- Paperback: 864 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (November 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140435123
- ISBN-13: 978-0140435122
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.5 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 235 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nicholas Nickleby (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1999
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About the Author
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation,but also the horror of the infamous debtors’ prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and “slave” factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years’ formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.
Mark Ford is currently lecturer at University College, London and writes regularly for the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian.
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But for all that, Dickens is one of the world's great story-tellers and you will find yourself wanting to know what is going to happen to Nicholas and his family as they go through some really bad years of their lives. (Spoiler alert: They all live happily ever after.) Also, you will learn a lot about London in the early to middle 19th century. It is entertaining and well worth reading.
Nicholas Nickleby was the third book written by Charles Dickens, and it was published in serial form monthly in 1838 and 1839 before being published as a book in 1839.
At first, I found the book very readable. As with many books written in the 1800s, the prose tends to be very wordy, and the style of the language is more stilted and formal than in books written more recently. However, I feel that Dickens’ style is perhaps a little more casual than some authors of that time which made reading the book more enjoyable. I felt there were a lot of descriptive passages in the book that could have been edited, making the book more streamlined. After a while, I felt that I got bogged down in the detail which made it somewhat less enjoyable to read. Also, Dickens introduces many characters throughout the book who really do not have a bearing on the overall tale. The characters seem to be part of amusing anecdotes used as filler to keep the serial going as long as possible. I felt that there was a lot of buildup to a climax, and then the story just petered out with minimal wrap-up compared to the amount of buildup. For instance, we learn much about two aristocratic gentlemen and also a family of performers, none of whom figure largely at the end of the story, but there is very little to be learned about the future spouses of both Nicholas and Kate, even though they would have more bearing on the longer story.
Please skip the next paragraph as there are spoilers contained. I felt that there were some inconsistencies in how certain characters reacted. Nicholas seemed to be a very kind and honorable young man; however, at the beginning of the story, he seems to have a terrible temper which gets him into trouble. Not long afterward, he seems to have matured, and there is little reason for this given by the author. He may have realized the error of his ways, but Dickens did not see fit to mention this. Also, Ralph Nickleby is portrayed as a mean and heartless man. He finds that he has a son who was ill-treated before he was befriended by the Nickleby family and has now died. Because of this Ralph commits suicide, which seems very out of character.
I did enjoy the classic good-triumphs over evil storyline. I also enjoyed meeting the many and varied characters introduced by Dickens, although there were a lot to keep track of. Dickens does a fabulous job of fleshing out some of the characters, but he does leave other characters feeling flat.
There are several positive and strong supporting characters. I think this is his longest book, so it'll keep you entertained a long, long time. You may like Bleak House if you like this one. The mood is similar. The title sounds ghastly, but it's not that way at all.