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Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The power of [Dickens] is so amazing, that the reader at once becomes his captive, and must follow him whithersoever he leads."
--William Makepeace Thackeray

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.

Philip Horne is a Reader in English at UCL. He is author of the acclaimed Henry James: A Life in Letters and editor of James' The Tragic Muse for Penguin.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439747
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Oliver Twist is one of Dickens' early novels - he worked on The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby simultaneously - and one of his best loved. It has what you would expect from him: memorable characters, evocative descriptions, melodrama, pathos (more often bathos) and a plot that relies on completely incredible coincidences. These latter are sometimes explained away by the characters themselves as being ordained by Fate, benign or otherwise, and must have been more acceptable to a Victorian readership than to one of the present day, who are likely to groan at each 'who should it be but' revelation.

The crossovers with Pickwick and Nickleby are noticeable. For example, The Artful's court appearance is clearly intended to be as funny as Sam Weller's, although it pales by comparison.

The most famous character is of course Fagin, and Dickens' casual anti-Semitism in his treatment of him is another thing that might discomfit the modern reader. He references him as The Jew, always in a derogatory manner. That this is a reflection of contemporary attitudes can be seen from Scott's Ivanhoe, in which Jewish characters are treated with similar hostility and contempt. But it is not the main characters that are most successful - and especially not the title character himself, who is innocent and bland beyond belief - but the supporting cast; Mr. Bumble and his lady, the servants in the house that gets burgled, the old bachelor who keeps threatening to eat his own head, and many others. They make the book a delight.

As always, Dickens is the master of descriptive narrative and he conjures a grim and compelling view of Victorian London's underside.

If you have not yet read any Dickens, this is not a bad book with which to start, although for younger readers (teens) I would recommend Hard Times as their first. Either book will probably leave you, like Oliver, wanting more.
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Format: Paperback
I wuz robbed! Back in high school I had an English teacher who hated Charles Dickens. He found him dull, boring, wordy, and complained of Dickens' endless descriptions, formulated story telling, length of his books, and endings that were easy to predict. In his class, we focused on Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, among others. We were never assigned Dickens or expected to read him. And I generally respected the opinions of this teacher, so I refrained from the work of Dickens. Now, many decades later, I read in Stephen King's "On Writing" that "Oliver Twist" was one of the books he had read in the past three years that he thoroughly enjoyed. So, as we are about the same age, I decided to give it a try. Was my teacher dead wrong! Yes, the book is long, but it certainly isn't boring. Who knew that Dickens had a terrific sense of humor? And as the sarcastic narrator of this tale, he is laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, the book follows a pretty strict formula. But Dickens admits in the telling that he is following the popular style of the day: A chapter of anguish followed by a chapter of relief. Repeat. And each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. But we must remember that Dickens' books first appeared as magazine serializations. And yes, there is a ton of descriptive text, but so well written that I found it interesting. Also, I did know early on how the book was going to end. However, not knowing how Oliver was going to get to that end made the book compelling to read. There are terrific characters within, exciting plot twists, and to top it all, Dickens surprising humor. Now I'm anxious to read more Dickens. I should have started years ago.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I always wanted to read this book--and any other Dickens--after being subjected to the musical featuring child stars Mark Lester and the late Jack Wild. It is with great sarcasm that, though I love the musical, to find that the novel differs greatly is such a surprise. I will also admit that this is the first Dickens novel I have ever read, and find it interesting to note that children have never had easy lives since the beginning of man's origins up until now. We just hear more about it these days.

The amazing cruelty with which orphans have been treated through history is depicted here with a verbal imagery which the reader will not soon forget, and the cast of supporting characters keeps one fascinated due to the human characteristics Dickens gives them. How a largely bland, yet sympathetic little boy stays true to the purest of righteous virtues seems far fetched at times given his treatment at the workhouse and being constantly surrounded by thieves and murderers like Fagin, Sikes, the Artful Dodger, and Master (All he does is laugh) Bates (I won't even elaborate on that name, but snickered quite a bit at it). Most children would have succumbed to their surroundings long before 12, but Dickens seems to be going for nature verses nurture here, pointing out that people can rise above their environment, and I cannot argue. Most people know someone who came from awful circumstances, only to become the opposite of all the negativity they've been surrounded with. So then, maybe there are street walkers like Nancy--the true hero of this story--who have hearts of gold as well, and there are wealthy people who are the antithesis of everything you have ever heard like the man who comes to adopt Oliver.
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