Classic Challenge: Oliver Twist

Knocking out a Classic Challenge book (my 19th Century Classic) AND doing some pre-reading for the kid's future school - yes please! Although the idea of any of my kids being old enough to read it someday is still a bit much. Shouldn't Lucy still be obsessed with Knufflebunny? I think so. But actually, her favorite book right now is Pilgrim's Progress so my heart needs to keep up with her growing mind and body.  Jonah loves his fairy tale and folk story picture books but has moved to an obsession with The Wizard of Oz. How did this happen? Luckily Norah still clings to her Gyo Fujikawa Babies and Baby Animal board books or my heart would be breaking right now. Let there always be someone in my life that loves pictures books. But back to Oliver Twist...

This is the third year I tackled a Dickens and he's growing on me. I liked Bleak House last year but this was the first book that I picked up in the evening because I genuinely wanted to read it and find out what happened - at least before I reached the second half. Dicken's isn't ever going to be my favorite author. He's too Victorian (even for me!) -  too preachy, people more caricature than multi-faceted character, etc but I'm definitely coming to appreciate him and the ideas he's trying to get across, especially when I think about the times he lived in.  He's worth reading and I do plan on keeping up with my "One Dickens Novel a Year" Plan for as long as I can.

Oliver Twist itself was quite fast paced and I was well enough acquainted with the musical and disneyfied version to recognize the characters and beginning plot (Sidenote: Despite it's lackluster drawings, Oliver and Company was probably one of my favorite disney movies growing up) but I was still on the edge of my seat for much of it. Dickens does know how to keep one engaged.

And because I picked on his characters a bit, I have to admit I had a certain fondness for a few of the ones in this book. I loved Oliver and really appreciated that despite all his hard times, he was able to maintain his innocence and tender heart. For personal reasons right now, that ideas is even nearer and dearer to my heart that it usually would be and while I know its not realistic to think that most kids can be Olivers and not Dodgers given those circumstances, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy it, right? I'm an optimistic. I also really liked Nancy. Her story is much more tragic than Oliver's and probably more realistic but also more nuanced than I feel like a lot of his characters are and I liked that.

I recently read a discussion about Dickens in which people were saying it was darker than they expected. But I had the opposite impression. I mean, it has its dark moments but coming after Bleak House, it seemed even chipper at times! I think he did a good job taking us back and forth between the light and the dark which highlighted the issues because of the contrast instead of just making the world he created seem overall dark and heavy as in did in Bleak House. There were times in Bleak House where it felt like his big message was just that the world was an awful place. I don't think that is what he was trying to say but it was so bleak that it felt like it and I lost sight of the point in the middle a bit. Where as with Oliver Twist, I felt like I could more clearly see the issues at play and why things were  happening. Not that either is better than the other as I really did like Bleak House too, its just different and I think a good choice for a younger student like I plan to use it with. And the more lighthearted sections certainly helped me get through it a bit faster! And fast I was, three classics down, 9 more to go!

Oliver Twist is my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classic Challenge over at Books and Chocolate


  1. Bill Sykes and his roughneck bull terrier -- what a charming pair.

  2. I do like Dickens but sometimes he is a bit tough to take -- I find his young female characters particularly irritating. Oliver Twist is one of my favorite Dickens novel but I do find Oliver himself to be a little over the top, he is so perfectly good. But there is something about this novel that just always keeps my interest -- I think it's how he overcomes his terrible circumstances, and there are parts that are actually really funny. I also love Mr. Brownlow. It's been several years since I read this, maybe it's time for a reread.

    If you haven't read it already, I also recommend Great Expectations and Little Dorrit. David Copperfield is also really good though I found that it dragged a bit in the middle. I also really liked Barnaby Rudge, which is one that almost nobody reads anymore.