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Our Mutual Friend (audiobook)

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A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustm A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickens’s last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens’s most complex—and satisfying—novels.


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A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustm A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickens’s last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens’s most complex—and satisfying—novels.

30 review for Our Mutual Friend (audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    I listened to this for the first time on audio. And I know!!! I'm not supposed to do that with first time books because I can't comprehend audio as the first read. I already have the book in my Amazon wishlist. But! I couldn't stop listening to it because the marrator (Simon Vance) was freaking amazing!! His voice was perfect for the book. Um, I have it in my audible wishlist too 😂 He gets all the stars. Now I'm hoping my re-read will bring this up to 5 stars when I can use my brain! Just anothe I listened to this for the first time on audio. And I know!!! I'm not supposed to do that with first time books because I can't comprehend audio as the first read. I already have the book in my Amazon wishlist. But! I couldn't stop listening to it because the marrator (Simon Vance) was freaking amazing!! His voice was perfect for the book. Um, I have it in my audible wishlist too 😂 He gets all the stars. Now I'm hoping my re-read will bring this up to 5 stars when I can use my brain! Just another book I would never have read if it weren't for Goodreads, friends and challenges! Mel ❤️

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Although not quite the equal of those great late works Bleak House and Little Dorrit, this last completed novel of Charles Dickens has much to recommend it. It is particularly memorable for its symbolism, the way it uses a series of "dust mounds" (huge heterogeneous piles of waste, primarily of cinders and ash, waiting to be recycled as bricks) owned by the "Golden Dustman" to represent great fortunes, their barrenness and avarice, and their harmful effects on an increasingly money-mad society. Although not quite the equal of those great late works Bleak House and Little Dorrit, this last completed novel of Charles Dickens has much to recommend it. It is particularly memorable for its symbolism, the way it uses a series of "dust mounds" (huge heterogeneous piles of waste, primarily of cinders and ash, waiting to be recycled as bricks) owned by the "Golden Dustman" to represent great fortunes, their barrenness and avarice, and their harmful effects on an increasingly money-mad society. It also contains--as does all Dickens--a range of vivid scenes and memorable characters: harrowing glimpses of riverfront lowlife contrasted with wonderful comic scenes of nouveau riche display, a particularly vicious pair of married grifters, an ambiguous young lawyer and dandy who turns out to be something like a hero, and (perhaps a late apology for Fagin) an evil goy moneylender who uses a kindly Jew as a front. One reason this novel has gained in popularity during the last century is that it is as close as Dickens ever gets to a meta-fiction. The reading and interpretations of various texts--exemplified by Silas Wegg's oral reading of Gibbon's Decline and Fall to the illiterate Noddy Boffin, and their subsequent discussions--is an important metaphor here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Well, well, well, my dear Dickens! It is time for my Christmas letter to you, which I impose on your powerless spirit like a Marley not quite as dead as a doornail, if you please? Unsurprisingly, I show my consistent inconsistency by telling my son that this is my favourite Dickens. Do I even bother to justify my choice anymore, suspecting that it will be replaced the moment I take on Little Dorrit or The Pickwick Papers? Yes, I do care to elaborate. For one thing I have learned from Dickens and c Well, well, well, my dear Dickens! It is time for my Christmas letter to you, which I impose on your powerless spirit like a Marley not quite as dead as a doornail, if you please? Unsurprisingly, I show my consistent inconsistency by telling my son that this is my favourite Dickens. Do I even bother to justify my choice anymore, suspecting that it will be replaced the moment I take on Little Dorrit or The Pickwick Papers? Yes, I do care to elaborate. For one thing I have learned from Dickens and contemporary world leaders is that you have to state your shakiest cases as absolute truths and then stay cool if your friends dig up "old", aka "fake" reviews that say exactly the opposite of your current opinion. Just bear with me as long as Our Mutual Friend is my eternal favourite. Why, then, repeats the likeness of Marley, yet not quite as dead? Because: We see a play in the play, where a Buffoon plays Scrooge with more conviction than Scrooge himself ever could, and with a visible result in the change of heart in a lost little mercenary soul. Standing ovations, Boffin - I was so mad at you, I would have strangled you on stage! Because: There is a social message embedded in the story, speaking up for those who are systematically mistreated by the so-called Voice Of Society (oh, that evil croaking, - nobody imitates it quite as well as Dickens!). If your heart doesn't feel the sad monologue of Riah, describing the antisemitic reality of his life, or the self-examining inner turmoil of Bella, who realises that she is not for sale, then I don't know... If you don't laugh out loud at The Chase, or bite your nails during The Murder(s) (for there are several to choose from, even though very few of them are actually fatal) or during the appearance of The Will(s) (for there are several, even though none of them are followed properly by the obstinate and headstrong characters), then I don't know... If you don't fall helplessly in love with Dickens' notoriously lovely minor characters, such as Miss Wren and Mr Sloppy, or even THE VENEERINGS (we don't speak about the Lammles after their big smash!), then I don't know... The only thing that separates Dickens' magnificent storytelling from real life is his comforting habit of flogging the villains and tucking up the heroes nicely in the end! You can rely on it - it is a tradition! And it leaves me to the point why I find it so rewarding to read Dickens in December: if you happen to spend a month, almost 800 tightly filled pages, with Mr Fledgeby, and you happen to feel he resembles all those real hateful hypocrites who play society like a fiddle while enjoying their own misogyny, antisemitism and general evil power, you thoroughly indulge in the poetical justice of his treatment in the end - as a metaphorical fall for all those who excel in villainy, or Weggery, and don't land in a dungheap by themselves. So, same procedure as every year, my dear Dickens, I thank you kindly for the splendid company. Tears were shed, from laughing mostly, and the heart felt tight at times, from compassion and anger, mostly, and what more can I expect of a book? Nothing, my dear friend, and I remain your 'umble (not competing with Uriah, of course!) servant, The Affectionate Reader

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Our Mutual Friend (In Two Volumes), Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend, written in the years 1864–65, is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining savage satire with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller (quoting from the character Bella Wilfer in the book), "money, money, money, and what money can make of life." In the opening chapters a body is found in the Thames and identified as that of John Harmon, a y Our Mutual Friend (In Two Volumes), Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend, written in the years 1864–65, is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining savage satire with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller (quoting from the character Bella Wilfer in the book), "money, money, money, and what money can make of life." In the opening chapters a body is found in the Thames and identified as that of John Harmon, a young man recently returned to London to receive his inheritance. Were he alive, his father's will would require him to marry Bella Wilfer, a beautiful, mercenary girl whom he had never met. Instead, the money passes to the working-class Boffins, and the effects spread into various corners of London society. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: پانزدهم ماه ژوئن سال 1992 میلادی عنوان: دوست مشترک ما - دورۀ دوجلدی؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: عبدالحسین شریفیان؛ تهران، نگاه، 1369؛ در دو جلد، 1031 ص؛ چاپ جلد دوم 1370؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 19 م پدر «جان هارمون»، مرد بسیار ثروتمند فوت کرده، و همه ی دارایی خویش را، برای پسرش به ارث گذاشته، به شرطی که او، با دختری زیبا به نام «بلا»، ازدواج کند، در غیر اینصورت ثروت به: «بافرها»، یعنی خدمتکارهای خانه، میرسد. همه فکر میکنند «جان» مرده، و این فرصتی است تا او همه چیز را از نزدیک زیر نظر بگیرد، و بسنجد. ... ا. شربیانی

  5. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    In completing Our Mutual Friend, I believe that I may well have just finished reading the finest book written in the English language. One could perhaps argue that the prose of Austen in her novel Emma is more perfect; but the plotting and characters of Dickens in Our Mutual Friend is exquisite. Our Mutual Friend rivals Tolstoy’s War and Peace in breadth, scope, scale, and number of characters; but while War and Peace proceeds forward majestically in a linear fashion; Our Mutual Friend, like Dic In completing Our Mutual Friend, I believe that I may well have just finished reading the finest book written in the English language. One could perhaps argue that the prose of Austen in her novel Emma is more perfect; but the plotting and characters of Dickens in Our Mutual Friend is exquisite. Our Mutual Friend rivals Tolstoy’s War and Peace in breadth, scope, scale, and number of characters; but while War and Peace proceeds forward majestically in a linear fashion; Our Mutual Friend, like Dickens’ “Circumlocution Office” (Little Dorrit) proceeds circuitously, bobbing and weaving, exposing its mysteries and delights, one-by-one, like peeling back the layers of an onion. In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens plumbs the deep and dark depths of humanity’s soul with the creation and actions of some of fiction’s most horrifying villains. At the same time Dickens balances the novel’s darkness and depravity as we meet, and fall in love with, some of the kindest, noblest, and most good-natured saints and souls that ever graced the pages of his novels. One cannot but be completely taken with little Jenny Wren (“my back is bad, and my legs are queer”), and the beautiful Bella Wilfur and Lizzie Hexam, and kindly Betty Higdon. One must admire and respect the steadfastness and resolute nature of John Rokesmith, Eugene Wrayburn, and Mortimer Lightwood. One cannot help but laugh and smile at the comical goodness of Our Mutual Friend’s saints: the Boffins, Mr. Twemlow, “Rumty” Wilfur, and Mr. Riah. Then there are the multitude in the gray ambiguity between light and dark; the Veneerings, and those of “Podsnappery” like the Lammles. But it is the grotesque evil of the novel’s villains that makes the good characters shine so bright. There’s “Weggery”, an awful tasting dose of “Fascination” Fledgeby, all horrifyingly blended with “Rogue” Riderhood and the Dark Prince himself – Bradley Headstone. From Dickens’ pen, Our Mutual Friend falls forth onto the printed pages like the brush strokes on the canvas of the grandest painting of an old master. Our Mutual Friend depicts the freshness and rawness of human emotions in all of its attendant forms, including: joy and happiness, pain and sorrow, anger and hatred, and love and tenderness. Like looking too closely at a painting of Hieronymous Bosch, we have an almost macabre fascination as we follow the novel’s characters through life’s stages – life, death, rebirth, and even resurrection. Primary roles and responsibilities are switched too; with children ‘raising’ parents, the disadvantaged aiding the advantaged, and the poor enriching the well-off. In Our Mutual Friend things are never as they appear or ought to be. On some levels, Our Mutual Friend is the quintessential detective novel or mystery; but it is really more a series of mysteries nested inside a larger mystery. The reader must pay close attention to the seemingly slightest detail, for all does truly come together in the march to the grand, and most satisfying, conclusion. Through it all, however, there is one overarching and unifying theme, one thread that connects all – The River Thames. The Thames is the source of life, of death, of rebirth, and even resurrection; it infects and purifies; it is the source of depravity, horror, and hope and prosperity. The river is always there, relentlessly rushing onward, carrying the flotsam and jetsam, and the hopes and desires, of the novel’s characters, and even those of the reader. All I can say, upon turning the last page with a sigh, is that this is a novel for the ages; and one that I shall visit and revisit; setting forth again in my little boat upon the river of Our Mutual Friend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    El

    Anyone familiar with LOST understands where I'm coming from here, but just in case you're stuck under a rock and have never watched the show (looking at you, Josiah) the above cupcake image is the character, Desmond Hume. Our Mutual Friend is associated with him on the show - it's the one book he claims he will read before he dies and we find later he has named his boat - wait for it - Our Mutual Friend. With that said, this connection to LOST is absolutely not the reason why I decided to read th Anyone familiar with LOST understands where I'm coming from here, but just in case you're stuck under a rock and have never watched the show (looking at you, Josiah) the above cupcake image is the character, Desmond Hume. Our Mutual Friend is associated with him on the show - it's the one book he claims he will read before he dies and we find later he has named his boat - wait for it - Our Mutual Friend. With that said, this connection to LOST is absolutely not the reason why I decided to read this book. At least it's not the whole reason. Actually I've been meaning to read some Dickens for a while and I figure this is a good place to start again. It's also the last completed novel by Dickens which I guess in some morbid way I was drawn to when I decided to pick it up. So there we are. (It didn't hurt that sex-pot Desmond Hume also toted it around with him which I'm certain has some deeper meaning than I'm able to comprehend right now.) All of the LOST references aside, Our Mutual Friend was freaking fantastic. I don't wanna hear anyone's tears (looking at you, Rhonda) about how boring Dickens is, and OMG, he writes for paaaaages without really saying anything... You all are wrong (respectfully). Oh, sure, I get it. There are a lot of words and lots of pages and sure, it seems like he's not really getting anywhere, but that's his freaking genius. And, well, I like big books and can not lie. This is the darkest Dickens I have read so far, and I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that he was older when he wrote it (already in his 50s), was probably spending a lot of time contemplating his life and the fact that he never got that sports car he always wanted, had an anorectal fistula (ahem, a different sort than the fistulas we deal with, Rhonda), and whatever. He was probably just an old curmudgeon by that point anyway. I'm sure he had to deal with a lot of people saying all the time, "Why can't you write a nice story about that sweet little Oliver Twist again? He was so darling." That's gotta be a lot of pressure. It's like Arthur Conan Doyle not being able to stop writing about Sherlock Holmes. Or J.K. Rowling not being able to stop writing about that pesky Harry Potter. So this book is darker, but it's also about money. As opposed to his other books which deal largely with the lack of money, this book actually focuses on people with money. This leads to a different dynamic than his other books. There are a lot of effing characters, but they're all really well-written characters. (Note: Wikipedia references 19 major characters and 16 minor characters.) Jenny Wren is probably the most fascinating characters in literary history, for example, but I could probably babble on about everyone else as well. Apparently Henry James had a problem with the characters not being realistic or something. Whatever, Hank, suck it. No one cares what you think anyway and you're just jealous. The one real complaint I have is Bella's father who is referred to as "cherubic" multiple times on several pages. The book is almost 1,000 pages long. That's a lot of words. That shows Dickens was a wordsmith. A pretty darn good one at that. Couldn't ya come up with something else besides "cherubic", Chuck? Someone buy that man a thesaurus! The Afterword in my edition was great and really touched on the issues people have with the book, like good ol' Hank James up there calling the characters unrealistic and shit. That was intentional. The whole thing is intentional. From beginning to ending, Dickens knew what he was doing and it all means something and... O.M.G. Just like the creators of LOST! But the bottom line is - and this review certainly doesn't do the book justice - Our Mutual Friend probably ranks as my favorite Dickens which previously had been, I don't know, Great Expectations or something. My excuse is simply that I didn't know any better. And Your Yumminess Desmond Hume wasn't even stuck on that island when I first read Great Expectations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors and I have read fair number of his books. And so far, two have become my favourites; those being David Copperfield and Bleak House . But if I were asked to name my three favourites, none of the Dickens works have made it through, until now. I say until now, for Our Mutual Friend compensates heavily for the exclusion. This is the last complete work by Dickens and I read that this work is much criticized as being "less Dickensian". There is probab Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors and I have read fair number of his books. And so far, two have become my favourites; those being David Copperfield and Bleak House . But if I were asked to name my three favourites, none of the Dickens works have made it through, until now. I say until now, for Our Mutual Friend compensates heavily for the exclusion. This is the last complete work by Dickens and I read that this work is much criticized as being "less Dickensian". There is probably a truth in it, for while thematically relying on social commentary and preserving his natural wit, satire and critical sense, Dickens has departed from his comfortable and established zone in to a matured, complete and elevated level. While it may not appeal to those who preferred the established "Dickensian" style, for my part, I found it really amazing and fascinating. It is really a pity that Dickens couldn't complete any more work after this, for I loved this new turn in Dickens and would have loved to see its progress. Money plays a major role in Our Mutual Friend so one can easily say that it is the main theme. A man fakes his own death to avoid an inheritance straddled with a bride and the bride, in her disappointment, seeks another money-match. Then there is a fortune seeker and an adventurer whose deception of each other unites them in marriage only to learn their own deception. Stuck together however, they unite and scheme (not very successfully) to advance their financial position. Then there is also the greedy and corrupt Christian money lender who hides in the coat of a gentle Jew and who he represents to the world as being the principal while in reality he is his employee. Love is equally a strong theme here. Not being satisfied creating one love story to expound on the theme, Dickens weaves two different beautiful love stories. I said they are different, for while in one the male influence works miracles to rescue and bring up his love morally upright, in the other, female influence works a similar miracle to save and uplift morally her love from aimless wondering. If I'm to be quiet honest, this theme was what really attached me downright to the book. The stories themselves coupled with passionate, emotional and sentimental writing bring out two delightful classical love stories and undoubtedly best by Dickens I have read so far. And to add to the allure, Dickens uses a jealous and maniacal villain who would have almost turned one love story in to a tragedy. Class difference is yet another major theme. Dickens expounded on this theme through one of the love stories. A barrister's love and admiration for a working class girl is checked by the difference of their social status. And when irrespective of this obstacle their union is finally made, Dickens expresses the "voice of the society" and their eagerness in casting their votes in condemnation. Dickens also touches on mistaken identity, a little on mystery and on discrimination (Feldgeby treatment of Riah) making the novel thematically rich. Social commentary is a fixed feature of all Dickens's work, and there is no exception here. Using a wider range of characters, Dickens works on the upper class hypocrisy, the lower class deception and middle class salvation. Dickens saw and believed that the future of England lay in the hands of the rising middle class. Eugene's marriage to Lizzie despite her low class and John Harmon's decision to use his new wealth for the benefit of those unfortunate but deserving fellow men places faith in the middle class to uplift England socially and economically. And all these themes are expounded and engaging plots are created with the use of a set of extremely interesting characters. Here too, Dickens is at novelty in introducing more than one hero and heroine. And interestingly, there is more than one villain too. Almost all are interesting in their own way. But my interest was very much captivated by one heroine (Lizzie Hexam) and one villain (Bradley Headstone). Writing is absolutely beautiful. It is rich, fascinating, dramatic and complete. I was utterly amazed at Dickens's skill at writing, for in this work most of his satire he has achieved figuratively. It is totally awesome. Our Mutual Friend is doubtless the best of the Dickens that I have read so far. And all though I have read only about half of his work, I doubt whether the place this work has taken in my heart can be replaced by any other. David Copperfield was my most loved until now but no longer. I'm really glad that Dickens produced such a great work even though his literary journey was cut before his elevated mind and writing could produce another completed work. However, for producing this beautiful work which I would cherish for the rest of my life, I'm eternally grateful to him.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "And this is the eternal law. For, Evil often stops short at itself and dies with the doer of it; but Good, never." - Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend Dicken's last finished novel, but not my last Dicken's novel (I think I still have 5 left to read before I'm done with Dickens). I liked it. It might have been closer to 3★ than 4★ EXCEPT I liked that Dickens seemed to reform somewhat his era's bias and his own bias towards Jews. Mr Riah is a better character than was typically included in 19th-ce "And this is the eternal law. For, Evil often stops short at itself and dies with the doer of it; but Good, never." - Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend Dicken's last finished novel, but not my last Dicken's novel (I think I still have 5 left to read before I'm done with Dickens). I liked it. It might have been closer to 3★ than 4★ EXCEPT I liked that Dickens seemed to reform somewhat his era's bias and his own bias towards Jews. Mr Riah is a better character than was typically included in 19th-century novels and better than Fagin in 'Oliver Twist'. Like most of Charles Dicken's romances it is a social and an economic critique and satire. He also dances on themes of education, status and society, poor laws, inheritence, love, virtue, etc., etc.. Like many Dickens novels, it is a bit baroque with all the characters and those characters often bend toward caricature (Boffin, the Golden Dustman; the peg-legged Silas Wegg; Jenny Wren, etc). I loved them all, but while their sentiments are often VERY human, they still seem like dolls dressed-up, not fully-formed people. Some of my favorite characters in Dickens novels are those that move between being good and being bad (or if not bad, selfish/indulgent/exasperating/human). I loved Bella Wilfer. While she is nowhere near bad, and quite obviously the primary heroine of the story, she is an imperfect heroine at first. She is more interesting and dynamic for it. I also adored Sophronia and Alfred Lammle a scheming match made in Dante's inferno for sure. Finally, I adored Eugene Wrayburn, the 2nd hero/barrister with zeros cases. A Russian bride whose daugther went to the same school as my kids, when I was teasing her about Putin, God, and something about the Russian Orthodox church once called me a "pofogist" (I'm still trying to figure out what the exact word). My best guess was she was trying to say I was both absurd and apathetic. This unknown word describes Euguen Wrayburn (for most the novel) and I love him for being like me (my wife would argue with that, but my friend the Russian bride certainly thinks it is true). Finally, I did enjoy the imagry of this novel. The water plays a huge role, so does money (obviously), boats, and dust heaps. Dust heaps and money. Water, boats, and baptism. And throughout the measure of it, people getting by, and people being exceptional. It was C. Dicken's last finished novel, and certainly not his best (I could easily name four or five I liked significantly better), but I don't regret a day or a dollar I spent on it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    B0nnie

    He do the Police in different voices I will show you fear in a handful of dust Trash Inc: The Secret Life of Garbage Our Mutual Friend What do we have here but mounds of dust - garbage - and an “old rascal who made his money by Dust", who grew rich ‘as a Dust Contractor, and lived in a hollow in a hilly country entirely composed of Dust. On his own small estate the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dus He do the Police in different voices I will show you fear in a handful of dust Trash Inc: The Secret Life of Garbage Our Mutual Friend What do we have here but mounds of dust - garbage - and an “old rascal who made his money by Dust", who grew rich ‘as a Dust Contractor, and lived in a hollow in a hilly country entirely composed of Dust. On his own small estate the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dust, vegetable-dust, bone-dust, crockery dust, rough dust and sifted dust, all manner of Dust.” Our Mutual Friend: such a friendly title! Surely nothing like Bleak House - we will cheerily put behind its ten death scenes (view spoiler)[Miss Barbary, Jenny’s baby, Capt. (Nemo) Hawdon, Jo, Richard Carstone, Gridley, Lady Dedlock, Neckett, Tulkinghorn, Krook (hide spoiler)] and find a nice comedy. Not exactly. There will be humour, but also corpses. And corruption, child abuse and alcoholism, blackmail, grifters and fraud, misers, deception, missing limbs, bones and hair, litter and waste, uncontrollable anger, black and murky water. Sprinkled throughout is some delightful satire of upper middle class snobbery. The story opens very gloomily, with an old man and his daughter pulling a body "in an advanced state of decay, and much injured" from the river. This is how they earn their living, scavenging the waterfront, looking for anything of value. It’s an honest living, and even when they find a body to rob, it is done with integrity. “Is it possible for a dead man to have money? What world does a dead man belong to? 'Tother world. What world does money belong to? This world. How can money be a corpse's? Can a corpse own it, want it, spend it, claim it, miss it?” But never would they lower themselves to even associate with "the sneaking spirit that robs a live man". And so, the two themes are neatly hinted at: money, and the corruptible, i.e. decaying things. Dickens wrote Our Mutual Friend in a mood of darkness. His mother had recently died, and his son Walter dies just as he begins. He is in the Staplehurst Railway Accident, where many are killed and injured. He was trapped in a swaying carriage, just above the wreckage, but gets out uninjured, helps with the rescue and, then he did a remarkable thing. He remembered that he had left that month’s manuscript of Our Mutual Friend in the swaying carriage. So in the calmest possible way he clambered back into the compartment and rescued it. But he was not calm for very long. He felt the effects of nausea for days afterwards; his pulse was unsteady, and he experienced all the physical tremors of nervous anxiety. He declared that he felt 'quite shattered and broken up'. Indeed the accident haunted him for the rest of his life. (Peter Ackroyd, Dickens)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    If you have ever read Charles Dickens, you will know that his plot lines, characters, and literary devices are myriad, and for my thinking, Our Mutual Friend might employ more of those than any other of his novels that I have read. In the beginning, this made the thread a little harder to keep untangled, but in the end, it served his purposes beautifully. There are, for your entertainment, two major love stories, a mysterious imposter, a murderer or two, a few men of nefarious occupation, a coupl If you have ever read Charles Dickens, you will know that his plot lines, characters, and literary devices are myriad, and for my thinking, Our Mutual Friend might employ more of those than any other of his novels that I have read. In the beginning, this made the thread a little harder to keep untangled, but in the end, it served his purposes beautifully. There are, for your entertainment, two major love stories, a mysterious imposter, a murderer or two, a few men of nefarious occupation, a couple of red herrings and several mistreated, but eternally good, individuals. Jenny Wren is a marvelous character, along with the Jew, Riah, who helps to atone for the evil character of Fagin in Oliver Twist. Betty Higden is a superb example of the worthy poor, and the Boffins are an unforgettable couple. I was particularly interested in Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn, a part of the plot that was less easy to predict than some of the others. Both the love stories are captivating, and the ins and outs, and coincidental crossings, of each of the characters with the others is masterful. This is a later work, and the maturity of the writing and plot control are obvious. Then there is just the irrefutable wisdom of Mr. Dickens: And this is another spell against which the shedder of blood for ever strives in vain. There are fifty doors by which discovery may enter. With infinite pains and cunning, he double locks and bars forty-nine of them, and cannot see the fiftieth standing wide open. Ah, Mr. Dickens, may it ever be so! Not an unusual subject for Dickens, he deals with the plight of the poor and the inadequate methods of alleviating it, and he does it with deftness and just the right touch of sentiment. For when we have got things to the pass that with an enormous treasure at disposal to relieve the poor, the best of the poor detest our mercies, hide their heads from us, and shame us by starving to death in the midst of us, it is a pass impossible of prosperity, impossible of continuance. It may not be so written in the Gospel according to Podsnappery, you may not find these words for the text of a sermon, in the Returns of the Board of Trade; but they have been the truth since the foundations of the universe were laid, and they will be the truth until the foundations of the universe are shaken by the Builder. Does our modern society not still wrestle with how to help people pull themselves up without damaging their worth in their own eyes? Do we not still have a system that creates a class barrier and with the very assistance we offer sometimes assure that people will remain and always be aware that their class is not “our” class? There are almost as many themes as there are characters. Money, its influence and its corrupting properties, is one, but as the Bible tells us it is the “love of money” that is “the root of all evil” and Dickens makes it clear that it is the fault in the people and not the wealth itself that is objectionable. There is the major theme of class division and the insensibility of choices made for no other reason than that a person is part of one class or the other. There is the significance of friendship and loyalty, the importance of truth and ethics, and the value of trust in relationships, including but not limited to marriage. There is betrayal, but there is also steadfastness and a desire on the part of so many of these characters to overcome the baseness of their worlds and rise above their conditions morally. There were a few sections that plodded, but for the most part I was feeling sorry for the original audience who were forced to wait for the next installment to find out what was to happen and could not just plow ahead, as I found myself inclined to do. The novel is quite long at over 800 pages, but I read over a three month span and enjoyed it immensely. I am making some progress toward my goal of reading ALL of Dickens’ works. Next up is Nicholas Nickleby, and if it is as pleasing for me as this one, I will be quite happy indeed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Money. Filthy lucre. The love of money may be the root of all evil, but money, whether you like it or not Dickens tells us, is also Our Mutual Friend. Nothing misses Dickens’s sharp penetrating eye. In this final completed novel he is at his most astute, most bitter, and most brilliantly sardonic. We no longer have the posturing and hectoring tone of the earlier novels, but a much more nuanced writing style. Dickens has honed his skills to perfection, using his sarcasm and wit to entertain in the Money. Filthy lucre. The love of money may be the root of all evil, but money, whether you like it or not Dickens tells us, is also Our Mutual Friend. Nothing misses Dickens’s sharp penetrating eye. In this final completed novel he is at his most astute, most bitter, and most brilliantly sardonic. We no longer have the posturing and hectoring tone of the earlier novels, but a much more nuanced writing style. Dickens has honed his skills to perfection, using his sarcasm and wit to entertain in the blackest situations, and weaving together a complex narrative of interlocking stories in which the denouement is well nigh perfect. Money. Greed and avarice. Cunning and contrivance. Duplicity and deception. All these, and many other ways of acquiring this desirable commodity are here. Dickens weaves his words to tell us this truth, and as ever, we learn it through his portrayal of irresistible characters. With a flourish of his pen, he starts … We see Jesse “Gaffer” Hexam, a “bird of prey”, trawling the dirty, foetid river Thames at dead of night. What can he be scavenging for through all that slime and ooze, through the “accumulated scum of humanity … washed from higher grounds, like so much moral sewage”? Gaffer Hexam is looking out for dead and decaying bodies; for those poor drowned unfortunates from whom he can now strip anything of any value, before handing in the body to the proper authorities. A hair-raising profession by any account, and one which terrifies his daughter Lizzie, who rows the boat for him. Thus the novel opens, setting the tone with an image which is hard to forget. From the lowest of the low we then flash to a very different picture: the sparkling pinnacle of society. We are present at a fashionable dinner hosted by two of its most recent members, the Veneerings, who have everything “bran new”. These shallow parvenus are out to impress everyone: Nicodemus and Henrietta Boffin, the Reverend and Mrs Milvey, the Podsnaps et al. Here is the self-satisfied Mr John Podsnap: “Mr Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high in Mr Podsnap’s opinion”. He is believed to be based on Dickens’s friend and biographer, John Forster. Since Podsnap is complacent, pompous and full of bluster, notwithstanding his “fine woman” of a wife, one hopes that Forster never believed this: he certainly never acknowledged it. Lady Tippins heads this distinguished group. Mr and Mrs Veneering consciously flaunt their good taste, their wealth and their position. They are indeed well-named; their very way of life is a facade. The genius of Dickens is such that he encompasses examples from all aspects of society. These two examples demonstrate his keen observations of the basest, to the most respected in the land. He also shows us many stops in between. There is Silas Wegg, indulging in little frauds, but also fantasising about the outrageous schemes he is to perpetrate, although when we meet him he only owns one tiny street stall, and its meagre contents. Dickens also presents us with common-or-garden tricksters, such as Roger “Rogue” Riderhood, another canny character who automatically turns every situation to his advantage. Or the greedy and corrupt moneylender, “Fascination” Fledgeby: “the meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs”. He is one of the most unlikable villains since Christopher Casby, the landlord of “Bleeding Heart Yard” in “Little Dorrit”, outwardly showing an easy, gentle manner, yet behind the scenes getting someone else to do his dirty work. Every perfect bon mot from Dickens’s pen is assured, as we track the devious workings of these rogues’ minds, and each step towards their moral and sometimes literal degradation. We are gripped by the machinations and workings out of their plot-lines, and follow them with increasing horror. And we also delight in some of the funniest passages in Dickens’s novels describing the high and mighty aristocrats, and those on the periphery, such as the rather confused but well-meaning and kindly Melvin Twemlow, with his “eggy” hair: “allow[ing] his hair to stick upright”, who is cultivated for his connection with Lord Snigsworth. The most hilarious fraudsters of all his writing, surely, are two social climbers: the middle class con artists Alfred and Sophronia Lammle. Each of this most charming couple (view spoiler)[married the other in the mistaken belief that they were wealthy (hide spoiler)] . Such a treacherous couple; well deserving of each other! There is much games-playing throughout, and many attempts at crawling up the social ladder, and acquiring money and status, no matter who might be stamped on and suffer as a result. It’s a dirty business for sure. Sometimes the filth becomes quite literal and no longer a mere metaphor. The novel’s cental image, around which all these delightful characters perform their groteque dances, is that of three immense dustheaps, or what we would call rubbish tips. They are the source of much of the much-sought after wealth. Acquisitiveness and miserliness then, and the lust for money, is here in all its forms, and is a constant theme through this complex novel. The nub of the story is the “Old Tartar” Julius Harmon’s inheritance, which he bequeathed to a “John Harmon”. But John Harmon has been identified as drowned in the river. To complicate matters, it had been a condition of the inheritance that John Harmon marry Bella Wilfer, whom he had never met. The story revolves around the many money-grubbing people who each believe the inheritance should be theirs. Not only is Our Mutual Friend concerned with the various nefarious ways of acquiring this dirty money, but also with dirt, filth, decay and dust. All comes to dust, in the end. One character searches endlessly through one of the dustheaps at night with a lamp, in the secret hope of finding paperwork to do with the inheritance. The river Thames constantly spews up its gory decaying treasures - and receives the same. Bodies, and death. Another abiding image is of the social parasite Silas Wegg, with his one wooden leg, befriending a taxidermist, Mr Venus, who has heaps of body parts and stuffed creatures in his dimly-lit store. Silas Wegg is trying to track down the leg he had had amputated in order to gaze on it, while he deviously plots and plans his diabolical schemes. Charles Dickens had always had an interest in the morbid and the macabre. Quite a lot of his darkest humour is set in graveyards, and his fiction abounds with chilling scenes of ghosts and spirits. Most of the characters in Our Mutual Friend make their livings in the world from human leftovers and cast-offs; even to the very bodies themselves. Dickens was a good friend of Edgar Allan Poe, and in Our Mutual Friend one can see how the two could sustain this friendship. Yet there is a decided change in emphasis. In this 14th novel there is little trace of the youthful frivolity which characterised his early work. Gone is the exuberance and zest for life. What could have prompted this change? Is it, perhaps, “the Inimitable” beginning to have a sense of his own mortality? Our Mutual Friend, although very long, is very tightly plotted over 4 “books”, entitled: “The Cup and the Lip”, “Birds of a Feather”, “A Long Lane” and “A Turning”. Dickens was full of doubts, which he confided to his friend John Forster. His writing pace was slowing down, and he was beginning to feel ill. He reverted to just 19 monthly installments, between May 1864 and November 1865, with the final one being double-length. And he remained extremely concerned with money. Charles Dickens’s father, John, was a profligate gentleman, who was first imprisoned for debt when young Charles was only 12 years old. He continued to have financial problems over the years, having to sell of all his household goods to pay debt collectors, and spending other periods of time in the Marshalsea prison. As a consequence, Charles Dickens was forced to become aware of the importance of money from a very early age. He called his father: “a jovial opportunist with no money sense”. Throughout his adult life, Charles Dickens had to support his parents in their extravagant habits, in addition to his own family home, his wife and his many children. He also supported his mistress, Nelly Ternan, and her mother for several years. He had continuing difficulties over copyright issues of his novels, as there were many pirated copies of his books. He had to finance his own publications, his own theatrical productions, his own world tours of his reading performances, and his own charitable works. His novels are often concerned with money, but perhaps it is not surprising that in this final one, money is even more uppermost in his mind. With the pressure of his enormous workload weighing heavily on his mind, he ignored friends’ and doctors’ warnings alike. Was he even more aware that the clock was ticking? Did he perhaps have a vague inking that this was to be his last chance to create the perfect novel? The characters in Our Mutual Friend are multi-facteted and complex. We still have the extremes we love: the heroes and the villains, but they are far more nuanced. We have detailed studies of guilt, horror, obsession and miserliness. We can even recognise characters from early novels who are expanded and developed into far more realistic individuals. The unsympathetic Jewish portrayal of Fagin, which Dickens had spent a lifetime regretting, is gloriously countered and amplified into the kind, intelligent Mr Riah, one of the novel’s star characters. Bill Sykes, the unwitting (view spoiler)[ murderer (hide spoiler)] from “Oliver Twist”, provides the basis in Our Mutual Friend for one of the most compelling descriptions I have ever read, of a character ruled by his passions, Bradley Headstone. I confess I wept for this troubled man, subject like Edward “Monks” Leeford, in “Oliver Twist” to epileptic fits; of limited capabilities, but trying to improve himself, but prone to ultimately uncontrollable dark moods. You will not find the perfectly good child Oliver, with his impossibly well-spoken manners here, but you will find goodness, kindness and much self-sacrifice. One delightful couple are the the Boffinses. Noddy “the Golden Dustman” in particular has many layers to his personality. Perhaps they are the perfected end product of Dickens’s Cheeryble brothers, from “Nicholas Nickleby”, themselves based on an actual pair of brothers who were benefactors. Forget too, the docile or one-dimensional females of the early stories. “Little Nell” is always hard-working and good, perhaps almost too perfect, as is Kate Nickleby. Even Dora Copperfield remains pretty and clueless, but mostly in these middle novels Dickens begins to explore further. Mercy Pecksniff, a spoiled young woman in “Martin Chuzzlewit”, gains wisdom through her experience, and has a hint of regret by the end. In Our Mutual Friend the mercenary minx, young Bella Wilfer, is a fully fleshed development of Mercy - or perhaps even Estelle, from “Great Expectations” (a character who is herself perhaps based on the real life Nelly Ternan). She does not remain the disdainful spoiled character, tossing her head and announcing: “I am so mercenary” entirely focused on “money, money, money, and what money can make of life” as we are first introduced to her, but has a journey of transformation. Perhaps she may not be a truly modern heroine, since Victorian ideals for a young woman were very different from contemporary ones, and Dickens’s own views were very decided. Nevertheless, Dickens does present us with an alternative, parallel story to Bella’s, with Lizzie Hexam. Lizzie is a heroine for this century; strong, decided and intelligent. From her timidity at the beginning, she develops in initiative and determination. One set piece near the end cleverly mirrors the opening episode, and in this she demonstrates great courage, and shows her true colours. Do not listen to those who claim that Dickens’s females simper; that he cannot write strong women. Think of Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations”. Think of Mademoiselle Hortense, maid to Lady Dedlock in “Bleak House”, or of the bloodthirsty vengeful termagant of a Tricoteuse, Madame Thérèse Defarge, in “A Tale of Two Cities”. There are a myriad of others. Think too of the good strong females, Betsey Trotwood, David Copperfield’s resourceful but cantankerous aunt, or of noble determined Lizzie Hexam, and of the “ruggedly honest creature” Betty Higden, another poor woman in this novel who lives in dread of being sent to the workhouse, or even having to receive charity, and goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. It is abundantly clear that Dickens’s caricatures, once rather flat in his early writing, become increasingly fully rounded as we trace through the novels, and are now revealed in full, glorious colour. And unlike many Victorian novels, with a clear main character and just a few supporting ones, the characters in Our Mutual Friend jostle and clamour for our attention: an entire crowd of them. Only a handful of them have been mentioned here. My personal favourite is “Jenny Wren”, a diminutive dolls dressmaker whose real name is Fanny Cleaver. With her dexterous fingers, lively imagination and dedicated industry, she carves a living for herself, despite her deformed spine and physical difficulties. She is intelligent, and with her sharp eyes is frequently the only one who sees things as they really are. My theory is that she has developed from Miss Mowcher, the dwarf manicurist, in “David Copperfield”. Jenny Wren is a beacon of light in this murky gloom, with her strange fancies and visions of “miles of flowers”, and calling “Come up and be dead”. The creation of such a character enabled Dickens to include many spiritual parallels and fairy tale allusions in these passages. The action centres on the river Thames, and in particular the inn called the “Six Jolly Fellowship Porters”, owned by Miss Abbey Potterson, who is a lynch pin for the whole riverside community. You can in fact, still visit this pub, which is now called “The Grapes”. It is situated as described on London’s dockside; indeed the entire novel revolves around this one location. But there are many other important characters: Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene Wrayburn, a young lawyer and a young barrister, indulging in sparkling repartee equal in wit to Oscar Wilde’s. Eugene Wrayburn’s indolent insouciance could come straight from the mouth of Wilde’s Lord Henry Wotton in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. Other little stories pop in and out; that of Miss Peecher, so tragically in love with another who does not share her romantic thoughts. Or that of the mysterious John Rokesmith. Or what of the “dismal” assistant to Mortimer Lightwood, Young Blight? What of the shy and innocent Giorgiana Podsnap, or Charley Hexam, or Pleasant Riderhood “possessed of what is colloquially termed a swivel eye” or George Sampson, erstwhile paramour of Bella, and Lavinia … all have their own tales to tell. We read passage of great absurdity, ones which can make the reader laugh aloud in delight, but they are now presented to us by a master of his craft. There is the cherubic-faced “Rumty” Wilfer, father to Bella and Lavinia, and long-suffering husband of her mother: a haughty, discontented, martyrish woman. Or Sloppy, of limited intelligence but very willing to help Betty Higden. Or the naïve and unworldly Boffinses aforementioned, who are both so full of optimism about using their inheritance for good. The absurd scenes where “Noddy” Boffin pays the wily Silas Wegg to read to him, so keen is he to become a learned gentleman, are truly hilarious to read. Each comic interlude is carefully placed, so that after we have been fully charged by mystery or horror, or by an intriguing episode of passion and drama, we are then rewarded by a jokey cameo scene. The structure is almost perfect. His earlier novel “Bleak House” was also a complex novel with many interwoven strands. In that one too, it is difficult to say which one is the main story, as the subplots threaten to overwhelm what appears to be its central theme. In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens has pushed this even further. It is possible to read almost half the book and feel that there are several novels here, such is the tapestry presented. I personally feel that this way of writing a multi-focus novel is ground-breaking. Which is the main theme, or the main plot? Will there in fact be a main one? Perhaps not. Is there even a main character? In “Martin Chuzzlewit” we discover that the main character is not after all the one to whom the title refers, but his namesake. In a not dissimilar way, the main character of this novel is obscured, a double, double bluff. There are so many disguises in this novel. Some characters literally hide behind their veils, like Lady Tippins. Others hide behind an assumed personality, or an assumed role. Others behind an assumed name or profession. Children may be forced to take on the parental role. The novel is packed to the brim with negative masks and hypocracies: characters hiding their true natures. But all the strands do eventually come together, and in such a way which is quintessentially Dickens. The good characters in the main achieve happiness, and the evil ones get their just desserts. All the characters move around their various strategies, but there are quite a few cases where a selfish character has a life-transforming experience, and mends his or her ways most satisfactorily. Even the novel’s title may be a disguise. Is it money which is Our Mutual Friend? Or is it simply, after all, the character referred to near the beginning? Or could it even be the river Thames, friend - or enemy - to so many. Dickens liked his happy endings, and even in such a dark novel he will give us a smile on our faces. It is sad that he never had such a happy ending for himself. In my opinion he was a man living out of his time, and for whatever reason, he lived a lie. Having left his wife Catherine, and taken all but one of their children with him, he still professed to endorse the values of Victorian family life, publicly putting the blame on her innocent shoulders. Yet two thirds through this novel, he showed remarkable courage, in the Stapleford Rail disaster of 9th June 1865. Charles Dickens was travelling with Nelly Ternan and her mother when disaster struck. He courageously climbed out of his compartment through the window, and then made sure the Ternans were safe. After that, he looked after as many of the victims as he could, giving them brandy and water. Some were to die in his presence. Only after an emergency train to London arrived, did he go back into the carriage to get the manuscript he was working on - the next installment of Our Mutual Friend. What a hero! But his son reported that he never fully recovered, and would not then travel in trains from choice. The experience took its toll. Charles Dickens was to die five years to the day after the accident. An unacknowledged passion, the death most probably of a child born in secret, and the overwhelming burden of years of toil and overwork; racing to keep all the balls in the air, had made Dickens an exhausted man, perhaps one wracked by guilt and disappointment. Is it any wonder that his final novel should be so embittered? Yet still, what a legacy he has left for us. Thank you, Mr Charles Dickens. I am glad for you, that your final work was your greatest opus.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Before Goodreads, before the Internet (aka the dark ages) I kept a list of Books Read and I've finally added them all in here. On that list is Our Mutual Friend. The title is right there, in my handwriting. So I must have read it. As it is 900 pages long, you would think I'd remember it, but I don't. In fact I had thought it was the one remaining Big Dickens I hadn't read & was saving it for a rainy day, or 90 rainy days. Now I am wondering if I was possibly not sober when I added it to my B Before Goodreads, before the Internet (aka the dark ages) I kept a list of Books Read and I've finally added them all in here. On that list is Our Mutual Friend. The title is right there, in my handwriting. So I must have read it. As it is 900 pages long, you would think I'd remember it, but I don't. In fact I had thought it was the one remaining Big Dickens I hadn't read & was saving it for a rainy day, or 90 rainy days. Now I am wondering if I was possibly not sober when I added it to my Books Read list, and I did that just to mess with my future self's mind, i.e. me now, and make me think I have incipient Alzheimers. Why would I do that? Why would I fall out with my future self? What did the present me do to the past me? Or maybe it's because my brain is now full, and in order to make room for a new fact I have to forget an old fact. If so I'm glad I forgot something as trifling as reading a 900 page book, rather than say my mother's address or the name of the company I work for. The five star rating is purely sentimental, Dickens was a genius.

  13. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Better to read Dickens in week-long rushes—serialised readers, without the aid of Wiki or plot recaps, will have to summon the heroic powers of recall commonly the resource of Victorian bookworms. How torturous to be put on tenterhooks for months as to John Rokesmith’s identity enigma, to think of the vagabond Wegg ruining the sweet old Mr Boffin. Perhaps now, at the end of my Monster Dickens reading, it is pertinent to ask of these novels—page-turners of their day, morally instructional enterta Better to read Dickens in week-long rushes—serialised readers, without the aid of Wiki or plot recaps, will have to summon the heroic powers of recall commonly the resource of Victorian bookworms. How torturous to be put on tenterhooks for months as to John Rokesmith’s identity enigma, to think of the vagabond Wegg ruining the sweet old Mr Boffin. Perhaps now, at the end of my Monster Dickens reading, it is pertinent to ask of these novels—page-turners of their day, morally instructional entertainment, or works of art? Answer: all three and more. These are omninovels that defy snubbing. In his last completed work before a long novel-wards sabbatical, Dickens once more chips away at an old theme: the corruption of money, how it seeps into society, and poisons everything. Not that Chaz was a raging anticapitalist, quite the opposite, but there’s no point in being a millionaire if you behave like a spoilt child hoarding all the sweets. In an age badly in need of strong moral fiction (hurts me to say, but tis true), this message still needs to be drilled into the heads of the moneyspinners of the free world. Our Mutual Friend is a brilliant (complete) swansong from Chaz, full of collectively captivating plots and subplots, and some more complex personnel than usual (Wrayburn and Headstone) and your usual vivid, striking and compassionate prose mastery. Farewell, big Chaz!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    “No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.” I have certainly been looking at Our Mutual Friend on my TBR shelf for years. He kept shaking my fist at it, muttering “One day, damn you! One day!” Started July 5th, finished August 20th, that is almost two months. It took so long because it is over 800 pages in length, and I read it mostly it in audiobook format. On my commutes to work, which means no progress most weekends. Towards the end of the book, “No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.” I have certainly been looking at Our Mutual Friend on my TBR shelf for years. He kept shaking my fist at it, muttering “One day, damn you! One day!” Started July 5th, finished August 20th, that is almost two months. It took so long because it is over 800 pages in length, and I read it mostly it in audiobook format. On my commutes to work, which means no progress most weekends. Towards the end of the book, I also started playing Pokemon Go on the bus so that caused further delays. Our Mutual Friend is epic in length but smallish in scale. Unlike most of Dickens’ novels, it does not—for the most part—have an obvious protagonist but several central characters that the narrative switches between. That is, until the last third of the book that I realized it is John Rokesmith’s story more than anybody else’s. I suppose the fact that he is the eponymous “mutual friend”—as indicated by Mr. Boffin early in the book—should have clued me in! John Rokesmith is the secretary of Mr. Boffin, a former servant of a rich miser who inherited his master’s wealth upon the man’s death, his only son having apparently drowned en route back from overseas. Mr. Boffin starts off the book as an extremely amiable chappie, one of Dickens’ colorful, comical and vivid characters. Noddy Boffin Unfortunately, he is soon to be seen completely corrupted by wealth and—in an amazing 180 ° personality shift of “Jekyll & Hyde” proportions—becomes something of a beastly scumbag*. His secretary, on the other hand, is the novel’s moral centre and becomes the brunt of beastly Boffin’s abuses and accusations. In contrast to Mr. Boffin, another potential protagonist Lizzie Hexam, appears to be completely incorruptible and not in the least tempted by wealth if the opportunity seems to go against her moral conviction. Lizzie is one of Dickens’ stock impossibly angelic female characters, but damn if he doesn’t always manage to make them all quite lovable in spite of being too good to be true. Lizzie Hexam The plotline of Our Mutual Friend is not possible to outline succinctly, it is quite densely plotted, full of mysteries, twists and turns; not to mention laughs. The central theme, however, is the effect of wealth. How it can corrupt even decent people; but also how it can not corrupt people with moral fortitude. A similar theme is the effect of love, depending on whether love is selfish or selfless it can also corrupt or redeem. Bradley Headstone is introduced to the readers as a hard working schoolmaster but later on an unrequited love turns him into a scheming psychopath. On the other hand, Mr. Eugene Wrayburn, a handsome, roguish, insolent (not to mention uppity!) young barrister, is redeemed by the love of a good woman. If all this sounds terribly serious Our Mutual Friend is actually often very funny. One of the reasons I often return to read Dickens is that he always populates his books with colorful, eccentric and often hilarious characters. Top prize for the most colorful character in this book goes to Jenny Wren, a dolls’ dressmaker. She is crippled with a bad back, and walks with the aid of a stick but is always of a sunny disposition and treats practically every man she meets like an imbecile. She is also one of the book’s most perceptive characters and nobody seems to be able to the better of her. Jenny Wren Also very memorable is the aforementioned Boffin, whether he is good or evil, he is never less than entertaining. There is also the even more villainous Silas Wegg, ballad merchant extraordinaire, with a wooden leg, and “Fascination Fledgeby” who really lives up to his name; a man with any redeemable quality but is still almost sympathetic because he does get the stuffing beaten out of him and almost literally gets salt rubbed in his wounds afterward. There are numerous other interesting characters, but I don’t want to spend all day writing this review, and you would have much more fun discovering them for yourself. At more than 800 pages I would say Dickens-once again-overwrote. However, as he published his novels in monthly installments in magazines the length is understandable. Also, unlike Victor Hugo’s catatonia-inducing expositions about the Paris sewage system and whatnot in Les Misérables, Dickens does nor over indulge with the “TMI” expositions. Our Mutual Friend is always readable and I never felt any urge to skip even one paragraph. I have recommended every Dickens’ book I review, this one is no different. It may not be as much fun as Pokemon Go but probably more rewarding _______________ Notes: * Boffin’s sudden 180° moral change did initially seem more like a plot device than a realistic character development, but it eventually makes sense, and even kind of hilarious. • Audiobook credit: Another excellent professional-level narration by Mil Nicholson. Thank you! • Thank you Shmoop for their helpful notes, though Our Mutual Friend is not as hard to read as they mention; no harder than any of the Dickens books I read so far.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Davide

    [italiano sotto] So far, my favourite among Dickens’s books; it made me want to read them all (in order of writing, why not?). It makes you laugh, it makes you think, it makes you move. And it makes you wonder. And it makes you admire. And it disorientates you. From halfway on, you are less disoriented. But in the meantime you have come to love Mr and Mrs Boffin. Then the central theme seems to become the corruption - or the risk of corruption, the fear and the charm of corruption - that money brings [italiano sotto] So far, my favourite among Dickens’s books; it made me want to read them all (in order of writing, why not?). It makes you laugh, it makes you think, it makes you move. And it makes you wonder. And it makes you admire. And it disorientates you. From halfway on, you are less disoriented. But in the meantime you have come to love Mr and Mrs Boffin. Then the central theme seems to become the corruption - or the risk of corruption, the fear and the charm of corruption - that money brings with it. So Mr Boffin becomes a monster, but... [I have tagged it città, cities: and the city is London, of course. With an unforgettable beginning at night on the Thames, and a lot of remarkable walks through the city, and a central importance, as already in A Tale of Two Cities, for the Inns of Court area]. Tra quelli che ho letto finora, il mio Dickens preferito. Anzi, a dirla tutta, è quello che mi ha fatto venire la folle idea di leggerli tutti, a partire dall'inizio. Si ride, si pensa, ci si commuove, si ammira, ci si domanda. Ah, e ci si disorienta, anche. Arrivati circa a metà, ci si disorienta meno. Ma intanto si è sviluppata una certa passioncella per Mr. and Mrs. Boffin. Dopodiché il tema centrale sembra diventare la corruzione - o il rischio della corruzione, il timore e il fascino della corruzione - che il denaro porta con sé. E quindi Mr. Boffin diventa un mostro, ma... [Città: Londra, ovviamente. Memorabile l'inizio notturno sul Tamigi]. (Ho letto anche una traduzione italiana che normalizza un po' troppo lo stile di Dickens, appianando le ridondanze, le ripetizioni ironiche, ecc. Mi era già capitato con una traduzione di Persuasion di Jane Austen: letto in italiano sembrava un esempio classico della costruzione inglese secca e diretta ma in confronto l'originale sembrava Proust, con molte subordinate, frasi complesse, incastonate una nell'altra... Misteri).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Money has a way of making excellent fiction all the more powerful and dire. At first I didn't really understand Our Mutual Friend and even thought it was a little boring personally, but it's the kind of story that you can't put down and it gets much better as it goes. It has so many themes but its strong suit is that it can switch from funny to somber in a sudden instant, keeping it engaging and surprising 'till the end.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    3.5 stars SPOILERS! What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. You can use the same adjective 19 times in a short chapter to describe a single character and still be considered a great literary stylist. Yes, I get it, Mr. Dickens: Bella’s adorable father is CHERUBIC. 2. It is perfectly acceptable to deceive your wife-to-be, and even marry her under an assumed identity, for the noble purpose of ascertaining her moral worthiness. 3. Once you are convinced that she is no gold-digger, sh 3.5 stars SPOILERS! What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. You can use the same adjective 19 times in a short chapter to describe a single character and still be considered a great literary stylist. Yes, I get it, Mr. Dickens: Bella’s adorable father is CHERUBIC. 2. It is perfectly acceptable to deceive your wife-to-be, and even marry her under an assumed identity, for the noble purpose of ascertaining her moral worthiness. 3. Once you are convinced that she is no gold-digger, she can be informed of your true identity as the sole heir of a wealthy garbage man. 4. She of course, having been established as a person of high moral standing, would take the news with perfect equanimity, even though she was of the mercenary persuasion just before she agreed to marry you. 5. It is perfectly possible for a hard-nosed, mercenary beauty to be reformed through the example of others whose characters have been debased by the sudden acquirement of wealth. 6. A barely literate, retired garbage man with no acting experience whatsoever can convincingly act this example. 7. The notion of the bee as a paragon of industriousness is vastly overrated. We as a bipeds should object on principle to being constantly referred to insects and other four footed creatures. As human beings, we cannot be required to model our behavior on the behaviors of the bee, the dog, the spider or the camel. 8. One of the most salient reasons of why this is so, is the undeniable fact that a camel has several stomachs to entertain himself with, while we poor humans have only one. 9. One of the best ways to educate oneself is to listen to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire being read by a one-legged street ballad seller. Thus we may learn of fascinating historical characters such as Polly Beeious (a Roman virgin, and therefore cannot be discussed in polite company), Commodious (an Emperor who is unworthy of his English origins) and Bully Sawyers, a.k.a Belisarius, a great military leader. 10. If you need to have your leg amputated, you can always sell it to Mr. Venus, a bone man whose collection includes preserved Hindu, African and (articulated) English babies, a French Gentleman, human bones (“warious”), mummified birds and dried cuticles. BUT SERIOUSLY, The most entertaining part of the book for me is when Dickens is being caustically funny. Mr. Boffin’s reading of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Mr. Venus’ dry recitation of his macabre inventory, and Wrayburn’s argument against the bee made me chuckle. The social satire with the social-climbing, money-obsessed Veneerings, Podsnaps et al is piquant and sharp, and perhaps as relevant today as it was in the Victorian era. The plot is intricate but deftly woven, with hardly any improbable coincidences that mar his other works such as A Tale of Two Cities. The evocation of the Thames and the marginal characters that make their living from its ebb and flow is immediate and pungent: we can palpably see and smell the great river, the seaman’s taverns and the muddy lanes where the Hexams and Riderhoods live. The river is a metaphor for growth and decay, and the most interesting characters are those that are associated with it. In fact, I find the supporting cast more interesting than the bland main characters. I don’t really understand who Wrayburn and Rokesmith/Harmon are, aside from the traits that they are given to support their roles in the plot. Bradley Headstone is a one-dimensional plot device. Bella is given more personality than the usual saintly, long-suffering Dickens heroine, but her sudden transformation seems to be hardly credible, and so is her romance with Rokesmith/Harmon. The contrast between the dark satire and the fairy-tale conclusion is jarring, and at times the pace of the story is as slow as the silt-burdened current of the Thames. And I was sorely tempted to fling the book to the wall every time Dickens calls Bella’s father a ‘cherub’ --- it’s like a literary Tourette syndrome. A mixed bag for me, and if not for the melodramatic A plot and bland main characters, should have been a solid four stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mεδ Rεδħα

    I am fortunate enough not to have had the novels of Dickens urged onto me as a child or been required to write about them at university. I encountered them properly in middle age and have re-read them with enormous pleasure since. Our Mutual Friend may not be his greatest novel, but in some ways it is his most compelling. From the opening paragraph, the dark imagery comes straight off the page and into your visual imagination and, as an illustrator, I find it irresistible: the autumn evening clo I am fortunate enough not to have had the novels of Dickens urged onto me as a child or been required to write about them at university. I encountered them properly in middle age and have re-read them with enormous pleasure since. Our Mutual Friend may not be his greatest novel, but in some ways it is his most compelling. From the opening paragraph, the dark imagery comes straight off the page and into your visual imagination and, as an illustrator, I find it irresistible: the autumn evening closing in, the crazy little boat afloat on the filthy Thames, the strong young woman plying the oars and a ragged, grizzled man, her father, busying himself with something towed in the water behind them. You are some way into the narrative before it dawns on you that it is a drowned body. They are at their evening's work as scavengers of the river. You are transported to the brightly lit, highly varnished home of the nouveau riche Veneerings, where everything, including their friends, is new and full of hard reflections. Perhaps, had Dickens lived in the 20th century, he might have become a great film-maker. Even his ardent admirers might admit that some of his heroines are almost too good to be true. They often suffer from being outrageously put upon by weak, immature fathers, accepting the burden with uncomplaining loyalty. The two strong heroines of Our Mutual Friend, Lizzie Hexam and Bella Wilfer, are more human. Places such as the ramshackle dwelling on the slimy riverbank, or the Boffins' over-furnished home, or Mr Venus's bizarre taxidermist shop - full of grotesque stuffed creatures and mummified human parts, where Mr Wegg calls in search of his amputated leg - are all meticulously described. Marcus Stone, the narrative painter, was commissioned to do the first illustrations for the book. By all accounts Dickens was an exacting author to work with. His great partnership with Hablot K Browne, known as Phiz, was then over. Dickens had decided he needed a new interpretation and Phiz, like Mrs Dickens, was discarded. Sadly, Stone's wood engravings failed to capture the darkly dramatic atmosphere. Two powerful opposing elements dominate: the murky water of the Thames and the mountainous North London dust-heap composed of ashes from the city's grates. Both are combed by poor scavengers hoping to find some pickings from which they can scratch a living. Both hold secrets crucial to the plot. Upriver, at the climax of the novel, two men, Bradley Headstone and the villainous Riderhood, wrestle to the death by the weir. Their drowned bodies are found in the ooze behind the lock gates. What illustrator would not be tempted by the challenge of Our Mutual Friend? But I think I will stick with the pictures in my head. They are more vivid than any on the page.

  19. 4 out of 5

    RM(Alwaysdaddygirl) Griffin (alwaysdaddyprincess)

    4 stars. I took an extremely long time because of the fact that certain words can make sadder. It does not have to mirror the situation exactly. Again, it just words. 🇺🇸🐾

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lance Greenfield

    I first read Our Mutual Friend when I was thirteen years old, and I awarded it five stars on Goodreads based on my memory of that first read. I always remembered this as my favourite Charles Dickens novel, and I am still strongly of that opinion. If I could award it yet another five stars, I would. This is a classic masterpiece. Yards of literary analysis has been written about this book over the decades, and I could not possibly compete with those who have written before me. After all, English L I first read Our Mutual Friend when I was thirteen years old, and I awarded it five stars on Goodreads based on my memory of that first read. I always remembered this as my favourite Charles Dickens novel, and I am still strongly of that opinion. If I could award it yet another five stars, I would. This is a classic masterpiece. Yards of literary analysis has been written about this book over the decades, and I could not possibly compete with those who have written before me. After all, English Literature was the only GCE O level that I failed. O levels are the exams that we usually take in UK at the age of sixteen. Instead, I'll just tell you what I think from my own heart and head. First of all, the wonderful use of the English language employed by Dickens, and the extent of vocabulary, just amazed me and is a lesson for all of us. Secondly, the character building of all of the characters, and their development throughout the story, is so strong that one can visualise them all, and start to imagine how they are all thinking and interacting. It is very difficult to understand who the leading characters are, as it seems that there are more than a dozen principals. I think that this is great. Then I would say that everyone should read this book at least twice. Knowing the conclusions does not spoil the reading. I had forgotten much, but I knew roughly where we were going, even though it is over four decades since I first read it. In fact, the second reading is better than the first, because I understood more of why the conclusions were reached as I staggered my way through. I shall definitely read Our Mutual Friend again before long. The complex, interwoven plots are marvellous, and I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a very thick volume, agreed, but every word is a gem in a treasure trove of jewels.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    A reread with the Dickens Fellowship of New Orleans: At one of our meetings a speaker said this was not only Dickens’ most cynical work, but also a fairy-tale. For some reason, that helped one of the members who had been struggling greatly with the novel. I struggled with a way to review this complicated novel, as any way I thought of would contain spoilers, especially my thoughts on why Lizzie Hexam is a character that has ‘legs’. So, I will only say: When I first read this however many years ago, A reread with the Dickens Fellowship of New Orleans: At one of our meetings a speaker said this was not only Dickens’ most cynical work, but also a fairy-tale. For some reason, that helped one of the members who had been struggling greatly with the novel. I struggled with a way to review this complicated novel, as any way I thought of would contain spoilers, especially my thoughts on why Lizzie Hexam is a character that has ‘legs’. So, I will only say: When I first read this however many years ago, I had sympathy for Bradley Headstone; this time I had none. I was supremely aggravated at Bella’s reaction when she’s finally told the truth. I’m pretty sure I felt the same way the first time I read it. If you thought Dickens had skewered Society in his other novels, 'you ain't seen nothing yet.' Jenny Wren remains my favorite character: "Don't be long gone. Come back, and be dead!"

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    "The best things in the book are in the old best manner of the author. They have that great Dickens quality of being something which is pure farce and yet which is not superficial; an unfathomable farce -- a farce that goes down to the roots of the universe" (p.827 from the original Everyman's preface by G. K. Chesterton)

  23. 5 out of 5

    R.

    I don't know if I was supertired or Dickens gawt slawppy, but I spent three pages last night thinking I was reading about the inner life of a dinner table the family had nicknamed "Twemlow". The confusing to passage: There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow. Being first cousin to Lord I don't know if I was supertired or Dickens gawt slawppy, but I spent three pages last night thinking I was reading about the inner life of a dinner table the family had nicknamed "Twemlow". The confusing to passage: There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow. Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworth, he was in frequent requisition, and at many houses might be said to represent the dining-table in its normal state. Mr and Mrs Veneering, for example, arranging a dinner, habitually started with Twemlow, and then put leaves in him, or added guests to him. Sometimes, the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves; sometimes, of Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimes, Twemlow was pulled out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves. Mr and Mrs Veneering on occasions of ceremony faced each other in the centre of the board, and thus the parallel still held; for, it always happened that the more Twemlow was pulled out, the further he found himself from the center, and nearer to the sideboard at one end of the room, or the window-curtains at the other. Paid by the word much? Bonus for semicolons? Anyways, Dickens intentions are clearer today: he wanted to make certain the Constant Reader got the seating chart for the Veneerings down pat. Thanks, Chuck. Thanks.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    As brilliant on a 5th read as on a first.

  25. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    It’s many a year since I picked up this book, and reading it through it now I did find myself wondering whether this was a favourite of Samuel Beckett’s. After all it’s the novel with three large dust piles sat in a yard - which may, or may not, contain valuables - and a one legged, ‘literary’ man who scours through them. (It is certainly echoed in ‘Happy Days’). Furthermore there is a young/old, tiny and crippled maker of clothes for dolls, and a character with a death-like name who – as his ho It’s many a year since I picked up this book, and reading it through it now I did find myself wondering whether this was a favourite of Samuel Beckett’s. After all it’s the novel with three large dust piles sat in a yard - which may, or may not, contain valuables - and a one legged, ‘literary’ man who scours through them. (It is certainly echoed in ‘Happy Days’). Furthermore there is a young/old, tiny and crippled maker of clothes for dolls, and a character with a death-like name who – as his homicidal rages increase – exhibits actual explosions of blood. (A touch David Cronenberg would no doubt enjoy). In short this is a great novel for Dickensian grotesques. Although this being pure and undistilled Dickens, we get the good and the bad. Yes, the grotesques are very entertaining, but beautiful young women are either angelic or haughty as hell. There are no other characteristics they can possibly exhibit. The plot, in simple form, sees a dead body pulled from The Thames, and the consequences of that discovery having repercussions across nearly every strata of society. ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is a really clever and entertaining read, with lots of fantastic scenes. Other later Dickens’ novels, like ‘Great Expectation’ and ‘Bleak House’, I love with all my heart and wouldn’t hesitate to give them five stars. So, why am I more reluctant with this one? Well towards the end there is an extraordinary and breathtaking sleight of hand, one so audacious it pretty much counts as Deus ex machina. And it’s that ripping away of the carpet below much of what went before, which sours me a little on this novel. Undoubtedly this is a book jam packed with many superb scenes (and might just contain more murders than any other Dickens’ work), memorable moments and greater than life characters – so I would certainly recommend, although there are better. And one can only assume – given its treatment of the dinner parties held by the upper echelons of society – that Dickens was treated with some wariness after publication each time he went to such a soiree. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well I guess everything around the birthday celebrations has affected me. The fact that the British public has all dressed up in frock coats or bodices for Victorian street parties in every road up and down the land; the thousands of imitation Charles Dickenses who now wander across London quoting the great man’s work; and that our greatest living Dickens impersonator – Mister Simon Callow – has made it his mission to go around every residence in the UK and perform personally to every single citizen. I’ve greatly enjoyed that we’ve reopened the work houses and we all get turns to go there and refuse to give the urchins any more gruel; while I’m looking forward to those ghosts coming to visit tomorrow night – I’ve been meaning to mend the error of my ways for some time now. It really has been an exciting and wonderfully literary six weeks. And so, I guess it’s time for me to do my bit and actually read some Dickens.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    Yet another revisit—my third at least of this one. Dickens last completed novel tells many intertwined stories, but there are three central threads. We have the old miser Mr Harmon recently deceased, who has left all his wealth to his only son John on condition that he marries Bella Wilfer, a young lady Mr Harmon has ‘picked’ because of her not very pleasant nature. But as our story opens, Gaffer Hexam who makes his living pulling out bodies from the Thames and handing them to the authorities, h Yet another revisit—my third at least of this one. Dickens last completed novel tells many intertwined stories, but there are three central threads. We have the old miser Mr Harmon recently deceased, who has left all his wealth to his only son John on condition that he marries Bella Wilfer, a young lady Mr Harmon has ‘picked’ because of her not very pleasant nature. But as our story opens, Gaffer Hexam who makes his living pulling out bodies from the Thames and handing them to the authorities, has found a body, that of John Harmon. The property goes to the Boffins the Harmons’ caretakers, and they invite Bella to come live with them. We also follow the story of Gaffer and his children, Lizzie Hexam his daughter, and Charlie his son who Lizzie is secretly sending to school so that he may have a better life. Harmon’s lawyer Mortmer Lightwood and his friend Eugene meet them because of their connection with the case and Eugene begins to take an interest in Lizzie. The third thread is society, the nouveau-riche Veneerings, the snobbish Podnapps, the pretenders the Lammles. Money as I wrote in my previous review is a central theme here, but there is also a murder mystery, family relationships (siblings, parents and children), love, and society. Society, in terms of its attitudes to wealth and class, dropping and picking up people as they acquire or lose their money, contemptuous of the latter, and yet perhaps everything to keep them there. In Betty Hidgen’s character, Dickens makes a strong statement against the poor law in place at the time, and this If I remember correct played a role in reforms in this area. Through Mr Riah, we critique society’s tendency to condemn entire peoples and communities, refusing to acknowledge that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people in every group. Dickens’ storytelling is wonderful as always, and reading in instalments (as I did this time again) one gets a sense of the excitement the original readers must have felt having to stop at different points, having to wait a week to find out what happened next. In Dickens’ books, for me, besides the stories themselves, it is his characters that make them memorable. This book too has such characters in the form of Betty Hidgen, Mr Riah, Jenny Wren the dolls dressmaker, and Podsnap, to name a few. I enjoyed reading this book very much and look forward to my next revisit!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled in a frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern marshes behind dark masts and yards, seemed filled with the ruins of a forest it had set on fire. Seven months of nibbles, most of these clusters, all braced with serious efforts to remember characters, enlisting wikipedia and rereading, rather often, entire chapters. I'm glad I read such, though I felt most of t The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled in a frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern marshes behind dark masts and yards, seemed filled with the ruins of a forest it had set on fire. Seven months of nibbles, most of these clusters, all braced with serious efforts to remember characters, enlisting wikipedia and rereading, rather often, entire chapters. I'm glad I read such, though I felt most of the characters lived on plotlines like so many pigeons perched above the interstate. Maybe I am being greedy, but i wanted some tension between the molar and molecular, maybe like my instincts I prefer the argumentative quantity, a murder of crows assuming control on the deserted football pitch. Maybe I want more struggle and uncertainty. That said, Our Mutual Friend does have the example of Bradley Headstone; there is an example of actualized potential. Well, the plot certainly benefited. His plausibility should be left for the fore-mentioned crows. Such fare would be a diversion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    3.5 stars The way this book started gave me chills. Imagine a dark night in which a young woman is rowing a boat on the Thames, her father, a gruff man, steering the boat as he searches the murky water for drowned bodies that he can rob before tying them to his boat and dragging them to shore to turn them over to the authorities for a fee. The daughter keeps her gaze averted as her father leans over the boat and finally snags a body. He yells at her to watch him, her face a frozen mask as she wat 3.5 stars The way this book started gave me chills. Imagine a dark night in which a young woman is rowing a boat on the Thames, her father, a gruff man, steering the boat as he searches the murky water for drowned bodies that he can rob before tying them to his boat and dragging them to shore to turn them over to the authorities for a fee. The daughter keeps her gaze averted as her father leans over the boat and finally snags a body. He yells at her to watch him, her face a frozen mask as she watches it all, and not for the first time. What a beginning! So imagine my surprise when nothing much exciting happened for the next 400 pages. I had characters coming out of my ears, talking talking, but I didn't know if or why they might be important or how they related back to the chilling events at the beginning. But this wasn't my first time reading Dickens, so I knew everything must relate and every character must be important when the author finally got around to telling me how. I only needed to be patient enough to wade through all the words to be rewarded. And I was, beginning at the halfway mark and onward when the characters and their doings began falling into place, if not falling all over the place in pursuit of money and the power it would bring them. The characters are the best and most memorable part in any Dickens' novel with all their quirkiness and strange names: the Podsnaps, the Veneerings, Bradley Headstone, Pleasant Riderhood, Jenny Wren, Lizzie Hexam, Noddy Boffin, to name only a few in this book. But this story begins with the murder of a man with the common name of John Harmon. Harmon had come to London to claim his inheritance from his deceased and formerly estranged father, a condition of the will being that he must first marry a beautiful but spoiled young woman he had never met, to claim any riches. But with Harmon murdered, an unassuming employee of Harmon's father was to be next in line to inherit a fortune that might just prove to be his misfortune. Despite this novel being written in 1865, Dickens wrote it in what felt like a very modern style with a shocking beginning, and then twists and turns throughout the story that had me thinking, "No way!" as he brought everything around full circle. But I didn't set out to read this novel for that kind of excitement. I read it to see if Dickens would redeem himself for what seemed a very anti-Semitic tone in Oliver Twist which I never did finish for that reason. I'd heard that he had purposefully created a wonderful Jewish character in this book as an apology to the Jewish community. And he did redeem himself with the character, Riah, but not because of Riah's benevolence. He had his faults and weaknesses like any other man, which became most apparent during an amazing speech he made near the end of the book. He admonished himself for unbecoming behavior that did no credit to himself or others of his religion. He also spoke of the dangers of using any individual as representative of whomever his people were, as an excuse for hatred of an entire people. I wasn't expecting this kind of wisdom in this dark story that had less comic relief than many other novels by this author. This book is about corruption in society as most of his novels were, but also corruption of the soul when people value and pursue the wrong things, harming those in their way. It was to be Dickens last complete novel, which made it particularly sad when he addressed the reader in an afterword in which he admitted he was grateful to have lived to finish this novel having been in a near fatal accident recently. I want to add that this book has strong, admirable female characters, much more so than some other books by Dickens that were dominated by males. In this book, the reader watches many of the women evolve and strive for dignity and control over their own lives as much as possible during those times. And interestingly enough, there are four complex father/daughter relationships helping to drive the story forward to a memorable conclusion. Actually, nearly all the characters in this novel evolved for better or worse into something complex and nuanced in personality and in motivation. If only the first half of this book had been more compelling and less loosely knit, I would have given it four stars for those great characters who wanted the best in life, but not always looking to get it in the best possible way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    4.5 “This reminds me, Godmother, to ask you a serious question. You are as wise as wise can be (having been brought up by the fairies), and you can tell me this: Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” At first look, Our Mutual Friend seems to be a brick of a Victorian novel where the themes of family life, marriage, class and money will be treated in a strong fashion. This is correct and yet this description doesn’t even scratch the surface of this amazing boo 4.5 “This reminds me, Godmother, to ask you a serious question. You are as wise as wise can be (having been brought up by the fairies), and you can tell me this: Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” At first look, Our Mutual Friend seems to be a brick of a Victorian novel where the themes of family life, marriage, class and money will be treated in a strong fashion. This is correct and yet this description doesn’t even scratch the surface of this amazing book. Dickens offers us in this last novel of his a veritable fairy tale with more mysteries and secrets than could be believed, and focuses particularly on social mobility, greed, avarice and obsessive passion, while adding elements of Beauty and Beast and Little Red Riding Hood. Naturally, the cast is wide and colourful, full of fascinating protagonists with undisputably dickensian names and attributes: the pretentious Veneerings, Silas Wegg and his wooden leg, the taxidermist Mr Venus, the kind Jew Mr Riah, etc. The female characters are especially noteworthy in this instance, not just two-dimensional or secondary but fully portrayed, Jenny Wren being the most memorable and likeable. Comparisons and contrasts abound, from the superficial world of the nouveau riche to the poor river-dwellers, with the Thames, the one constant, meandering through the setting and indeed the lives of all the protagonists. Dickens is brilliant at painting the society he lived in, criticising it while entertaining his public. This story is at the same time dark and violent, comical and full of ridicule, suspenseful and thrilling, and even touching in its representation of love. This is a long book and yes it could have been shorter but it is still a great novel worth of the extra time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    Revisit. Dickens’ last completed novel, when one comes to think of it, is essentially about money. “Society” revolves around it (‘status’ pretty much comes with it), as do individuals, each in their own way, be it the off-putting (and also somewhat pathetic) drunk who wants some for his “three-pennyworths of rum”, or a pair of swindlers (of sorts- also off-putting because of their acts though perhaps, not of themselves) who seek their fortune; a “secret” money lender who enjoys tormenting his so- Revisit. Dickens’ last completed novel, when one comes to think of it, is essentially about money. “Society” revolves around it (‘status’ pretty much comes with it), as do individuals, each in their own way, be it the off-putting (and also somewhat pathetic) drunk who wants some for his “three-pennyworths of rum”, or a pair of swindlers (of sorts- also off-putting because of their acts though perhaps, not of themselves) who seek their fortune; a “secret” money lender who enjoys tormenting his so-called friends through others’ hands; some who come into a fortune, and others who covet theirs’ or even one of our heroines who is something of a mercenary wanting to marry only money. (The poor law too, of which Dickens gives a rather scathing critique through Betsey Hidgen, put people in appalling workhouses simply for not having/being able to make enough money.) For many of them, money “corrupts”, somewhat like what is said of power. But there are still those few who realise the value of things beyond money. A surprising exception is also the villain of the piece who is driven by his obsession which for a change, is not for money. But this isn’t a social commentary on the ills of money alone, like any exciting serial it has its share of romance, mystery, and murder. I especially love the end where everyone-good or bad or even in between-gets his or her just desserts. I enjoyed reading this in serial with my book group here. I’d forgotten quite a few details and plot twists so had many a surprise every now and then.

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