About Me

Tollesbury, Essex, United Kingdom
I was born in the Summer of 1969 in Dagenham, just on the border of East London. School was largely unproductive but enjoyable, setting me up for something of a wayward but interesting life! On leaving school I had various jobs including putting up stalls at Romford Market, working in a record shop, putting up ceilings, gardening and road sweeping. After resigning from an insurance company to play in a band, I found myself unemployed for two years. Then finally I got back on my feet and I've been a psychiatric nurse since 1997. I wrote A Cleansing of Souls when I was 22 years old and followed it up with Tollesbury Time Forever almost twenty years later. I started writing The Bird That Nobody Sees in September 2011 and it was released in July 2012. In terms of writing, my heroes are Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck. I would also include Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits as literary influences. So that's me I guess - scruffy, happy and in love with literary fiction, music and life...

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A Review of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby was serialised between 1838 and 1839. It is almost 900 pages long and comprises 65 chapters. Charles Dickens was 26 years old when it was released - his third novel, following on from The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. One further statistic of note is that the bus ride from Tollesbury to Maldon that I undertake each day for work lasts almost exactly a Nicholas Nickleby chapter. As such, given that it was originally published as a long running serial, I feel that little bus journey contributed greatly to me finishing only my second Charles Dickens novel.

Anyway - on with the review!

The novel, as you would expect, follows the eponymous hero in various encounters that shape both his own future and that of those he comes to love and befriend. He is opposed all the way by his dastardly money-lending Uncle Ralph who enlists the help of various unbecoming fellows, including the wicked schoolmaster Wackford Squeers and the old lecher Arthur Gride, in his attempts to thwart the young upstart in his quest to see goodness triumph. If you throw into the mix the vaudevillian Crummles family, a mad old man with very small clothes who throws vegetables over the fence in order to woo Nicholas' mother and two angelic old twins called the Cheerybles - oh and not to mention the foppish Lord Verisopht and the drunken hidden hero of the novel, Newman Noggs - then it is quite clear that this is no tedious novel.

Nicholas Nickleby is pure entertainment from start to finish.

Ironically the character that I did not really take to was Nicholas himself. He is rather one dimensional in his unstinting goodness and somewhat irritating in the way he imposes his morality on others. His actions though are wonderful, particularly the way he cares for young Smike, that tragic young boy whom he extricates from the clutches of the villainous Wackford Squeers. It is the characters of lesser morals, such as Ralph Nickleby, Arthur Gride and the aforementioned Wackford Squeers, who really do make the novel throb. Wonderful as the Cheeryble Twins are, it is the dark deeds of the villainous that really shows the author at his best. He rails against the rich and the powerful, those who take advantage of their status, their gender and their profession. The descriptions of the school where Nicholas encounters Smike is one of the most harrowing I have read in any novel. The small episode towards the end where Nicholas cares for his ailing young friend is touching beyond words.

Interspersed with the blistering social commentary is a story of love and devotion, of people struggling to the point where all they have to rely on is each other and a fundamental belief that all will come good in the end.

Finally, I will repeat some of the statistics from earlier. Nicholas Nickleby was written by a 26 year old man 175 years ago and it is almost 900 pages long - impressive at every turn. It is certainly as relevant today as ever it was and has served over the last few months to make my little bus journeys entirely wonderful!

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