyone the first Monday on the Month at 8 pm.  Snacks are provided and the book discussions so far have been pretty awesome.  Up for discussion in January is Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  See you there.

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