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The Old Curiosity Shop (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (July 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780140437423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437423
  • ASIN: 0140437428
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The sound of Little Nell clattering hurriedly over cobblestones immediately sets the stage by bringing to mind the narrow and dangerous streets of Victorian London. No fewer than 20 performers are called upon to conjure up the Dickensian world of wanderers, ne'er-do-wells, con artists, and kind Samaritans--and each performance is excellent. Tom Courtenay plays the sadistic Quilp, "the ugliest dwarf that could be seen anywhere for a penny" with magnificent sarcastic glee, and Teresa Gallagher's silvery, childlike voice is ideally suited for the role of the angelic Little Nell.

Nell is on her way home to the dusty shop where she and her grandfather live a rather mysterious life. The old man disappears every night--visiting gambling dens with the naive hope of winning a fortune. Instead he sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Enter Daniel Quilp, moneylender, who becomes furious upon learning that the grandfather is a pauper and will never be able to repay his tremendous debt. Quilp seizes the curiosity shop and begins making lecherous overtures to Nell, so she and her grandfather steal away one morning to seek their fortunes elsewhere. But the demonic dwarf is never far behind.

Sound effects are employed judiciously and serve mainly as a springboard for the listener's imagination. The sound of a crying baby is enough to convey the image of crowded lodgings and genteel Victorian poverty, while raucous laughter and high-pitched squawks evoke the barely controlled chaos of an outdoor Punch and Judy show. The dramatization pares Dickens's weighty novel down to two and one-half hours, but does so skillfully, retaining Dickens's wit, marvelous dialogue, and delightful characterizations. (Running time: 155 minutes, 2 cassettes) --Elizabeth Laskey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-12-Dickens story of contrasts: youth and old age, beauty and deformity, freedom and restraint.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Do read this book when you can.
Charles Dickens has an immense vocabulary and his characters use words which have all but disappeared these days, this to me makes his books very enjoyable.
Fred Iceman
I enjoy reading Dickens very much even when the story is sad.
Lenore Torbert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By "jenniferbraun" on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
...reading delight. Whenever I get depressed or feel like I can't start another book, I re-read some passages of this book written by Charles Dickens. It is one of the best books written in English. Intentionally syrupy and over-sweet, Dickens writes so perfectly as to make the reader wonder how anyone could ever write so gorgeously. If you pass this one up, you're cheating yourself. I couldn't put the book down. It's a rare and special novel that keeps me in bed over the weekend reading from dawn to sleep.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
The only pleasure greater than discovering a new book
is rediscovering an old friend you haven't read for a while.
Many years ago I read all of Charles Dickens novels, but I
recently had occasion to re-read The Old Curiosity Shop, and
it is just as good as I remembered it the first time.
The story, like most of his plots, depends a great deal
on coincidences, so you have to suspend your scepticism to
enjoy it. Dickens begins by introducing us to one of the
most innocent little girls in literature, Little Nell, and
to her most unhappy grand-father. Quickly we discover that
instead of the old man taking care of the child, she is the
one responsible. We then meet one of Dickens' great villains
- the evil, corrupt, mean, and nasty Quilp - a man, if that
term can be used, who has absolutely no redeeming qualities,
one who finds pleasure in inflicting pain on all he meets.
Thinking that the old man has secret riches, Quilp
advances him money to support his gambling habit.
Unfortunately Nell's grandfather never wins, and the debt
grows ever larger. Finally Quilp forecloses on the curiosity
shop that the old man owns (thus the name of the book) and
tries to keep the two captive in order to discover the money
that he still believes is hidden somewhere. While the
household is asleep, however, Nell and her grandfather
escape and begin wandering across England in a search for
On that journey, Dickens introduces us to a series of
minor characters who either befriend or try to take
advantage of our heroine.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lucy the Bargain Hunter on May 30, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the first Dickens' story I've read. If the other reviewer says he liked this one LESS than Dickens' other works, then I guess I am in for a treat in reading more of Dickens. I absolutely LOVED The Old Curiosity Shop. It was so well-written and witty, with twists and turns I would not have expected. Overall, it was such a fantastic book that - for someone who doesn't read books twice - I will certainly read this book again someday (after I read some other Dickens' books).
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Book Spy on September 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Old Curiosity Shop certainly displays the hallmarks of the unstructured, free-flowing make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of story characteristic of Dickens's early novels. Indeed, it is rather generous to call it a story, and it's difficult now to understand the sensation it caused when it was first published. However, if a page-turning plot was all there was to it, very few of Dickens's novels would be readable at all. As ever with Dickens, the pleasure in reading this book comes from the comedy, diversity and richness of the characters, as well as the sheer mastery of the English language which came so naturally to him.
The central characters are old Trent, his granddaughter Nell, the moneylender Daniel Quilp, young Kit and the wonderful Richard Swiveller. Of these, the spotlessly pure Nell and the irredeemably evil Quilp are the moral opposites around which the book revolves, old Trent is rather a pathetic figure, while Kit's sturdy progress from poverty to respectability makes for happier reading. However, it is the moral journey of Swiveller, which perhaps reflects the geographic journey undertaken by Nell and her grandfather, which is the real joy of this book. He enters the book in the guise of a rogue, involved in dubious intrigues with Nell's no-good brother and also with the repulsive Quilp. However, from the time that Quilp gets him a job as a clerk in the office of Samson Brass and his sister, the awful Miss Brass, Swiveller's basic decency and natural good humour begin to reveal themselves, and his soliloquies and dialogue provide many hilarious moments from that point on.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have long been an admirer of Charles Dickens, but I had never read THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP until fairly recently. I read the novel over the course of two weeks, completely immersing myself in it (I've found that this is the best way to read Dickens). Words fail me to describe this novel, so I'll quote from Dickens scholar Norrie Epstein: "If Italian director Frederico Fellini had been an English novelist writing in the age of Victoria,
THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP could have been his LA STRADA. Dickens' novel is a curious work, by turns a circus and a funeral. Like a reverie, a nightmare, and a vision -- and the shop itself -- the novel brings together startling, contradictory themes, images, and objects" (THE FRIENDLY DICKENS, p. 120).
THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP, in other words, is a typically Dickensian work, combining the morbid, the sentimental, and the absurdly hilarious. The young protagonist, Nell Trent, is a sad and pathetic figure who faces trial after trial until she is finally worn out and dies a premature death. As sad as Nell's story is, I also found myself laughing out loud at the roguish but essentially good-hearted secondary character of Dick Swiveller. At the same time, the dwarf Quilp is both comic and menacing: his (implicitly stated) aim is obviously to defile the innocent young Nell. Only Dickens, it seems, can so successfully alternate tragic and comic scenes and characters in the same novel. If you're an admirer of Dickens' "tragi-comic" style, you should read THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP.
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