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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How I Waste My Time

November 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am supposed to be reading The Old Curiosity Shop for HPB Humble’s December Book Club meeting.  I love and adore Dickens so I’m actually very excited about this.  Plus, the weather is perfect for it.  But every time I sit down I find something else has made it into my hands and reading time.  Yesterday I breezed through Unrecounted by W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp before starting and completing Sarah N. Harvey’s The Lit Report.  Both were short, breezy books, but neither were on my immediate TBR pile.

Unrecounted is a coffee table book shrunk down to the size of a trade paper back, in my opinion.  Housed in poetry, yet I find myself more captivated by the art.  The book is a series of Tripp’s art and Sebald’s verse married together very simply in a manner you might see at an art gallery rather than in a poetry book.  I enjoyed it immensely, but I would have preferred to walk through a perfectly lit hall with the images taking up half the wall, the verse on a plaque nearby, rather than flip through the pages of a book.  Although it would be far less accessible that way, the emotional impact would be far greater.

The Lit Report is a fabulous young adult piece for older teens.  In the style of So Many Books, So Little Time, the story follows a year in the life of Julia questioning the beliefs of those around her and defining her own world view while reading and walking her best friend through a secret teen pregnancy.  Christians are not shown in the greatest light.  In fact I doubt that the ‘Christians’ presented in this book actually are Christians as they tend to be people more focused on beating religion into others or attempting to save themselves from the wrath of God by burying themselves into activities of a highly questionable church, instead of simply believing in the Truth and love of Jesus Christ.  The book is also pretty consistent with how most modern teens live and has its fair share of swearing , misbehavior, and (obviously) sexual activity (after all, one girl is pregnant).  But the novel rings true as a supposed memoir of a girl’s life… while reading it you feel as though this could be someone’s experience somewhere – this could happen.

The Lit Report is something I wouldn’t mind re-reading with the kiddo when she is older and we can discuss the thoughts and opinions of the girls, their actions, and the actions of their parents.  It has valid and necessary topics to discuss: the cruel dogmatic ways of some people who call themselves ‘Christians’ and how they influence the public’s view on what being a Christian means, sexual activity as a teenager, and of course how literature can be a part of your daily life.  It is important to see what someone who ‘walks the walk’ looks like in comparison to somewhat who has hardened their heart and spouts biblical references at people out of context.  It is important to know where you stand as a sexual being and what your expectations and standards are, and finally, how your decisions affect those around you.  The novel really makes you stop to think what the author’s own life experiences with so-called Christians have been.

As for The Old Curiosity Shop, I am a few chapters in and it waits patiently for me on my night stand.  Maybe tonight will be the night… or, maybe I’ll find myself wasting more time.

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