Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slow Reading: Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend
Charles Dickens
Penguin Classics
884 pages

I've been reading Our Mutual Friend slowly--very slowly. I started this Dickens novel once, put it aside, and had to start all over again, even though I had been over two hundred pages along in my first reading. Now I have a kind of snail's pace going that allows me to pick up other books, devour them quickly, and then come back to Dickens with just as much delight and absorption as before. I'm on page 466 now, and the novel itself (exclusive of notes and appendices) closes on page 800--and I am in no hurry to reach the end. Our Mutual Friend is so rich and so deep, that I am content to live in this book for as long as I can.

The river Thames runs through the middle of Our Mutual Friend, and the book begins with a drowning, a death, mistaken identity, and a fortune inherited by a good-hearted and simple man. Alas, where there is money, there is corruption, and now that I'm halfway through the novel, I see the innocent "Golden Dustman," Boffin,being transformed into a mean and suspicious miser. Bella Wilfer, who was supposed to marry the drowned man (and share his vast fortune) is still vain and haughty, but her inner goodness is beginning to show through.

The characters are everything in Dickens--he know just when and how to exaggerate, and when to simply tug at the reader's heartstrings. Lizzie Hexam, Jenny Wren (the "doll's dressmakerer") Mrs. Wilfer, the Podsnaps, the Veneerings, Rogue Riderhood--they contain all that there is of human vanity and deceit, and also all that there is of human virtue. When I read Dickens, I am not amazed at how much the world has changed since 1865 when the novel was first published, but by how little human nature and behavior has changed.


Amy said...

I read this last winter and loved it. Such a wonderful read. I'm starting Bleak House at the end of this month and hope it's as good.

Lisa said...

I found this was an excellent way to read Dickens when I read Bleak House. If you try to power through, it's so easy to get bogged down in all of those words! Reading slowly allows you to appreciate them so much more.

Ryan said...

Need to read more Dickens. Thanks for the reminder.

Amanda said...

I am becoming a Dickens fan. Just read Great Expectations for the first time and want to read more. I love being able to spend time and savor a classic.

bibliophiliac said...

@Amy-I love, lurv, love Our Mutual Friend! Finally finished it, post coming soon....
@Lisa-Bleak House is definitely going to be on my list when I finally get my Classics Club list up. Slow reading is the way to go with Dickens.
@Ryan-Yes! More Dickens. And you're welcome;)
@Amanda-I have read Great Expectations twice, and quite like it, but Our Mutual Friend is my favorite Dickens so far. Actually, right now I think it is simply my favorite book....