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The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
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In reading this book, I was reminded of Harriet Vane's comment (in <cite>Strong Poison</cite>) that someone would like to marry Lord Peter Wimsey merely for the pleasure of hearing him talk piffle. Well, Dickens, who was 75 or so years before Wimsey, was a master at piffle. Normally, I like piffle. My very own spouse considers me to be a regular fountain of piffle. But, this book had a bit too much of it and a bit too little else. It basically had no point other than piffle. There's no real plot. Dickens just made up stuff for a year or two and eventually republished it wrapped all into a single volume as a novel. His first to be exact.
His later novels seem to have some point from the beginning and eventually, with lots of entertaining piffle along the way, get to their appointed ends. In this case, there was no point except for the piffle and Dickens eventually ran out. Something like that. He does show some signs of his future greatness. He has some rather interesting and quirky characters. He has shyster lawyers all over the place. He has blaggards and scoundrels, albeit in this novel they're not also physically marred in some way as per usual. I don't remember any orphans in this book, and not really any sickly innocents. But, I suppose for Dickens, it's a good beginning. Or something.
Perhaps the best way to view this book is akin to a modern sit com. There's a new episode each week that has some entertainment value in itself, but which is only marginally connected in any way with past or future episodes, other than that the characters remain the same and some of their past experiences are recounted in some way in the future. In essence, it's a Victorian-era version of the 1990s TV show, <cite>Friends</cite>.
As a side note, Amazon claims that the book contains 514 pages, the book itself says only 508, but the exact same edition on GoodReads has a more reasonable view of the page count, 914 pp. I checked that the ASIN numbers were the same on GoodReads and Amazon. Virtually all the dead-tree versions are closer to 1000 pages than to 500 pages. So why is Amazon so far off on it's alleged "real page numbers"? This isn't the first time I noticed that Amazon was page-count challenged. Why do I care?
The story does have a plot line running through it, but it is also like a news digest. There are bits and pieces that are well worth following for their own sake.
...and of course Dickens' delicious prose is enjoyable. His description of a man at a military review chasing his hat that has been blown off by the wind. The obligatory ghost story where the young man says (shakily) to the ghost "You know, I don't understand why you ghosts persist in staying where you were so miserable! Why not go somewhere pleasant?" And the ghost saying "I never thought of that! I am much obliged!" and vanishing, with the young man calling after it, "You would make us all very grateful if you would spread the word."
It also contains, toward the end, one of the most moving tales of retribution, mercy and kindness, with a speech by Mr. Pickwick's barrister on the subject of mercy.
A fun, touching, sometimes uproarious book.
This book was the first Dickens and originally published in monthly installments. The chapters are loosely tied together through the characters of the book but most stand alone. We have stories of Goblin's, shyster lawyers, drinking in vast quantities, short stories within chapters, a stay in a Debtors Prison and vast amounts of humanity.
The episodes where Pickwick prefers a Debtors Prison to paying a disgraceful Court decision are sobering. It's staggering that people were just left to die in prison because of civil debt.
Generally, however humour is the driver and this book is very funny. I imagine P G Wodehouse must have had a great working knowledge of this book because his Bertie & Jeeves tales are Pickwick taken to the nth degree.
I can say honestly that not once in 700 pages did my interest flag; reading from beginning to end was a wonderful experience.
Most recent customer reviews
You are soaked in Dickens' observations on the Vanity of Human nature - particular and so often, hilariously funny.Read more