Friday, September 19, 2008

An Old Friend

Over the past two years I have read or reread seven of Charles Dickens novels in chronological order, beginning with Dombey & Son as part of classes at The Newberry Library. This month I have returned to Dickens to begin reading his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, first published in 1865. For me it is an experience like returning to an old friend. The Dickens' style that I have come to know is present in this novel along with the richness of description; but especially the wealth of characters who come to life under the pen of the great master storyteller. His world is one of Britain and, predominantly, London in the mid-nineteenth century. The opening paragraph suggests the world you are about to enter:

In these times of ours though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between the Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.

These figures in this time will be important as will the many characters introduced in the opening section of Our Mutual Friend. A story of inheritance and changing times begins and where it will lead will be found in the ensuing sections and pages of yet another Dicken's tale.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Penguin Classics, New York. 1997 (1865)

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