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A world away from where I am, who I am and what I am...but this is a totally engaging, funny, interesting, challenging and rewarding world. Lots of well trodden paths, new places to explore, thoughts to think and reflections to bring to the world inside and outside the Vauxhall Vectra where I sat in comfortable isolation and enjoyed this book. Hours and hours of time well spent - no better recommendation whoever you are, whatever you are, whenever you can be there.
This is a book that I returned to approximately 35 years after reading it at school ? and very fond and vivid memories of the opening scenes being read out loud to the class with the homework to fill in the bits and then read it to its conclusion. The opening chapters still burn very bright in the memory ? based on the brightly drawn characters of Daniel Quilp, Kit Nubbles and the onomatopoeic Dick Swiveller. Each leaps back into the imagination untouched by time and ready to entertain.
The domestic scene where Quilp returns unexpectedly to disrupt his wife and her mother sitting around with their cronies is one of the funniest scenes in literature ? and there are so many common-place references that stand this book at the centre of London life.
A welcome stroll down memory lane ? sometimes a little winding and slow ? and, paradoxically a little too quick in parcelling up the ending. But, nonetheless the Dickens cannon is at the centre of the English novel and a welcome return to times gone by brought freshly into mind.
There is a short section right towards the end of this excellent novel that perfectly and concisely summarises all that has gone before - puts everything in context, identifies the meaning, the significance and draws together all that has been proposed and learned in constructing and estimation of this life.
It is very easy to draw a comparison and contrast chart with Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach and to look again at the shortcomings of the last novel that I read before this one - Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. But, ideally, great novels and literature should be allowed and deserve to stand and be considered on their own. The dry, mid-Western tone, the stale taste of classroom, library and books, the heaped insignificance of small conversations and long carried burdens of petty resentments and the difficult conversation not had.....I loved every page of it and felt that the final section delivered back more than my money’s worth as a reflective exercise on the considerations and insight that make up a life closely observe.
The fact that the author departed the scene before all of the plaudits came adds to the piquancy of the sensation that has and will grow up around this one. It has all the essential elements that is required of the contemporary literary myth - but delivers an engaging and wonderful read and is a great reminder of just how good mid-twentieth century American literature became. Think DeLillo, think Updike, think Richard Yates, read John Williams!