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Oliver Twist (Classic Books on Cassettes Collection) [UNABRIDGED] Audio, Cassette – Unabridged, September 27, 1987

4.4 out of 5 stars 675 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter I

Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was Born; and of the Circumstances attending his Birth.

Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born: on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events: the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or country.

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befal a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that could by possibility have occurred. The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,-a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now, if, during this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses, and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between them. The result was, that, after a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been imposed upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could reasonably have been expected from a male infant who had not been possessed of that very useful appendage, a voice, for a much longer space of time than three minutes and a quarter.

As Oliver gave this first proof of the free and proper action of his lungs, the patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over the iron bedstead, rustled; the pale face of a young woman was raised feebly from the pillow; and a faint voice imperfectly articulated the words, "Let me see the child, and die."

The surgeon had been sitting with his face turned towards the fire: giving the palms of his hands, a warm and a rub alternately. As the young woman spoke, he rose, and advancing to the bed's head, said, with more kindness than might have been expected of him:

"Oh, you must not talk about dying yet."

"Lor bless her dear heart, no!" interposed the nurse, hastily depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction. "Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me, she'll know better than to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what it is to be a mother, there's a dear young lamb, do."

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother's prospects, failed in producing its due effect. The patient shook her head, and stretched out her hand towards the child.

The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back-and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped for ever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

"It's all over, Mrs. Thingummy!" said the surgeon at last.

"Ah, poor dear, so it is!" said the nurse, picking up the cork of the green bottle which had fallen out on the pillow as she stooped to take up the child. "Poor dear!"

"You needn't mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse," said the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. "It's very likely it will be troublesome. Give it a little gruel7 if it is." He put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door, added "She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?"

"She was brought here last night," replied the old woman, "by the overseer's order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The inimitable Martin Jarvis brings his talents to bear on Charles Dickens's classic in an audiobook that will delight listeners with its superb recreations of gritty 19th-century London. To escape Mr. Bumble and life in the workhouse, Oliver flees to London where he meets the Artful Dodger and becomes embroiled with Fagin's ragtag band of thieves. Jarvis simply dazzles: his performance captures both the humor and sorrow of the text, his narration is crisp, and his characterizations--his rendition of the terrifying district magistrate, Mr. Fang, is particularly memorable--are as varied as they are energetic, befitting, and enjoyable.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Audio Book Contractors, LLC (September 27, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556850220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556850226
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 10 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (675 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,645,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book surprised me, not by the quality of its writing, which one can expect from Charles Dickens, but by the violent, lusty primal quality of the story. This is no dry musty tome, but a vital novel that arouses both passion and intellect. A literal page turner, I found myself having more than one sleepless night when I just couldn't put it down.
Inside are some of the major characters in the realm of fiction; Fagin and his gang of child thieves, including the Artful Dodger. Nancy, the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold. Master Charles Bates (was this a pun even then?) Bad Bill Sikes, who shows the darker edge to all of this dangerous fun, and the innocent, pure Oliver Twist, who is the very definition of nature over nurture.
A great book, and one that I am glad to have finally read.
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By A Customer on February 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A novel of this size can be daunting for the reader. "If I start this book, I'm going to have to spend the next month finishing it". That's what I thought anyway. But in Oliver Twist I sailed through the pages. It's rare that a classic, and I have read many of them, becomes a page-turner but this one did. Maybe I was lucky in not having seen the film versions prior to the reading of the book because I desperately wanted to find out what happened to Oliver and the multitude of other brilliantly written characters who inhabit the pages of Dickens' classic.
The plot is simple. A boy escapes his orphan home to live in London with a group of thieves and pickpockets. He's saved from this depraved life by a kindly, lonely old gentleman. But the villains, Bill Sykes and especially Fagin, fear that the boy may rat them out and so they kidnap him back. Can Oliver make it back to the life he deserves?
Oliver's story is not a very originally one, but it is enlivened by some of the greatest characters I've ever seen written. My personal favourites and there are many, are Noah Claypole who becomes a principle player and a very funny one at that, near the book's conclusion; and Mr. Brownlow, who's catchphrase "I'll eat my own head" had me bursting into laughter.
The book is diminished by its excessive sentimentality at the conclusion. Its female characters, apart from the courageous Nancy, are written in a golden light so as to become fantasies rather than the gloriously dirty reality of their male counterparts. A sub-plot between Mary and her boyfriend is ridiculously excessive.
Against these weaknesses, the book is a triumph of character. Often memorably played on screen, the two villains have become more famous than the title character, who is slightly simpering. Fagin is deliciously smarmy and Sykes is evil incarnate. They get their comuppance in justifiably brutal fashion. Dickens like most of us was a sucker for a happy ending.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I couldn't get into Dickens in high school, I guess my maturity level just wasn't there. But I bought this classic for my home schooling 6th grade daughter, and vowed to read it no matter what. Well, after the first chapter, I was hooked. And she really loved it too. We read it much faster than I had anticipated, considering the language and size of the book. Highly recommended!
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Dickens' Oliver Twist is, of course, wonderful, deserving all the fame and fondness that it has garnered over the years. I'll instead focus on this Penguins Classics edition, which may interest those looking for a hardcover of the novel. The cover is nicely decorated and textured, the paper is high quality, the introduction and notes are informative, and the illustrations are wonderful. But there are two negatives. First and foremost, the font is smaller than average and a strain on the eyes after a while. I also purchased Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma from the same Penguin series, and their fonts are larger and easier on the eyes--what you would expect in typical hardcovers. I wish they had used the same font here. Second, and again in contrast to the Austen novels, the ink for the marvelous watches on the cover smudges a little, and is (as another reviewer noted) lifted partly off with the sticker on the back. This is not a big deal for me, but may be for others. Otherwise, this is a fine edition that looks great on the shelf and is a pleasure to peruse. Just remember to give your eyes more frequent breaks.
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Dickens began to publish stories and sketches of London life in a variety of periodicals in his early twenties. "Classic Starts' Oliver Twist": Retold from the Charles Dickens Original; is an abridged novel for easier reading, carefully rewritten, in a selective appropriate words and Dickens expressions, so young readers can experience the wonder of timeless stories from an early age. Filled with grim workhouses, oppressed orphans, and thieving children gangs, it enraptures young readers into a vivid Victorian England, and echoed into my conscience for years. This is how my grandson got his lovely name!

Dickens timeless novel, "Oliver Twist" is about an orphan who was born in a workhouse. As soon as Oliver dares to ask for more food in the orphanage, he consequently finds himself in dire circumstances. Determined to make his way into the world, he runs away to London after his unhappy encounter. When he leaves the workhouse, he hopes it would be an endurable adventure. Now, Oliver finds himself taken under the wing of a snub-nosed 'Artful Dodger', caught up with a group of pickpocket juveniles. As he tries to free himself from their clutches he becomes immersed amongst criminals and the homeless. Rescued by Mr. Brownlow, the gang kidnap him back. But the gang is exposed, and Oliver discovers his parents identity.

Charles Dickens was the second of eight children in a needy family burdened with debt. Despite difficult early years, he became the most successful British writer of the Victorian age. In 1824, 12 years old Charles was taken out from school to work at a boot-blacking factory when his imprudent father, together with his mother, were sentenced to three months in a debtor's prison. Charles attended a private school for three years, after they were released. The young lad then became a shorthand solicitor's clerk, and was then employed as a Parliamentary reporter.
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